Big Blind Ante Goes Mainstream in 2018, Tournament Format Appears Here to Remain

While the concept was not invented this season, 2018 still served as the coming out party for the big blind ante. This alternative means of managing antes went mainstream over the last 12 months, moving from something which was only seen in high stakes circles into a popular tournament format that’s been widely accepted by the masses.

big blind ante 2018

2018 was the year when the huge blind ante went from an obscure rule for high rollers to some favorite and lasting innovation for tournament poker. (Image: bbante.com)

What made the massive blind ante such a feeling this season? Mostly, it comes down to convenience and pace of play. In almost all situations, the massive blind ante makes playing hands easier for both players and traders, which is why it has gained widespread — if not quite universal — acceptance from gamers.

From High Stakes Gimmick into Tourney Standard

If you have never seen the massive blind ante in action, here’s how it works. Usually, poker matches comprising an ante require each player to make a small ante payment at the beginning of each hand. This system changes that by requiring the participant in the huge blind to pay the whole ante, which is normally the exact same size as the big blind itself.

This means that instead of paying every hand, a player currently pays the ante once each round. In the long run, players will still wind up paying the exact same ante, and the complete cost per round resembles the conventional ante format.

Consolidated antes have been around for some time now, having originated in high stakes cash games, with the origin of the idea usually credited to Cary Katz. Widespread public use in tournament play came at the Aria in early 2017, where it became popular in the casino’s high roller collection.

By ancient 2018, many tournament directors were utilizing the format in at least some of their events. Finally, a major breakthrough happened over the summer, when the World Series of Poker decided to integrate the consolidated antes for eight of their bracelet events.

Players Appreciate Simpler, Faster Play

For the most part, players have responded favorably to the change. The massive blind ante tends to accelerate the pace of play and make life easier on traders, as they no longer have to hound every player for a chip or two on every hand.

That doesn’t mean that there has not been some controversy surrounding the new rule. There have been sporadic complaints about who must pay the ante, the potential for angle shooting, or the size of the ante at a short-handed table.

But the biggest debate over the massive blind ante is over what should be done when a participant doesn’t have enough chips staying to pay both the ante and the huge blind. There have been some spirited debates about whether the participant should pay the ante or the blind , with some of the most powerful opinions being shared on Twitter.

While paying the ante first is more consistent with the principles of poker, Daniel Negreanu has argued that paying the massive blind first — which allows the player to win that amount from every other participant who enters the pot, as opposed to only being able to find that ante back — provides a better experience.

“One option is player friendly. Another is pretty awful,” Negreanu wrote on Twitter. “Breaking even should not be a best case scenario on any hand.”

On the opposite side of the issue are people who don’t like the idea of giving a player the chance to win forced antes for a whole round, then denying their opponents that same additional value when they are in the large blind.

“Antes are always paid first,” wrote Justin Hammer, the Tournament Coordinator at Commerce Casino, through a Twitter discussion with Negreanu. “If the big blind had paid for the whole round by the rest of the table, why would they not be obligated to also cover the ante first?”

Despite the strong takes, both sides acknowledge that this situation is rare, and most agree that debate over the issue should not take away from the fact that large blind ante is a major improvement to tournament play overall. Moving into 2019, it seems that the big blind ante is here to stay, and could possibly even become the standard tournament format in the future.

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Michigan Poker Players Can Rejoice as State Passes Online Gambling Bill

December 24th, 2018 by Jon Sofen

Michigan poker players will have legal online gambling sites out there. State lawmakers passed a bill that will legalize online poker the moment it’s signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan poker online gambling

Michigan poker players can observe a huge victory now that online gambling was legalized in the Wolverine State. (Image: fiercehealthcare.com)

The Great Lakes State becomes the fifth country to legalize poker. And it came at a time when few expected the bill to pass.

Michigan has clearly been on the verge of passing laws. But most likely nothing could get done until at least 2019. Christmas came a couple of days early for the poker community thanks to an amendment to the original bill that sought a compromise between tribal and commercial casinos.

Compromise with Tribes

Rep. Brandt Iden (R-61st District) introduced House Bill 4926 in September 2017 but the state’s Indian tribes disagreed with some of the bill.

