PPA April Update
by Rich Muny
The past few weeks saw several states moving forward on online poker. Pennsylvania and Michigan held hearings on licensing the game, while lawmakers in West Virginia introduced legislation to authorize it, joining Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Hawaii, New Hampshire and California as states with online poker bills under consideration.
In Pennsylvania, on March 7th the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee and the House Gaming Oversight Committee held a joint hearing on online poker and other gaming issues. The four-hour hearing focused largely on HB 392, which would license and regulate online poker, other forms of online gaming, and daily fantasy sports in that state. If you missed the live hearing, you can watch the video here.
PPA Executive Director John Pappas testified in support of the rights of poker players in the Keystone State, focusing on consumer protection, while Caesars Senior Vice President David Satz, GeoComply CEO Anna Sainsbury, and Amaya Vice President Nicholas Menas detailed exactly how regulation would be effective, sharing evidence and data on its success in New Jersey and other states. David Cookson of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling was articulate but had no data to back up any of his assertions. As GeoComply shared a real-time location display of everyone logged onto any New Jersey iGaming site and as everyone supporting online poker and online gaming presented data to the committee, this was a glaring omission.
But, for all the good news on poker legislation gaining traction, poker public enemy #1 Sheldon Adelson is not giving up. Within a week of the hearing, five anti-poker Pennsylvania representatives introduced HB 801, which would criminalize all online gaming in that state, including online poker.
Given the strong reception online gaming legislation has received in the Keystone State, this seems to be a purely reactionary measure, but it bears watching. It also means we poker activists need to continue to ensure our lawmakers hear from us.
New York Update
Two weeks ago, the New York Senate included online poker licensing in its $160 billion FY 2017/2018 budget. This action followed introduction of online poker legislation earlier this year in the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (A. 5250) and in the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee by committee chair Sen. John Bonacic (S. 3893). The Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee has already voted on the measure, passing it last month with an 11-0 vote.
There is clearly positive momentum, but it looks like our momentum may be directed toward a stand-alone process, as assembly leadership is indicating a preference for a more in-depth review of the legislation over fast-tracked passage via the budget. We will continue encouraging New York lawmakers to pass this into law sooner than later, of course.
If you reside in New York, your legislators need to hear from you. Please be sure to take action now to support the great game of poker in the Empire State.
A hearing on S.B. 203, which would authorize online poker and online casino-style gaming in the state of Michigan, was held on March 8th before the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. It went very well. PPA Executive Director John Pappas, testifying on behalf of the poker community, reminded the senators in attendance that online gaming is already occurring in Michigan, albeit via offshore sites, and that this proposal would simply provide needed consumer protections and new revenue for the state. Bill Jackson, testifying on behalf of the Sheldon Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, tried to show some technical issues relating to passing online gaming laws in that state, but other witnesses debunked his claims.
Following the hearing, the committee voted 7-1 to pass S.B. 203, along with two other related bills. If you missed the hearing, you can watch the video here.
I encourage you check out John’s written testimony and PPA’s press release regarding this important committee vote. And, for more details, be sure to check out Online Poker Report’s coverage of the hearing.
West Virginia Update
Last month, West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty introduced a new bill, H.B. 3067, that would authorize licensing and regulation of online poker and online casino-style gaming in that state. Del. Fluharty was joined by four cosponsors: Delegates Sean Hornbuckle, Mike Pushkin, Joseph Canestraro and Mick Bates.
H.B. 3067 would allow current licensed gaming facilities and racetracks in the state to apply for internet gaming licenses. The licensing fee would be $50,000, with a tax rate of 14 percent of gross gaming revenue. The bill would put the West Virginia Lottery Commission in charge of crafting online gaming regulations.
Sands Bethlehem Sale ‘Imminent’
Over the past few weeks, we have seen multiple media reports on an imminent sale of Las Vegas Sands-owned Sands Bethlehem to MGM. As Las Vegas Sands and CEO Sheldon Adelson oppose legislation to license poker websites in Pennsylvania, this would surely be a positive move for poker in the Keystone State.
Here’s a very interesting quote from the article:
“State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said the arrival of MGM could cause some lawmakers to reconsider their stance on online gambling. Browne, for example, said Sands has been a model casino property, so Adelson's disdain for online gambling carries weight when new laws are considered.
"I know I would consider changing my opinion if a new player arrives on the scene with a different view of it," Browne said. ‘If MGM is the buyer, I'd like to know where they stand before I consider new legislation.’"
Webcast: Poker Advocacy with Rich Muny
On a recent webcast, poker pro Jamie Kerstetter joined me for a terrific discussion on poker and poker activism. Please be sure to check it out.
Poker Advocacy with Rich Muny airs live Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on OnTilt Radio. Each show features great guests and the best discussion on poker legislation. Please be sure to tune in every Tuesday evening at www.ontiltradio.com.
Let’s make and like pro-poker tweets in reply to several lawmakers, asking them to support poker.
It is important that lawmakers hear from all of us, as we saw yet again in this short exchange during the Pennsylvania online poker hearing:
Help Fund the Fight
A critical factor to winning the poker fight is through your financial support. We may have a billionaire fighting us, but the numbers are on our side. If you can make even a small contribution to PPA, you can help ensure our ability as a community to continue taking the fight to Adelson and his minions on Capitol Hill.
While Sheldon Adelson continues to follow through with his pledge to “spend whatever it takes” in his effort to ban online poker, our organized fight back will ensure lawmakers know where the American people truly are on this issue.
Thanks to the terrific generosity of Two Plus Two Publishing, PPA is able to provide donors with a downloadable PPA edition of the acclaimed book, Fundamentals of Poker, authored by Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis. For your copy, simply email PPA at email@example.com.
Whether you are a novice poker player looking to learn a new poker game or a seasoned veteran looking to brush up on your fundamentals, this book is a terrific resource for any poker player. I hope you enjoy this e-book, either for yourself or as a superb primer for a friend or loved one new to the game.