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With the signature of Governor Eric Holcomb (R) on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, H 1015 became law, legalizing sports betting in Indiana. The bill had been passed by the Indiana legislature on April 24.



Details of IN Sports Betting

All sports betting within the state will be under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Gaming Commission. The entities that will be allowed to host this wagering activity will include casinos, racetracks, and off-track betting facilities.

Licensees will also be able to offer betting on sports over the internet, including on mobile devices. Much as in other regulated i-gaming states, wagering will be available only to those physically located within Indiana's borders whether these customers are residents or just visitors.

A license will cost $100,000 to obtain and $50,000 annually to renew. Additionally, “sports wagering service providers” – that is, those who provide wagering equipment, maintenance firms, third-party odds suppliers, and similar entities – will have to apply for licenses at $10,000 apiece.

Revenue will be taxed at a rate of 9.5%. 3.33% of the taxes collected are earmarked for an addiction services fund to combat problem gaming. The remainder will be deposited in the state's general fund.

In order to place bets, patrons will have to be at least 21 years old. Wagering on esports is prohibited as is betting on the outcomes of amateur events involving participants under 18. On the plus side, in-play or live betting is permitted.

The Indiana Gaming Commission Will Promulgate Rules and Issue Licenses for Sports Betting

The Indiana Gaming Commission will begin accepting applications on July 1. Some expect betting to be available in time for the start of the next NFL season this fall, but this will likely only encompass wagers at brick-and-mortar establishments with online betting to commence at some later date.

Other Measures

H 1015 isn't concerned solely with wagering on sports although this is what occupied the lion's share of the public's attention. There are other provisions contained within the text.

Two riverboat casinos will be allowed to relocate. Furthermore, Indiana racinos will be able to start offering table games at the beginning of 2020, much sooner than they were originally scheduled to be allowed to do so. There is also language relaxing the limitations about how many gaming properties within Indiana one person or organization can own.

Comments From Prominent Figures

While the introduction of a new form of gambling to Indiana was bound to be tied up with some controversy, most are pleased by its passage.

In a statement accompanying his approval of the bill, Governor Eric Holcomb wrote:

Gaming is a highly regulated industry that once had little competition, but now does from surrounding states and new technology. By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers. Additionally, it will bring in new revenue and create hundreds of new jobs – both permanent and in construction. I will direct the Indiana Gaming Commission to monitor for potential effects of this bill so that we can make necessary changes in future legislative sessions.

Governor Eric Holcomb Views Sports Betting as an Economic Benefit for Indiana

State Senator Jon Ford (R), who championed the State Senate version of H 1015, stated in a press release:

…our focus is on making sure that the state benefits in the best way possible for our constituents. It is our job to get this right. We can learn from where other states have gotten it right and when they might have stumbled. We can get ahead of the curb [sic] thanks to those who came before us and gave us the blueprint.

The American Gaming Association has also expressed its approval of the recently signed legislation.

Legislative History

The theoretical pathway for legalized betting in The Hoosier State was opened up by the May 2018 decision in the Supreme Court case Murphy v. NCAA. It declared that the longstanding federal ban on state-licensed sports betting was unconstitutional.

The Murphy Decision by the Supreme Court Was Needed Before Most States Could Enact Sports Betting Legislation

Several bills hit the Indiana General Assembly in January 2019, but most of them fizzled out before progressing very far. However, S 552, introduced by state senators Jon Ford and Mark Messmer (R) on Jan. 15, proved to have legs.

The bill proceeded through various committees and readings until it was approved by the Indiana Senate on Feb. 26 by a 38-11 majority. It then went to the House where it passed with a vote of 78-15 on April 15.

While the bill was in the House, several amendments were added, which were not to the liking of the Senate members. Therefore, a conference committee was appointed to iron out the differences.

On April 24, there was agreement on the final version of the bill, which had been re-designated as H 1015. The House OKed it with a vote of 59-36 and the Senate by 37-12. It then went to the governor, who affixed his signature on May 8.

One of the contentious matters that stymied agreement on the bill for a while was the issue of mobile wagering. It had been included in the original text of the bill, then removed, then re-added. State Representative Ben Smaltz (R) was instrumental in cutting online betting from the legislation, and he was not pleased that it had been reinserted in the final text. Explaining his reasoning, Smaltz said:

This is a monumental policy shift, and this is the beginning. I’m not excited about having sports wagering in my community anywhere. I’m really not excited about what happens in six years or less, when there’s new people here and somebody comes and says isn’t it silly we can bet on a football game but I can’t play blackjack or roulette on my phone?

State Rep. Ben Smaltz Is Concerned About the Impending Proliferation of Mobile Betting

Indiana Sportsbook Economic Prospects

Though Indiana may not have the cachet of Nevada or New Jersey when discussing gambling matters, there are plenty of reasons why its sportsbook industry may outperform expectations. Most of the states that have implemented this type of wagering are located on the East Coast, and none of Indiana's Midwest neighbors has successfully passed the necessary laws although some of them seem close.

The combination of a likely first-to-market advantage in the Midwest region along with the quite modest 9.5% tax rate may prove irresistible to both operators and patrons alike. The mobile and online aspects of H 1015 are a key to its probable success. Figures from New Jersey suggest that internet betting accounts for about 80% of all sportsbook revenue in the Garden State, so its inclusion in the IN legislation could boost the total tax haul substantially.

Projections for annual tax revenue from Indiana sports betting lie in the $10 million to $12 million range.

More Online Gaming to Follow?

None of the language in H 1015 deals with online poker in Indiana or any other form of internet wagering, like casinos or bingo – other than, of course, gambling on sports. Still, all the ingredients seem to be in place for an eventual expansion into this field.

Around a dozen brick-and-mortar casinos are already present inside Indiana, and quite a few of them boast poker rooms. It's traditional for states to already have live outlets for real money gaming before dabbling in the online variety, and Indiana certainly ticks this box.

There Are Several Places to Play Cards in Indiana, Like the Horseshoe Hammond

Once Indiana's officials get a taste for how online sports betting works (and the sums of money thereby collected), it's not unreasonable to suppose that they'll elect to license online table games, slots, and poker. Perhaps Representative Smaltz' worry that people will soon expect to enjoy a plethora of wagering pastimes on their mobile devices is well-founded.