In Section 16 of Brandt’s proposed measure to legalize online gambling, commercial casinos could be given permission to continue working if the federal government banned tribal casinos from offering online gambling.

To appease the tribes, lawmakers eliminated that wording in the final bill. And, not coincidentally, it passed with a 33-5 vote in the Senate followed by a 71-35 House vote. Now it’s up to Governor Snyder to stamp his seal of approval on it to place it into law. And there’s certainly no reason.

Internet gambling licenses are available to tribal and commercial casino operators in the state. A license costs $200,000 upfront with $100,000 annual fees. Gambling sites owners must also pay an eight percent tax on gross earnings.

Progress Made

The online poker industry in the united states has struggled since Black Friday in 2011. It’s been an uphill battle convincing lawmakers across the nation to support pro-poker legislation. But we’re finally seeing some progress.

Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware are the only states with poker sites in operation. Pennsylvania passed an online gambling bill late in 2017 but has yet to license operators. That’s expected to happen in the near future.

There’s absolutely no timetable on when the Michigan Gaming Control Board will start reviewing licenses. But it’s safe to say the US will have five states with legal poker sites in operation soon. Sure, that’s only 10 percent of the nation, but it’s progress. You have to start somewhere.

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Fighting Words: Doug Polk Escalated His Feud with Daniel Negreanu in 2018, But Did He Win?

Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu started feuding two years ago. But the vitriol between the poker experts enhanced in 2018 thanks to an insulting t-shirt, some social media mudslinging, and a memorable billboard.

Doug Polk Daniel Negreanu

Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu will forever be linked for their bitter rivalry and absolute distaste for one another. (Image: superpoker.com)

It was never more obvious that there is not much love lost between these two players than during the Super High Roller Bowl in May. Regardless of what is supposedly a random seat drawing, they ended up side-by-side on Day One.

It was on that day when the feud between the poker stars turned nasty. And now they’re at a stage where reconciliation is not likely.

All Hatfield, No McCoy?

The Negrean-Polk feud started in 2016, after Negreanu, defending the company who has paid him for years, argued in favor of a PokerStars rake increase. He claimed, essentially, that higher rake weeds out the sharks and attracts more recreational players to the game.

This assertion led Polk to mock the PokerStars ambassador by joking with his followers that”more rake is better,” which since turned into a popular meme that spread throughout the poker community.

The rift between the two high-stakes pros and poker personalities has been fairly one-sided. Negreanu rarely responds directly to insults Polk fires his manner. That held true even after Polk made a nasty comment about him in a YouTube video early in 2018.

“He’s a massive hypocrite and, frankly, he’s an embarrassment to gamers and the game of poker,” Polk said of Negreanu.

Kid Poker, at least openly, wasn’t phased by the criticism. As among the game’s most outspoken figures the past 20 years, he knows that you can not please everybody.

Doug Polk T-shirt, Super High Roller Bowl

Doug Polk mocked Daniel Negreanu during the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl by sporting a controversial undershirt. (Image: YouTube/JoeIngram1)

On Day One of the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl, Polk and Negreanu sat alongside each other. Let’s just say things weren’t exactly cordial at the table on Day 1. At least not after Polk removed his coat.

Underneath was a t-shirt that read,”More Rake is Better,” inside a picture of a billboard. At the time, no one knew that billboard had any meaning, but we’d later find it out. Negreanu remained quiet while seated next to Polk. Rather than talking the talk, he decided to walk the walk.

While Polk was removed on the first day from this $300,000 buy event, Negreanu finished runner-up and won $3.5 million. Safe to say he got the last laugh, at least this time around.

Sign of the Times

A few days after, the WSOP started. Polk announced he wasn’t going to play any events aside from the Main Event. He said he’s burnt out on poker and has since partially retired from the game. But he wasn’t completely absent in the Rio in Las Vegas this summer. He most certainly made his presence felt.

Doug Polk Daniel Negreanu

Doug Polk purchased a sign throughout the 2018 WSOP mocking his rival Daniel Negreanu. (Image: Pamela Maldonado/Twitter)

Outside the Rio, in early June, a billboard reading “MoreRakeIsBetter.com” appeared. Polk, as expected, quickly took credit for the sign.

Many poker players found humor in Polk’s public taunting of Negreanu at his place of work. But others decried the 29-year-old’s behaviour as childish and petty. The billboard remained vertical throughout the WSOP.