No Need to Wait on Indianapolis

Though fully legal Indiana sports betting is expected to be ready later this year, you don't actually have to wait even that long to get your fix of sporting action. Plenty of offshore bookmakers service Indiana's residents, and despite the fact that their offerings don't have the approval of the authorities in Indianapolis, there's really nothing that state leaders can do to interfere with these bookies.

You're totally in the clear legally if you wish to sample these online betting websites because no Indiana resident has ever gotten into trouble with the state law merely for participating in online gambling. At the federal level too, you're completely safe because all of the U.S. statutes that deal with this topic target those running the internet gaming sites, not individual users.

For more on places online where you can put down some money on athletic competitions, take a look at our recommended sportsbooks for US readers. Or for casino fun, read our list of honest internet casinos available to Americans. If you'd rather play some poker, then our guide and review of the best USA-friendly online poker venues should meet with your approval.

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It has been a quiet few months from the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), at least as regards gambling advertisements, but the watchdog body is back with another silly ruling – and, boy, was it worth the wait! This time, the alleged wrongdoer was bookmaker William Hill, which, in a ruling dated May 15, was found to have violated the advertising guidelines by supposedly linking gambling to sexual success!

What Did William Hill Do?

On March 11, 2019, William Hill ran the following ad on the dating app Tinder:

This message referenced the well-known concept of the “friend zone”: the metaphorical location to which rejected romantic partners are relegated in the affections of their would-be paramours. By claiming that its services would help customers avoid the friend zone, the company was promising a correlation between gambling and sexual success. At least, this is what a single complainant alleged.

This is against the CAP Code 16.3.8:

Marketing communications must not: link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.

Arguments

William Hill argued that people who signed up for an account with the firm were entering into a relationship with it, and the advertisement played upon the nature of the Tinder site by implying that such a relationship would not end up in the friend zone. The company stated that the intent behind the message was not to suggest that betting at Will Hill would lead to positive sexual outcomes.

Tinder also revealed that it had “reviewed the ad to ensure its content was not socially irresponsible, offensive or targeting minors.” The ad was not flagged as inappropriate and was therefore broadcast to users. Apart from the single complaint that triggered the ASA investigation, Tinder said that there had been no other complaints.

The ASA didn't buy it. This bureaucratic agency found that the ad “suggested that those who gambled would be more likely to develop a friendship into a sexual relationship and therefore linked gambling with sexual success.” The ASA determined that the ad was in violation of the advertising code and should not be broadcast again in the same form.

Our Thoughts

We here at ProfessionalRakeback are of the steadfast opinion that achievements in the realm of real money gaming quite obviously translate into massive sexual attractiveness, vigor, stamina, and skill. (Any of our female readers who feel similarly are welcome to contact us for an, um, intimate “consultation.”) However, we're perfectly aware of the erroneous misconception among the public at large that gamblers tend to be overweight, financially challenged losers.

Therefore, we find it astounding that anyone could be fooled by William Hill's ad into thinking that being able to place free bets on its online platform would correspond to success in the dating world. Given the fact that the ad appeared on Tinder, an app marketed specifically for the purposes of hooking up, we believe it's perfectly understandable that WH would wish to tailor its advertising to the theme of the medium without necessarily harboring any deceptive intent.

If there actually are Tinder users who are duped into thinking that the winnings from a few £10 free bets will significantly alter their dating prospects, then we think there's a bigger problem here. Such individuals ought to be banned from Tinder so as to reduce their probability of mating and thus passing their dumbassery on to the next generation.

ASA Turning Molehills Into Mountains

This isn't the first time we've encountered decisions from the ASA that have left us bewildered. The organization appears to take a perverse delight in interpreting the rules in an overly broad way so as to crack down on what we feel are fairly innocuous communications.

Some of the Gaming Firms That Have Attracted Unwanted Attention From the ASA

In April 2018, the ASA found fault with a PokerStars ad. This television spot attempted to make a lighthearted connection between bluffing in real life and at the poker tables. However, the ASA decreed that this would lead unwary customers to think that they could win at poker solely by bluffing without possessing any experience in the game.

The next month, the ASA took m88.com Casino to task for showing fairy tale-inspired graphics on its website, which was held to be a form of marketing gambling to children. The ASA reached this conclusion despite the fact that the games being advertised were indeed based upon fairy tales. Moreover, these images appeared in the free-to-play section of the website, meaning that no actual money was involved.

In September 2018, an ad from Gala Spins caught the attention of the ASA. This ad promoted the “Britain's Got Talent” Slingo game, based upon the hit TV show of the same name. Because the word “talent” was mentioned, the powers that be declared that the firm was tricking consumers into believing that a person's own talent was instrumental in winning at the game.

Overall U.K. Regulatory Landscape

The Advertising Standards Authority isn't the only group whose edicts gambling enterprises in the United Kingdom must comply with. There's also the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to contend with. Unlike the ASA, which generally just orders companies to stop doing whatever it thinks is against the rules, the UKGC and CMA possess stronger punitive powers.

For instance, the CMA in July 2018 ordered a halt to the $4.7 billion merger between The Stars Group and Sky Betting & Gaming although the deal was later able to proceed. And the UKGC has made a reputation for itself by doling out fines that sometimes reach into the seven figures, like the £2 million penalty it handed out to 32Red and the £2.2 million levied against Paddy Power Betfair.

The costs of remaining on the good side of these oversight bodies are non-trivial and may be a reason for some real money gaming entities opting to cease doing business in the United Kingdom. The rules are always getting tougher too as with the recently published guidelines for identity verification at gambling sites.



Offshore Providers Beckon

Of course, one way of reducing compliance burdens to nearly nothing is by foregoing a license from the UKGC in the first place. Though the legal authorities frown upon such a course, there's really little they can do because corporations can simply house their headquarters overseas in jurisdictions that U.K. officials can't touch. There are a number of online gaming concerns that do indeed service British customers without possessing all the paperwork theoretically demanded by the government.

One of the most prominent among them is Sportsbetting.ag. It boasts a poker room, casino, sportsbook, and several other betting products. You can get a 100% up to $1,000 bonus on your first deposit to play card games. Check out our accurate review of Sportsbetting Poker for additional information and signup instructions.

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On Friday, May 3, 2019, Governor Steve Bullock (D) of Montana affixed his signature to H 725, inaugurating his state into the ranks of those that have legalized sports betting. This new form of MT gambling will be run by the Montana Lottery in partnership with software provider Intralot.

 



Details

It's important to note that the Montana Lottery will be responsible for not just overseeing but actually operating the new sports betting industry. This means that it will have a government monopoly on this activity rather than being one of a number of competitors or just an independent regulatory body.

One of the advantages of this system, as explained by Lottery Director Angela Wong, is that the state will get to keep all the revenue derived from sports betting after paying expenses. If outside sportsbooks were permitted to offer their services in Montana, then the most that the state could hope for would be a percentage of the total haul plus licensing fees.

Angela Wong Is the Director of the Montana Lottery

This betting will be conducted at kiosks inside bars and restaurants. A spokesperson for the totally disinterested and objective Montana Tavern Association stated that the goal was not to necessarily gain substantial profits from the wagering itself but rather to entice patrons to remain on premises, making purchases, while awaiting the outcomes of sporting matches.

The Montana Lottery hopes to have betting on sports ready to go by September, in time for the new NFL season. Revenue projections range from $3.5 million to $6 million per year.

This law deals exclusively with bets on sports. There are no provisions for making Montana online poker legal, nor does any of the verbiage tackle the subject of casino gaming over the internet.

Legislative History

H 725 was introduced into the Montana House by Ryan Lynch on March 22, 2019. After various committee meetings and hearings were held, it was passed by the House on March 30 with a vote of 88-10. It was then sent to the Senate where it was OKed by a 34-16 majority on April 17.

State Representative Ryan Lynch (D) Is a Big Supporter of Montana Sports Betting

After being enrolled and signed by the leaders of both houses, H 725 was transmitted to the governor on April 25. Governor Steve Bullock signed the bill into law on May 3.

Speaking of his bill, State Representative Ryan Lynch said:

It's a good day for Montana to be able to see sports betting in the marketplace. I think Montanans will enjoy the new aspect of watching sports for entertainment as well as betting on it.

Second Bill Vetoed

Even as Governor Bullock affixed his signature to H 725, he vetoed a similar bill, S 330, that would have seen private companies allowed to obtain licensure and offer wagering on sports to their customers. S 330 called for a $1,000 per year licensing fee and 8.5% tax rate.

S 330 was introduced by State Senator Mark Blasdel. It passed through all the necessary legislative stages until it was presented to the governor on April 29. However, he vetoed it on May 3.

Blasdel and State Representative Ryan Lynch viewed each other's bills as complementary efforts and worked together to shepherd them through the political process.

In explicating his reasons for rejecting S 330 while approving H 275, Governor Bullock wrote in a letter to Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton:

I sincerely appreciate the work and consideration the legislature put into these two policy options. Sports betting is new to our state. As many legislators and stakeholders have observed, unfortunately, a new market like this cannot support sports wagering under both systems at once. For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively—adopting only one of the two models now. If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.

Governor Steve Bullock Signed H 725 Into Law But Vetoed S 330

All hope isn't lost for the proponents of S 330 however. Under Montana law, any legislation that passed both houses by a two-thirds majority, like S 330 did, automatically goes through the veto-override process.

Because the legislative session has ended, this entails mailing ballots to lawmakers and then tabulating the results. Unfortunately, votes from senators and representatives who don't respond within 30 days are counted as negative, so this process is heavily weighted against overriding the governor's veto.

Sportsbetting USA History

While legal sports betting was hard to find in the United States before 2018, that changed with the decision of the Supreme Court in Murphy v. NCAA. Before this, only four states were allowed to regulate sports betting, but the nation's highest legal tribunal ruled that this prohibition – contained within the PASPA law from 1992 – was unconstitutional.

As unusual as it may seem, Montana was one of the four states grandfathered in and permitted to host sports betting after the restrictive 1992 law was passed. However, this activity was limited to what existed in the state prior to 1992, which in Montana's case was betting squares pools at licensed retail establishments.

After the Murphy ruling, which allowed states to license fully legal sports wagering if they wished, a stampede of states rushed to take advantage of this new opportunity. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi already had statutes on the books authorizing sports betting in the event that the federal ban was removed, so they were almost ready to go out of the gate. Others, like Tennessee, wasted little time in passing the needed laws.

Given the narrow scope of the preexisting Montana sports squares contests, it's perfectly understandable that The Treasure State wishes to expand into traditional sports betting. H 725 presents it with the mechanisms for doing so.

Existing Montana Gambling

Though Montana lacks commercial casinos, there's a plethora of other gambling available. Charitable games, like bingo and raffles, exist to benefit good causes. In addition, there are video gaming terminals in bars and restaurants as well as licensed card games, including poker. Finally, close to a dozen tribal casinos dot the MT landscape.

Somewhat surprisingly, the minimum gambling age in Montana is 18 across the entire spectrum of real money gaming possibilities. The new sports betting law also adheres to this 18-years-old-or-higher rule.

More Choices Online

The Montana regulated betting economy will be dominated by just a single player, the Montana Lottery. With this lack of competition, we really don't foresee the eventual sports betting offerings to be anything special. Fortunately, you can head online and take your pick of the best offshore sportsbooks that do business with Montanans. There are no laws – at either the state or federal levels – that criminalize the act of betting on sports online.

You can also entertain yourself with internet casino games at one of our recommended online casinos. Card game enthusiasts may prefer signing up with reputable USA online poker rooms.

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Near the beginning of April 2019, the Winning Poker Network released a public beta of its V2 poker client, which has been in the works for years. We decided to download it and play to see what the new software is like. The beta software is currently available for play money games only. This new poker download is scheduled to replace the existing one on Monday, May 30, 2019.