So, who do you think got the best of the feud in 2018? Polk was clearly the more aggressive troll. But if money matters, Negreanu arguably got the best of it, in the Super High Roller Bowl and at the World Series.

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What PASPA Repeal in Supreme Court Meant for Poker Players, Poker Industry

The May Supreme Court decision that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had the direct impact of allowing states to regulate sports betting. But while the landmark judgment may not have been about poker, that did not mean that the game was not influenced by the sea change caused by PASPA’s repeal.

PASPA Repeal online poker

The repeal of PASPA opened the door for states to govern sports betting, but has not had major repercussions for internet poker — at least not yet. (Picture: CardsChat.com)

The months since that decision have already seen many states pass legislation and regulations which will allow for sports betting within their boundaries. Many poker players are hoping that this can help pave the way for a growth of online poker as well, which has fought to expand throughout the United States.

Poker to Get Another Look?

In the days following the Supreme Court judgment, the Poker Players Alliance — which has since been rebranded into Poker Alliance — expressed hope that the judgment might help soften lawmakers to internet poker. Since states would need to pass new regulations to authorize sports betting, the idea was that online poker might find a look at the same time as part of wider gambling expansion attempts.

“This is a great choice for consumers who for years have had no alternative to bet on sports aside from the black market,” PPA President Rich Muny said in a statement. “It presents states with the ideal opportunity to establish sensible policies not just to govern sports wagering, but also other types of gambling, including internet poker.”

While that may have been a great concept in theory, it did not play out that way for the remainder of the year. New Jersey and Delaware already had online poker before approving sports betting, and Pennsylvania had already approved both activities with the same gaming expansion bill. On the other hand, states that just decided to get into sports betting in 2018 — like West Virginia and Mississippi — did not even seriously consider internet poker growth.

PASPA Repeal Draws Congressional Attention

Of course, online poker could still tag along as additional states consider authorizing sports betting. However, the PASPA repeal also came with some dangers for poker players, as the reduction of a broad federal ban on a type of gambling caused lawmakers to consider whether they wanted to pass new laws to regulate the business.

There have not been any serious calls for a complete ban on sports betting or internet poker from members of Congress. But many have talked about providing a national framework for the sports gambling industry, such as Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

Those efforts came to a head when a House subcommittee got around to holding a hearing on the post-PASPA sports betting world in late September. While the committee mainly focused on sports, there were several mentions of greater enforcing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) or upgrading the Wire Act, largely by opponents of online gambling like Jon Bruning of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

In the end, the hearing ended with Congress no closer to passing regulations to take care of sports betting or any other form of gambling, let alone revisiting any attempts to clamp down on the spread of internet poker. That means that for the moment, the PASPA repeal has not had a major impact on the poker industry as a whole.

But the new landscape of the American gambling industry remains charged with potential — both positive and negative — for the game, meaning poker players will need to keep an eye on how state and federal legislators look at poker together with sports betting in 2019.

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PokerStars, UFC Sponsorship Deal Brings Poker Site into Octagon… and back into Nevada

PokerStars is stepping to the octagon. Well, its emblem will, as part of a sponsorship arrangement between the poker site and the UFC, the world leader in combat sports, based in Las Vegas.

PokerStars UFC sponsorship

Odd pairing? PokerStars will plaster its logo all over the UFC octagon for upcoming fights beginning Dec. 29. (Picture: pokerstars.com)

The advertising partnership starts Dec. 29 when light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson seeks to avenge a 2013 reduction against Jon”Bones” Jones at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and televised on Pay-Per-View.

Jones, one of the most feared MMA fighters of all time, has been sidelined since 2017 due to a failed drug test. He’s ready to get back into the octagon to reclaim his title against the underdog Gustafsson.

During that fight, and the preliminary matches, poker fans watching will see a familiar logo. That logo, obviously, is of the world’s biggest poker site.

Brand Awareness

The Stars Group, which already has a sponsorship deal with the NBA, is looking to expand its main poker brand worldwide. And with 1.1 billion TV households in over 160 countries seeing the UFC annually, this partnership makes sense.