Initial Impressions

The upgrade is not so much about the functionality of play at tables, but rather the ability to expand the offering of games and new game types going forward. While the client remains in beta, developers are concerned with fixing all bugs and errors. However, the implementation of most new features will wait under the platform goes live for real money.

If you do a side-by-side comparison of the two lobbies, for example, you will not notice many differences. You will still see game types at the top, betting structures (NL, PL, Limit) directly below, and the stake levels below that. This affords you the ability to segregate games so that you are only viewing those you would like to choose from rather than a massive listing of all games available.

Comparison of the Old ACR Poker Lobby (Left) and the Beta Lobby (Right)
They Are Almost Identical

Poker Variants

Blitz Poker is the main new variant you will notice on the Winning Poker Network's V2 software. This fast-fold style of poker allows for up to 500 hands to be played in an hour’s time and, as its name implies, nearly eliminates all downtime.

Blitz Poker had previously been only supported on mobile devices although even this functionality is now listed as “Coming Soon” in the mobile lobby. Its presence in the new desktop software indicates that it will be standard in the new download client. The traffic on V2 for Blitz games is less than ideal; however, this should not come as any surprise considering it is still in beta.

What we did notice and hope will change in the near future is the absence of leaderboards. While the standard, classic version of Americas Cardroom boasts Sit & Crush and The Beast leaderboards with accumulating jackpots, those do not exist in V2. Of course, we expect this to change once V2 is tested, finalized, and officially introduced as the standard.

The same can be said about 6+ Hold’em; it is present on the traditional poker client but absent in V2. The retired format SNG 2.0 is also not listed on ACR V2. We had been previously told by our network contacts that it was removed due to lack of traffic but that it would return in the new software. We'll most likely encounter Six Plus and SNG 2.0 in the future once all urgent launch matters have been resolved.

Gameplay Differences and Similarities

In terms of the actual gameplay experience between the V2 Beta and the standard poker client, there is, once again, not too much of an identifiable difference. Player logos and names seem to be presented in a slightly different format (names and stack sizes seem larger), but the general flow of gameplay, existence of chat and statistics in the bottom left-hand corner, and graphics all seem to be in line between the two clients.

If you take two tables – one from V2 and one from the standard client – and place them right next to each other, you will be hard-pressed to determine which is which. Even on the websites of the WPN rooms, their V2 announcement does not designate or highlight any major differences they are adding. It is nice to see the network taking the initiative and improving its product, but it is truly difficult to tell specifically what they are improving as most things seem to be exactly the same or close to it.

One feature that has been implemented is the ability to view cards mucked at showdown in the hand history. This is not possible in the old software despite users having requesting it for years.

Open Beta Still Running

The new version 2 software is still in its beta period, and you can download it and try it out by appending “/v2” to the URL of the website of your WPN skin of choice. You do need to create a new account, separate from your real money account, in order to access the V2 poker application and join the play money games. You are permitted to make up fake personal details for the beta client despite the fact that such tactics are not allowed on the main WPN software.

It's Not Too Late to Download the Beta Version 2 Poker Client

We've been told that the version 2 poker client will go live, replacing the existing software, on Monday, May 30, 2019. At this point, users will be able to log in and enjoy the real money games on the new software using their existing account credentials.

Play for Real Today

Of course, the version 2 client of the Winning Poker Network is a bit lacking in that it's for play chips only right now, but this doesn't stop you from playing for real on the old software. If you lack an account, we urge you to open one now. That way, you'll be able to sample the poker tables today and be ready for the impending transfer to the new-generation poker platform.

We highly recommend Americas Cardroom to our readers. You can obtain a free $10 no deposit bonus through the use of our ACR bonus code PRB10FREE. Then when you make your first deposit, you'll gain an additional $50 as well as a 100% up to $1,000 welcome bonus. Browse over to our detail-rich Americas Cardroom review page for further information.

If you are interested in an alternate WPN poker room, then you can open an account at BlackChip Poker or True Poker. They both have the same games and software as ACR, including the new beta poker application. However, some of their promotions are different.

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The trend of states legalizing sports betting seems to continue gaining momentum as Tennessee has just done exactly that. The Volunteer State joins eight others in having passed the needed legislation, and the first sportsbooks are slated to open for business on July 1. They will be online-only; no physical betting locations are permitted under Tennessee law.

The bill was passed by the legislature on April 30, 2019, and it now heads to the desk of Governor Bill Lee who is expected to let it pass into law without his signature.

Governor of Tennessee Bill Lee Intends to Let Sports Betting Become Legal Without His Signature

Background

The Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA in May 2018 is what sparked the current wave of state-supervised sports betting legalization. It ended the federal prohibition on this form of gambling, which had applied all across the nation with the exception of four exempted states.

All things considered, the passing of the Tennessee bill – officially known as SB16 – is interesting due to the way in which gambling currently exists within the state. Unlike Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which had preexisting casinos before sports wagering became legal, Tennessee does not have any casinos whatsoever, and there are no local pari-mutuel wagering facilities either. The only types of brick-and-mortar gambling currently legally offered within the state are the Tennessee Lottery and very limited charitable gaming.

To say that Tennessee has (or had) some of the strictest prohibitory laws in the country regarding gambling would be an understatement. That is part of the reason why the passing of this bill came as such a surprise to so many. It's more typical for states to experiment with commercial and tribal casinos and poker rooms first before dabbling in any legalized online gambling.

With all of this said, it may seem like sports betting is still a far ways away due to a lack of infrastructure, but such is not the case. This is so because SB16 envisions the state's introduction to sports betting taking place online rather than in physical locations. The industry is slated to kick off July 1 at which point Tennesseans will be able to bet on licensed bookmakers' platforms via the internet.

Digging Into the Details

Inevitably, it is believed that there will be physical locations at which people can place sports wagers, but the earliest days of betting will exist solely online. There were attempts at amending SB16 to allow for sports wagers to be placed at physical, brick-and-mortar locations, but those all failed. One of the biggest reasons these amendments were tossed aside has to do with the fact that totally new locations would have to be erected to support betting given the historical (and present-day) lack of TN gambling facilities.

As you might expect, bettors are required to be of at least 21 years of age, and bets can only be placed from within state lines. Athletes, team owners, and others who participate in athletic competitions and can affect their outcomes are prohibited from wagering on these events.