For PokerStars, in addition, it marks a return to Nevada. While once a company that blanketed Las Vegas with their logo during the World Series of Poker, Stars has had little presence in the Silver State since Black Friday in 2011, even though online poker has been legal in Nevada because 2013.

A PokerStars logo will appear in the octagon during future fights beginning with that Dec. 29 title bout. This isn’t the first time the world’s biggest poker site has dipped into the wide world of sports.

In the past, PokerStars signed world-class athletes to represent its brand. Including soccer stars Ronaldo and Neymar Jr..

Many mixed martial artists also enjoy the game of poker. Famous fighters Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell are no strangers to the felt.

Power of Marketing

The UFC was founded in 1993, but was originally deemed too violent and in comparison to cock-fighting. For that reason, the organization struggled financially since it couldn’t attract a large audience. But that all changed when Dana White took over as league president in 2001 and set up a promotion campaign that sold the fighters as skilled athletes instead of bloody, barbaric men bashing each others faces in.

Odd Couple

Poker and MMA have more in common than you might think, according to Christopher Coyne, Chief Marketing Officer of Stars Interactive, a subsidiary of The Stars Group.

“UFC and PokerStars have a great deal in common,” he said in a press release. “We want to delight and entertain, both in our products and customer experience. UFC is the world’s top MMA promoter with countless fans and followers around the globe, while PokerStars is the heavyweight of online poker. It’s a classic combination.”

The purpose of advertising is to reach out to as many potential clients as possible. While not every UFC fan has an interest in poker, many poker players like MMA. Seeing that PokerStars logo in the octagon will draw the attention of the poker community.

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Michigan Legislature Passes Online Gaming Bill, Awaits Governor’s Signature

In an event which occurred rapidly (and Poker News Daily actually resisted reporting on until it was a done deal), the Michigan General Assembly passed legislation which would regulate online gaming and poker over the boundaries of the Wolverine State.

On Thursday, the Senate Approved…

In what was a late-night vote on Thursday evening, the Michigan legislature was the first to pull the trigger. Taking up discussion on House Bill 4926, the Michigan Senate passed the bill through their room by a resounding 33-5 vote. Some of the highlights of HB 4926 were:

1. Authorization for online casino gaming and poker.

2. A tax rate of 8 percent (and a 1.25% tax for Detroit from commercial operators)

3. $200,000 initial licensing fee, $100,000 annual renewal

4. Licenses open to both commercial and tribal gaming operations

While these are excellent regulations, one thing was left out:  sports gambling. Instead of folding in law for sports gambling together with the bill, Michigan legislators chose to wait until it was fully discussed by the appropriate individuals on the Michigan Gaming Control Board. There’s also some discussion of the time frame for the opening of the Michigan online gaming market. It would be at least 15 months before anything goes live.

On Friday, the House Joined the Senate…

The Senate vote came late on Thursday that the House had already adjourned for the day, but they picked up discussion on HB 4926 immediately on Friday morning. By noon, the House had completed their debate and voted with a 71-35 perimeter to pass through the law. It’s currently on its way to Governor Rick Snyder, who is in his final days as the head of Michigan’s state government. Should Snyder sign HB 4926, Michigan would subsequently join Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the”online gaming” club in the States of America.

Why the Rush? And Why Not Sports Betting?

Taking the second question first, the regulations on sports gambling will be created by the very division which will be created under HB 4926. Under the Internet Division of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, online sports gambling would have to create the rules, according to the Detroit News. After HB 4926 is signed, the MGCB was instructed to assemble new rules covering all online gaming, including sports gambling.

And why is this all happening now? To begin with, the job on putting together the legislation was completely done in this session of the Michigan legislature. With the end of this session of the legislature coming, any bill which had not been passed would officially”die.” Meaning that online gaming and poker advocates would have had to go back to Square One regarding their attempts.

Second, the actions in the federal government have Michigan and several other states a bit worried. As we mentioned here yesterday, new laws from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and New York Senator Chuck Schumer are looking to exercise regulation within the sports gambling industry and close out online gaming and poker loopholes. Add in the constant threat from the U. S. Department of Justice of overturning their interpretation of the Wire Act from 2011 and many states are accelerating their plans for online gaming to be”grandfathered” in under any passed national regulation.

There are no indications that Snyder is looking to veto the bill but, from a look at the votes, legislators would have the ability to override a veto if it be necessary. Still, once HB 4926 is signed into law, it will still be a minimum of 15 months before ANY online gaming is licensed and regulated in the state of Michigan.

Best Poker Books of 2018: Play Better, Marvel, and These Reads Made Us Think

You might believe that it’s all been said and done already when it comes to poker literature, but you would be wrong.

From strategy to tales, from the pros to the Joes, 2018 brought a number of the most unique and compelling poker content we’ve seen in years.

We kick off our look back at the top of 2018 with what was the highlight of the year, as poker journalist Lance Bradley brought us a poker tomb filled with wisdom and humor in the game’s elite.

The Pursuit of Poker Success, by Lance BradleyThe Pursuit of Poker Successby Lance Bradley

Bradley’s book offers up an intensively extensive cross section of the nation of poker today.

The grizzled poker journalist, who is the current editor in chief at Pocket Fives, compiled interviews from 50 of the game’s greatest and brightest. The result is an easy-to-read compendium which covers everything from strategy, to behind-the-scenes tales, to life intelligence which goes beyond the felt.

Do not care about how Erik Seidel has maintained success through all these decades? Then flip to the section on how Adrian Mateos primed himself for poker success from the age of 14. Not interested in hearing about George Danzer’s sage life advice? You could instead check out the chapter on how Justin Bonomo went from being branded as a cheater to the top of the high-stakes poker world.

“I wanted to get into the nitty gritty of the things these people do on a daily basis that allow them to be one of the elite,” writer Lance Bradley.

It’s one of the few poker books ever written which truly offers something for everyone.

Mastering Mixed Games, by TKMastering Mixed Gamesby David Macklin

While good ol’ Texas Hold’em isn’t going anywhere, mixed games have seen a bump in popularity lately. Yet we haven’t really seen a corresponding gain in the amount and quality of mixed game content being published.

Poker pro and mixed-game specialist David Macklin has penned what is perhaps the best — and certainly the most current — look at mixed games because Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2 was released in 2005. The author provides up-to-date strategies on the entire H.O.R.S.E. roster, begging with fundamental theories for every game before ramping up into advanced strategy.

A must read for anyone looking bored with Hold’Em and looking to construct their general poker skill set.

Bluff, a novel by Jane Stanton HitchcockBluffby Jane Stanton Hitchcock

If you enjoyed Molly’s Sport, either the book or the film,”Bluff” is one to add to your reading list.

Contrary to Molly’s Game,”Bluff” — which was the number one poker book on Amazon in 2018 — is pure fiction. This novel follows the travails of a New York socialite as she bluffs her way into the city’s biggest poker games to exact revenge on her enemies.

A twisting tale filled with unexpected turns and surprises,”Bluff” is a suspense novel set to the backdrop of New York’s high-stakes poker scene and makes for a worthy diversion from hardcore strategy content.

Thinking in Bets, by Annie Duke

Thinking in Bets, by Annie DukeThinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Factsby Annie Duke

No stranger to producing poker articles, poker veteran Annie Duke introduced her fifth book early in the year.

In”Thinking in Bets,” the former World Series of Poker (WSOP) champion lays bare her procedure for not only making the best decisions with limited information, but also for learning how to live with your choices, whatever the outcome. Drawing on wisdom in the sports world, along with her own extensive experience, Duke has penned a blueprint for successful long-term decision making in poker.

“This isn’t a book about poker strategy or gambling. It is, however, about matters poker educated me about learning and decision-making,” Duke writes in the introduction.

Vegas or Bust, by Johnny Kampis

Vegas or Bust, by Johnny KampisVegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Prosby Johnny Kampis

Seeing the high-stakes crushers play for tens of millions might be entertaining, but it is not exactly the most relatable experience for the average poker player. Input Johnny Kampis and his first poker book, which looks at how the poker world has changed since his WSOP Main Event run in 2006.

Kampis chronicles his return to the match which he’d strayed away from following Black Friday. Only this time, he is bringing his wife and two kids along for his six-week, cross-country pilgrimage back to the WSOP in Las Vegas.

Filled with tournament stories and tactics,”Vegas or Bust” provides a unique take on the state of today’s poker landscape through the eyes of a family person.