In addition to legalizing online sports betting, SB16 establishes a committee that will be tasked with overseeing and regulating the newly-created sports betting industry. The committee will be an extension of the state’s Lottery Commission and will consist of nine members total.

According to the bill, sportsbook operators will be charged a licensing fee of $750,000 to be paid on an annual basis. In addition to the fee for the license, operators will see their revenues taxed at 20%. Similar to what happens in other states, tax revenues generated from sports betting in Tennessee will be set aside for education, local governments, and gambling addiction. According to estimates, roughly $50 million in revenues will be created on an annual basis with that number expected to grow year-on-year.

There are no provisions in SB16 for launching online poker in Tennessee or virtual casino gaming. Still, if betting on sports proves to be lucrative for the state, we may very well see the menu of allowed wagering pastimes expand at some point down the line.

Political Disagreements

There was plenty of skepticism surrounding sports betting in Tennessee particularly about the revenue estimates and whether the generated funds would truly reach their intended recipients. State Senator Mike Bell, for example, did not shy away from expressing his doubts in the revenue projections. He claimed that other states’ revenue estimates missed “by half” though this could not be independently confirmed.

State Senator Mike Bell Is Skeptical of Optimistic Revenue Projections for Sports Betting

It will be interesting to see just how true the tax revenue estimates prove to be, but that is not of much concern to most Tennesseans who simply want to place wagers on their favorite sports teams and soon will be able to do so.

The fact that betting would be made so simple and widely available is exactly why the passing of SB16 was the subject of a lot of debate. Those who opposed the bill claimed that being able to place bets quickly and easily from one’s phone or computer would only contribute to gambling addiction.

To say that there was fierce debate about this bill amongst Tennessee lawmakers would be an understatement. From the beginning, the prospect of legalized sports betting has been a polarizing issue, with folks either vocally supportive or vehemently opposed.

Republican State Representative Andy Holt, an outspoken opponent, was quoted as saying:

“I think the legislature is pouring fuel on the addiction issues in our state. I’ve seen family members who don’t have money to feed their kids because they blew it on stuff like this. If we really want to talk about helping kids, this bill won’t do it.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has also vocally opposed gambling, but he understands that this is something that his constituents want. Though Governor Lee has stated that he will not sign the bill, he will also refuse to veto it, which is good enough to turn it into law.

Leagues Extract Their Pound of Flesh

Unique among the current sports betting states, Tennessee actually envisions an official role in the activity for professional sports leagues. Sportsbook operators will have to employ “official league data” when setting their odds for live betting – that is, wagering after a contest has already started, sometimes also known as “in play” betting. The only exception is if such data is not made available “with commercially reasonable terms.”

As long as they're not so greedy as to price themselves out of the market, the leagues can thus derive a dependable revenue stream through the provision of this information to sportsbooks. This will increase overhead and, together with the steep $750,000 licensing fee, may contribute to lackluster and limited sports betting products for the residents of Tennessee.

Major professional sports organizations have been lobbying across the United States for the inclusion of “integrity fees” to be paid to themselves by the bookies on every wager accepted. The ostensible reason for this is to fund efforts to preserve the integrity of the games from the outside influence of gamblers who may try to fix games or otherwise influence athletes. However, integrity fees are widely viewed as just another way for professional sports organizations to make a buck or two.

No integrity fees are included in Tennessee's legislation. They're not present in any other state either at least for now.



No Need to Wait

You don't have to wait for licensed TN online sportsbooks to appear because there are a number of international organizations that already allow you to bet on sporting matches. They ignore Tennessee law as well as federal statutes because they're located in jurisdictions that are outside the grasp of U.S. law enforcement.

Check out our list of the best online sportsbooks for Americans. If you'd prefer playing poker online, then our guide to the leading U.S.-friendly internet poker rooms may pique your interest instead. Or for casino gaming, browse over to our USA online casinos review page.

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On April 12, 2019, the Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) handed down a $10,000 fine to PokerStars for accepting sports bets on prohibited contests. This is the largest-ever fine issued by the Division for an infraction related to sports betting.



What Did PokerStars Do Wrong?

The incidents in question involve PokerStars' betting division, called BetStarsNJ. Though The Stars Group is mainly known as poker company, it does offer casino gaming through the PokerStars Casino as well as wagering on the outcomes of sporting matches via BetStars. It provides all three types of betting action to its internet customers in The Garden State: NJ online poker, casino games, and sports betting.

The BetStarsNJ Website

On Nov. 19, 2018, BetStars allowed punters to book 216 separate wagers on the college basketball game of Eastern Michigan University Eagles versus Rutgers University Scarlet Knights – something that's disallowed under New Jersey law. From the relevant sports wagering law on the website of the State of New Jersey:

"prohibited sports event" means any collegiate sport or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or a sport or athletic event in which any New Jersey college team participates regardless of where the event takes place.

Rutgers University has campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden: all located in New Jersey. Therefore, accepting bets on its games is disallowed under New Jersey law. Nevertheless, BetStars had the game listed in its sportsbook, and customers were able to wager a total of $2,756.89 on the game.

On Dec. 31, PokerStars again permitted bets on a collegiate game involving a New Jersey team, this time the Monmouth University Hawks (housed in West Long Branch, NJ) versus the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. For this second event, only a single wager was placed although we don't know how large it was.

PokerStars Caught Its Own Errors

As noted by DGE Director David L. Rebuck in the enforcement order, “PokerStars voided all wagers and refunded the patrons prior to the beginning of the stated events.” This proved insufficient for the firm to avoid the $10K civil penalty.

David L. Rebuck, Director of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement

Perhaps part of the reason for not letting 'Stars' mistakes slide with a simple warning was the fact that the DGE had sent an email on Nov. 5, 2018 – right before the start of the 2018-2019 college basketball season – reminding its licensees of the rules about betting on college athletic events.