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World Poker Tour and Allied Esports Join Forces at Explosive $150M Merger

The marriage between poker and esports took another bold step forward this week as the World Poker Tour (WPT) merged with Allied Esports International.

The WPT will be playing all its televised final tables at the Esports area at the Luxor Hotel. (Image: Twitter.com)

Black Ridge Acquisition Corp, owned by WPT co-founder Lyle Berman, announced the purchase of both companies, saying he’ll merge them to form Allied Esports Entertainment (AESE).

Both previously separate entities will look to learn from each other’s areas of expertise. The WPT wants in on the exploding esports industry, while the esports firm looks to up its game in the live-events arena.

“In over 40 years in the gaming and entertainment industry, this is the most exciting opportunity I’ve seen,” Berman said in a statement announcing that the $150 million deal. “The capital from the Black Ridge SPAC will be used to enlarge AESE’s global property network”

The finishing touches on the deal will be made early in the year, and the recently formed company is expected trade on the NASDAQ with an opening value of $214 million.

Soaking up Synergy

Both companies had been courting each other well before the marriage was ultimately consummated this week.

Earlier this year, the WPT announced the final tables for all its televised events will be held at the Esports arena at Las Vegas’ Luxor Hotel. The custom-built, $20 million facility includes a 50-foot LED screen and can seat some 1,400 audiences.

It’ll be interesting to see how many fans that the WPT can pack as it hosts three delayed final tables for three different events early March.

March 12: WPT Gardens Poker Championship Final Table (play from Jan 12-16)March 13: Borgata Winter Poker Open Final Table (play from Jan 27-31)March 14: WPT LA Poker Classic (play from March 2-6)

That synergy is two-way road, however, as this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) occasion hosted a large Esports gaming platform in the Rio’s Pavillion Room for the first time.

Size Matters

While it is not news to anyone under 25, those who grew up in the mid-2000s poker boom might be surprised to learn just how huge esports are becoming.

One report suggests that the competitive gaming market was worth $694.2 million in 2017 and is expected to explode to a value of $2.1 billion by 2023, a staggering increase of 203 percent over only six years. All that sprouting from a market size of about $130 million in 2012.

Creating a direct contrast to poker’s market size is difficult since those numbers are often mixed with general online gambling revenues.

But, we do understand that esports still has a way to go before it catches up to poker. Last year, PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker operator, reported earnings of $877 million alone.

Throw in the rest of the sites, in addition to hundreds of live venues, and the global poker market is thought to be worth well over $2 billion dollars.

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Here’s How Michigan Passed An Online Gambling Bill, From A Key Senator

Michigan senator on online poker billMichigan senator on online poker bill

Christmas came early for poker players in Michigan with the passage Thursday night of the Lawful Online Gaming Act. It’s the culmination of a four-year effort from state Sen. Mike Kowall to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games.

Minutes after the Senate passed the amended H 4926 by a vote of 33-5, Kowall talked on the phone with Online Poker Report about how he gained support from the Indian tribes, horse racing industry and the City of Detroit — and the way it almost fell apart in the last days.

Bringing the gaming tribes on board

Back in June, Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden, writer of H 4926, managed to get the bill passed in the House by a margin of 68-40 despite opposition from the nation’s gaming tribes, who he promised that their concerns would continue to be addressed in the Senate.

The amended bill from the Senate fulfilled that promise, as it removed Sec. 16, which Iden had called the one point of contention preventing the Indian tribes from supporting the bill. This section essentially said that if, for whatever reason, federal law changes to prohibit tribes from providing online gambling that happens outside their Indian reservation, the commercial casinos in the state would be allowed to continue to run their online gaming operations.

The section was originally placed in the bill at the request of the three commercial casinos located in Detroit, who didn’t wish to invest money into the startup costs of supplying online gaming only to be told they have to stop because of a decision that doesn’t involve them.

Sen. Kowall was able to convince the commercial casinos to permit for the elimination of this section, which was considered a”poison pill” for the bill.

“It’s the first time I think in the history of Michigan we had the tribes and commercial casinos come together and agree,” Kowall said.

The last piece of this puzzle was to permit the newly established Division of Internet Gaming to permit Indian tribes as commercial casinos, which allayed tribal fears that delays from amending their compacts with the state could keep them from starting at the same time as the commercial casinos.

“I think the tribes thought initially we were trying to bull them over, and that’s not the case in any respect,” Kowall said. “From the very first day I composed this bill, we went and talked to the tribes first since we figured that would be the larger barrier. We had numerous meetings and workshops over four and a half years to the point that people were like,’Oh God, not another meeting,’ but we kept following it.”

One final delay in Michigan

Once the tribes were on board, Kowall thought the bill had cleared its final hurdle heading into the last week of this legislative session. He got the bill on the agenda for Tuesday, which would leave lots of time for it to return to the home to confirm the changes.

Then Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan came calling with some requirements that threatened to derail the bill. The bill was postponed until the last day of the session while Kowall worked to appease Michigan’s most populous city.

The result was the inclusion of a 1.25 percent fee on gross gaming revenues from online gaming into the City of Detroit from the commercial casinos in its jurisdiction. That area of the state earnings from iGaming goes toward neighborhood development programs designed to create jobs and concentrate on the blighted neighborhoods where the online gaming licensee’s casino is located.

“The Mayor of Detroit had worries of revenues and such coming from the casinos because it impacts their bond rating,” Kowall said. “With Detroit lately coming out of bankruptcy, the last thing we wanted to do is interrupt their funding sources.

“Detroit wanted some cash to visit a number of areas, mostly to the areas. I didn’t have a problem with that, and I understand what they’re trying to do.”

Kowall said that after Detroit was satisfied, there were no pushbacks on the requests from the City.

Pony up for the ponies

Another important amendment to the bill made by the Senate was that five percent of the taxes collected by the state (at a rate of eight percent of gross gaming revenue), up to $3 million annually, would go to the Michigan equine industry development fund.

This was an essential addition to Kowall, who has over 30,000 horses in his district.

“That’s going to help with purses in the horse racing industry in the state, which are pretty dismal,” Kowall said.

Away to the governor’s desk

Following the House affirmed the Senate changes to the bill with a 71-38 vote early Friday morning, the bill had been sent to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder for final acceptance.

A touch from the outgoing governor has not been considered a given, but Kowall said he has been getting good feedback from the governor.

“I’ve spoken to him directly, I’ve spoken to his chief of staff, I’ve spoken to the person who cleans the floors in his office,” Kowall said. “Everyone has said he’s probably going to sign it. I’m optimistic he’ll sign the bill, particularly with Pennsylvania having gone in that direction.”

Michigan would become the fifth state to legalize online gaming, following Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada (poker only). Kowall mentioned a desire for Michigan to combine with those states for greater liquidity.

Still a long wait ahead

If the governor does sign the bill, that will begin a 15-month wait period before the beginning of online gaming in Michigan. The act takes effect 90 days after it is enacted into law. Then the Division of Internet Gaming will have one year to produce rules and issue licenses.

“We did 15 months for some of the casinos and tribes because they were concerned that some of the casinos can flip a switch and be up tomorrow,” Kowall said. “A couple casinos are not ready to go just yet either, but this was for the tribes, though it wasn’t a huge sticking point.”

Kowall not concerned about the constitutionality

Kowall stated that he’s”not at all” concerned with the constitutionality of this bill as passed, though he admitted that would not necessarily stop a legal challenge from occurring from a group wanting to stop legal and regulated online gaming. Considering that the 15-month moratorium, he’s optimistic that any legal challenge would not cause a delay.

“We have had the former attorney general look at it, the current attorney general look at it, we’ve bounced off it constitutional attorneys from one end of this state to another, and they said we are great,” Kowall said. “Anything can be challenged, but I do not think it’s likely to. There’s so many sites out there, so many bad actors. This is a consumer protection piece.”

Change in OLC opinion should not stand in the way

The opening of this bill mentions the 2011 opinion issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that translated the Wire Act as only applying to sports betting, allowing countries to legalize and regulate internet gaming and capture the earnings for the benefit of state governments.

As OPR reported earlier this week the Department of Justice is preparing another opinion that could undo the earlier one.

Kowall indicated that he doesn’t think a change in the OLC opinion could stop Michigan from moving forward with internet gambling.

“After we get it done, it falls over 10th Amendment state rights, and I think that they would be hard-pressed to undo that,” Kowall said.