Writing about the enforcement action in an email sent to the Press of Atlantic City, Matt Primeaux, Senior VP for Strategy & Operations, USA at The Stars Group, remarked:

We generally don’t comment on regulatory matters like these, but we had a manual gating error from our international games into New Jersey. We cooperated with the DGE as we always do, have learnt from the problem, and are confident it won’t reoccur. We’re glad to have had a successful NCAA basketball season…

While this explanation is a bit vague, it seems that lines shown to the international clientele of PokerStars were inadvertently carried over to the New Jersey subsidiary of the organization. This ought to be a simple technical fix for the online gaming giant, perhaps involving the automatic flagging of all contests in which the name of an NJ college appears.

Dissatisfaction With Current State Law

The decision of the authorities to prohibit betting on matches involving NJ college teams has proven controversial. Some, like former State Senator Ray Lesniak, are against such a ban. He was instrumental in getting sports betting legislation passed in the state, and he has stated that he compromised on this point in order to ensure that the bill would have a greater chance of passage. Addressing the reasons why people should be allowed to bet on New Jersey college sports, Lesniak said:

Having betting out in the open where it can be monitored and seen is a lot more effective in discovering unusual betting patterns and thereby preserving the integrity of the game.

Ray Lesniak Has Been One of the Most Ardent Supporters of Legalized Online Gaming in New Jersey

Others point to the fact that wagering on such games is definitely possible at any number of USA-friendly offshore sportsbooks, so the state's tough stance on the matter really has little effect in practice. It merely drives gamblers away from the NJ-licensed markets and into the arms of entities located in other jurisdictions.

Examples of Betting Lines for NJ College Teams From Offshore Bookmakers
The Long Odds Imply Problems With NJ College Athletics Beyond the Fact That People Can Bet on It

Nevertheless, there are those who believe that the prevention of wagers on NJ college sports at state-approved bookies is appropriate. There are even calls to make harsh penalties mandatory whenever a licensed sportsbook makes an error in this area. State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo has introduced HB 4947, which would levy fines of between $20,000 and $100,000 for entities that accept wagers on prohibited sporting events. Furthermore, they could see their licenses suspended for up to 10 days.

NJ Sportsbooks Experience Growing Pains

For reasons that have yet to be definitively determined, sports betting enterprises that are new to the New Jersey market have encountered unexpected hurdles. On Aug. 7, 2018, just a few days after opening for business in the state, the DraftKings NJ sportsbook was subjected to distributed denial of service attacks that interfered with its business. About a month later, longtime daily fantasy sports rival and aspiring New Jersey bookmaker FanDuel made a pricing error in its lines that resulted in the company having to pay out an extra $82,500 to customers.

Two previous fines were levied by the DGE against sports betting firms that broke the rules about collegiate matches. The Golden Nugget allowed patrons to bet on several football games involving New Jersey college teams in September 2018, and it had to pay back $390 that its customers had wagered. Also in September, Caesars Atlantic City was caught accepting wagers for a game played by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and had to pay a civil penalty of $2,000.

International Sportsbooks Don't Have to Worry About NJ Law

We've seen quite a few gaming houses in New Jersey hit with punishments for very trivial infractions. On top of this, they cannot publish odds on certain types of contests, and their overall selection of sports covered is pretty small.

By getting hooked up with a USA-friendly bookmaker based outside the country, you can benefit from diverse betting menus, a lack of geo-restriction hassles, great promotions, and other perks. Browse over to our page devoted to USA offshore sportsbooks for further information.

If card games are more what you have in mind, then consult our thorough information on the legality and availability of USA poker for a list of top recommended sites. Casino gaming enthusiasts can look over our recommended USA internet casinos to find a place to play.

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On the morning of May 1, 2019, police raided the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Room in Houston, Texas. These two establishments are poker rooms that use a membership-based model to get around Texas' strict anti-gambling laws. Nine people involved with running these facilities were arrested on money laundering charges.

Post Oak Poker Club

Prime Social Poker Room

About the Enforcement Actions

Officials have stated that these arrests are the culmination of a two-year investigation. Since 2017, bank accounts controlled by the two clubs have had approximately $10 million in total deposits. The authorities contend that this money was laundered in connection with organized crime, and the bank accounts in question have been frozen.

The individuals arrested were the five co-owners of the Post Oak Poker Club, the owner of the Prime Social Poker Room, the comptroller of Prime Social, the general manager of Prime Social, and the assistant general manager of Prime Social.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said:

Poker rooms are illegal in the State of Texas. We are changing the paradigm regarding illegal gambling by moving up the criminal chain and pursuing felony money laundering and engaging in organized crime charges against owners and operators. Players are not being targeted.

Kim Ogg, Wicked Witch of the West Houston Poker Community
(She's Also the District Attorney of Harris County)

Are These Clubs Illegal?

According to Texas law, almost all forms of gambling are illegal. However, there are a few conditions that can make participating in real money gaming not a prosecutable offense:

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1) the actor engaged in gambling in a private place;

(2) no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings; and

(3) except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all participants.

The TX card clubs all require the payment of a membership fee before anyone can access their games, which they argue makes them private places, meeting the criteria for the first condition. They avoid charging a rake, instead deriving revenue from membership fees and time charges, ensuring (they contend) compliance with the second. And the third element is satisfied simply by running fair games where there's no cheating occurring.

The crux of the matter is the second clause – the one prohibiting any “economic benefit other than personal winnings.” Opponents of Texan poker argue that the various fees that the cardrooms charge definitely constitute an economic benefit. Club managers counter that this economic benefit is not directly derived from the gaming tables but rather for the service of providing a comfortable, relaxing space for patrons to utilize for their entertainment.

Attorney General Ken Paxton was asked to render his opinion on the legality of these gaming centers in early 2018, but he declined to comment. The legal uncertainty surrounding them has therefore persisted until the present day.

Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General

Arrests a Surprise

For many months, Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Room have been operating in the open without any attempts to disguise their activities. The same is true of several other competitors in Houston. Some poker rooms in Houston actually hold municipal licenses, duly issued by the relevant governmental bodies, as game rooms.

Therefore, the recent clampdown by the police came as a total surprise to nearly everyone. Prime Social was about to hold a $150,000 guaranteed tournament over the course of May 1 - 5, but it's extremely unlikely that the event will now take place.