Kowall leaves a lasting legacy in Michigan

After serving the people of Michigan for much of the past 20 years, from 1998 to 2002 in the state’s House of Representatives and from 2011 to present from the Senate, Kowall has been termed out of office. His wife, Eileen, was in the House from 2009 to 2014, making them the first married couple to serve in the Michigan legislature at the same time in 25 years.

A Republican, Kowall was Majority Floor Leader, the second-highest place in the Senate, for his final term. He used that position to pursue causes he thought were important to the state and its people, such as online gambling, and he finished his final day in session with a big win.

“I came to Lansing to perform a few things I got done, eliminating the single business tax and placing an emphasis on skill trades,” Kowall said. “Then I got involved with autonomous vehicles and got that done.

“This was yet another project I saw to add revenue to the state that was going uncollected. I’d have been frustrated if I had not gotten this done. Now I’ve actually done all I set out to do from the state. I’m feeling pretty good right now about the job I’ve done and where this nation is going.”

Kentucky Court Reverses $870 Million Judgment Against PokerStars

Kentucky CapitolKentucky Capitol

This is a developing story.

The Stars Group appears to have shed a substantial liability after a Kentucky appeals court today reversed a lower court decision that had called for the company to pay the Commonwealth $870 million in damages.

The situation in question dates back more than five decades and is based on a”loss recovery” statute in Kentucky, allowing individuals to sue to accumulate losses stemming from illegal gaming plus additional damages. The Commonwealth was trying to accumulate based on losses allegedly incurred by PokerStars players in Kentucky.

Read the full text of this decision embedded below.

“We applaud the decision of this highly respected three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals,” stated Marlon Goldstein, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Stars Group. “The merits of this situation prevailed, and we look forward to putting this matter behind us as we sharpen our focus on executing our growth strategy going forward.”

How did the Stars Group pull this one out?

In reversing the lower court’s decision, the court of appeals pointed to two key arguments raised by the Stars Group:

The Commonwealth shouldn’t be considered a”person” and therefore lacks the standing to bring a claim against the firm.
The Commonwealth failed to identify any particular individuals who had actually lost money playing on PokerStars.

The appeals court left little room for interpretation regarding where it stands on the comparative merits of Kentucky’s action against the Stars Group:

Allowing a complaint, like the one put forth by the Commonwealth, to move forward would lead to an absurd, unjust result. It might mean that any private individual with knowledge of the general nature of Appellants’ digital gaming format could allege an LRA maintain in a totally conclusory and generic fashion and walk away a billionaire without ever having identified one gaming trade with specificity. The LRA was never designed to be used in this fashion. It was intended to encourage natural persons who had knowledge of specific instances of illegal gambling to file suit to assist the Commonwealth in enforcing its anti-gambling regulations.

Next steps in the case

The Commonwealth currently has two choices: asking the appeals court for a rehearing or trying to move the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

However, there’s some possibility that the case is settled before that step is taken. Back in March, the Stars Group signaled a willingness to come to terms with the Commonwealth.

The Stars Group’s Chief Financial Officer, Brian Kyle, stated at the time that:

“Any outcome in Kentucky would be relatively neutral for our leverage level.”

Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, Marlon Goldstein added the interesting comment that the Stars Group was”practical,” strongly implying that if they’re given an acceptable offer to settle the case out of court, they would accept.

Good for the online gaming market?

It’s a bit more good news for internet gaming, which has expanded to sports gambling in the US this season. Michigan also came a step closer to legalizing online gambling.

Here is Jeff Ifrah, general counsel for the iDevelopment and Economic Association, on the impact of the decision and everything going on lawfully for online gaming in the US:

“After the US Supreme Court case in Murphy, and as Justice Alito announced, a new gaming policy is sweeping across our country, and as witnessed last night in Michigan that coverage is pro-online gaming. Cases like the trial court decision in Kentucky are a relic of the past and we are happy to be looking forward to a more entertaining future”

“We should note that in the exact same time Department of Justice appears poised to consider moving in the opposite direction, by reconsidering its pro-online gambling interpretation of the Wire Act. As the US Supreme Court made clear, gambling is a state policy issue, not a federal one.”

Full text of this decision
ECLR, Stars Interactive v. KY, online gambling