We've seen at least one report of a player who purchased thousands of dollars of chips at Prime Social, left the premises, and is now unsure of how to redeem his chips or if this is even possible. Given that the company's funds have been frozen, there's every likelihood that all outstanding chips have become worthless.

Other card clubs in Houston are now uncertain of where they stand, and several of them, like Mint Poker, are closing preemptively to avoid any potential trouble:

Though we were heartened to see the stance taken by Kings & Cards Poker Club:

Possible Behind-the-Scenes Wrangling?

Though all the Texas cardrooms are essentially in the same business, and so there's a general alignment of interests on their part, they're also motivated by free-market competitive concerns. We've heard rumors that certain parties might be trying to muscle other organizations out of Houston, driving all the profits into their own greedy hands.

Texas Card House, which currently owns an Austin card club, had plans to open up a second property in Houston in May. Word on the street is that the heavy-handed suppression of the two competing poker clubs may not have been entirely a surprise to the principals of Texas Card House. Still, all the info we've received in this direction is merely hearsay and speculation.

Interior of Texas Card House in Austin
Looks Pretty Empty - Could They Be Trying to Drum up Some Action in Houston?

Also worthy of consideration is the fact that there's a bill moving through the convoluted works of the Texas Legislature to formally license and regulate “social gaming establishments.” In fact, there was a hearing about this proposed legislation on April 30.

The complex machinations of parliaments, regulators, government enforcers, politicians, and bureaucrats are well beyond our ken here at ProfessionalRakeback. We're more comfortable endeavoring to construct unexploitable three-betting ranges and calculating poker bonus effective rakeback percentages rather than getting inside the heads of the powers-that-be. We can't help but conclude, though, that it's not unreasonable to suppose that the recent raids were related somehow to political maneuverings pertaining to this bill.

Online Poker Still Present

Though there are a few advantages to live poker, the game plays pretty well online too. And while the TX offline poker scene has a few legal kinks to work out before it's free of unwarranted interference from the cops, the internet sites that spread card games don't have to worry about this. The busybodies in Austin might want to shut them down, but they can't, and neither can they bother you if you elect to play poker privately on your computer.

For a rundown on the best online poker destinations servicing the Lone Star State, read our TX online poker guide. If you reside elsewhere in the United States, check out our page on the best offshore USA online cardrooms.

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New rules are coming to PartyPoker regarding third-party software tools that some players use to gain an edge at the tables. More specifically, HUD (heads-up display) and hand tracking programs will be banned at Party starting in early May. This news has been confirmed by PartyPoker partner Rob Yong and site representative Colette Stewart.

Colette Stewart (Left) and Rob Yong (Right) Have Both Confirmed the PartyPoker HUD Ban

What Affect Will This Have on Games?

This move is viewed as an attempt to discourage mass multi-tabling poker veterans from exploiting newer players to the same extent as they currently can. A tracker-plus-HUD package, like PokerTracker 4 or Holdem Manager 2, enables users to see statistical information on their opponents’ play in real time, allowing savvy practitioners of the game to gain an edge on their adversaries.

Poker Table With a HUD Overlay on It

While one doesn’t necessarily need to be an experienced pro to utilize these tools, novices are mostly unaware that they exist. In any case, the interpretation of the information shown is perhaps more important than just the mere fact that suitable numbers appear on a player’s screen. Understanding the stats shown on a HUD is an art and science in and of itself: one with which beginners are almost thoroughly unacquainted.

The termination of HUD use on PartyPoker will most probably make things easier on the fish. They won’t automatically become poker wizards, but the rate at which they lose will diminish, and they will thus get more play from their entertainment dollar.

Why Does Party Want to Safeguard the Fish?

Attempts to cater to recreational customers rather than winning regs have become common within the online poker industry during the past decade. The reasoning behind these efforts is that winners remove a lot of money from the poker economy when they withdraw their profits; however, losing players don’t generate any long-term earnings from the game, instead converting most of their deposits to rake, which benefits the operator.

It is therefore to the advantage of the poker sites to restrict professionals’ ability to hunt down whales while simultaneously giving these unskilled players incentives to keep spending their time (and money) at the tables. This keeps cash flowing through the games with the house levying its cut on every tournament entry and cash game hand.

Bodog/Bovada was a trend-setter in this space with the introduction of its recreational player model, including anonymous games, back in 2011. Other operators have also implemented certain features to help non-pro customers, like Unibet allowing users to change their screennames up to three times a day and iPoker’s switching to Real Player Value calculations, which deliver more rewards to net depositing (read: losing) customers and less to net withdrawers.

Anonymous Table at Bovada.lv
No Screennames Are Shown - Players Are Identified Only by a Number

Party Not New to This Philosophy

Party Poker itself has taken a few tentative steps in the past to shelter amateurs from the depredations of experienced cardsharks. For a brief period of time in 2013, it segregated its members at different tables based upon their winrates, but this system was ended because some people were able to circumvent it. Similarly, Casual Cash tables, which were only accessible to those who were not playing in any other cash game at the same time, were introduced in 2014 but removed from the PartyPoker client in late 2018.

Clearly, some of Party’s innovations in this direction proved to be abortive, but there’s every reason to believe that the forthcoming software ban will stick. The poker room has already been taking measures to reduce the effectiveness of HUDs for a while now.

In ring games at Party currently, hand histories written to a player’s local machine have all screennames anonymized, which basically makes opponent stat collection impossible. Some individuals have found workarounds, however, which involve using third-party capture software to record screennames in real time as a session is being played and then importing these converted hand histories into tracking programs.

Thus, the announced prohibition on HUDs and trackers isn’t something entirely new but rather a way of extending PartyPoker’s preexisting policies on this matter. We deem it ultimately unlikely that the site will reverse its decision on HUD programs.

Accompanying Changes

At around the same time that the new software rules come into place, several other changes will occur. Players will be unable to download hand histories to their local computers, instead having to rely on an in-client hand viewer. This will basically make tracking packages totally useless at the site.

Moreover, users will be prompted upon log-in to make a one-time change to their aliases: a procedure designed to hinder the effectiveness of hand histories that may be have been collected up until this point.

Reactions From Players

There are many who applaud PartyPoker’s decision to restrict the use of third-party software at its tables. They contend that poker is meant to be a battle of wits among humans, not a contest to see who can most effectively deploy complex, and sometimes expensive, computer programs.

A sizable minority of folks, however, lambaste this new policy. Some feel that advanced tracking capabilities are extremely helpful to individuals who are attempting to combat bots and other forms of cheating. Perhaps its no coincidence that Party recently announced the identification and closure of 277 bot accounts. The company may be trying to reassure the poker-playing public that it possesses the means to tackle bots in-house, which makes the lack of HUDs more palatable to those who are worried about unfair play.

There’s also the fact that independent results collating sites, like SharkScope and PocketFives, will no longer be able to gather data on PartyPoker tournaments. Furthermore, the elimination of support for tracking software will inconvenience those who employ such programs to track their own winnings for their personal edification and for tax purposes also.

Here’s a selection of comments posted on popular poker forums about the upcoming PartyPoker HUD ban:



PokerStars Joining the Party?

Rival poker provider PokerStars is also tightening its terms of service to blunt the gains that technologically sophisticated users can attain through their favorite software products. It revealed some updates to its PokerStars’ Third Party Tools and Services Policy on March 4.

All seating scripts are now prohibited on ‘Stars. These are utilities that scan the poker lobby, looking for games with known fish or desirable table stats, and then automatically join the table.

PokerStars has also opted to blacklist all HUDs that change which stats are shown onscreen depending on the game state or position. Basic HUD displays that don’t dynamically adjust to new gameplay factors are fine.

PokerStars is viewed by many as the leader in online poker, but in this department, it seems to be merely following in Party’s wake. PartyPoker already banned seating scripts late last year, so PokerStars is just catching up to its competitor here. And Party’s total proscription against HUDs is much stronger than ‘Stars just limiting their functionality.



Play With HUDs or Without

While PartyPoker and PokerStars are unavailable to those in the United States and Australia (with very limited exceptions), there are a number of internet poker destinations that are. Select the site that’s right for you based on whether you seek limited HUD functionality, like at Ignition Casino, or the full-fledged HUD experience, like at Juicy Stakes.

If you live in the States, click over to our USA online poker guide to learn more about these rooms and others. If you’re an Aussie, then check out our offshore Australia poker page instead.

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Back in June of 2018, Ontario elected a new premier by the name of Doug Ford, and being that he made a name for himself as a businessman, rumors immediately began circulating with regard to how he would boost the economy of Canada’s largest province. Within that whirlwind of speculation, there was plenty of talk of changing and expanding the way in which Ontarians can gamble especially online.

As it exists currently, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation – otherwise known as the OLG – allows residents to gamble online through a single site, PlayOLG.ca. This state-owned entity offers nothing in the way of innovation for players and is, quite literally, a monopoly. Players have been demanding more and higher-quality options, and Premier Ford seems intent on delivering on that demand.

Keeping Gambling Funds in Ontario

The first budget released under Premier Ford is all about increasing revenues for the province, and nothing highlights that more effectively than the sections regarding gambling. According to Ontario’s budget release, Ontarians spend an estimated CA$500 million (about US$371 million) every year gambling online with most of that money going to what they refer to as “grey-market websites.” What this means is that instead of the monopolized, state-run casino site and mobile app, residents of Ontario are opting to spend their money and time at sites located overseas.

Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

The budget goes on to say that the Tory government presently in place “intends to treat adults like adults and establish a competitive market for online legal gambling.” This is widely being interpreted as meaning that the Ontario government intends on legalizing play at sites that are not the sole state-run entity that currently exists. The aim here is to not only give players more choice, but to also increase the gambling revenues generated from online play. The budget release does not go on to elaborate too much further, but it is clear to see that the intent is there.

Of the reported CA$7.5 billion (approximately US$5.6 billion) in revenues generated in 2017/18 by Ontario Lottery & Gaming Commission, less than CA$75 million (around US$56 million) came from the monopoly’s single online casino site. In fact, it is largely considered to be an afterthought. When you consider that British Columbia and Quebec – both of which have smaller populations – bring in more online gambling revenues than Ontario, it is clear to see that something can and should be done.

PlayOLG.ca, Ontario's Underperforming Online Gambling Enterprise

Current Provincially Licensed Online Poker

While there is licensed online poker for at least some Canadians, it a pretty small and insignificant presence. Right now, the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia, and Manitoba have joined forces to create the country’s only fully legal poker network. Unfortunately, the network is trafficked by only hundreds of people at any given point in time as opposed to the thousands who simultaneously frequent the largest international operators.

Because the player pool is so small (online poker players from only three provinces), finding desirable games is difficult more often than not. In fact, if you wanted to play cash online poker tables during off hours within the middle of the week, games are notoriously difficult to come by. Add to this the utilization of obsolete Boss Media software, and it comes as no surprise that Canadians are taking their hard-earned dollars elsewhere.

Grey Market to the Rescue

This perfectly explains why almost all Canadian online poker players are opting for “grey-market” sites: because the quantity of games is superior, traffic is stronger, and the quality of the poker sites is top-notch. This is especially true in Ontario as the only online poker options available are offshore sites located in other countries.

There’s nothing in Canadian law prohibiting either regular residents or the managers of these gaming sites from doing business with each other. While none of these companies holds the imprimatur of government approval, they’re not targeted for prosecution by the authorities either.

If Ontario can successfully change current regulations and create an online poker industry that features multiple licensed operators, the sky is the limit with regard to the revenue that can be generated for the province.

For players, all of this would encourage them to gamble and play poker at sites that generate revenue for the province within which they reside. Some people may also feel safer transacting with firms that are given the official stamp of approval. Operators, meanwhile, would probably welcome regulation, assuming the tax rates and fees are not set too high, as it would make them appear more legitimate in the eyes of consumers.

Other Proposals in the Budget

Another major change that Ontario intends on making is to approve single-game sports betting. As it stands, you can place parlay wagers in Ontario, but this being the only option is something that severely limits the number of people who are willing to place wagers. The budget release cited the current and spreading legalization of sports betting in the United States as something that is taking away Ontario jobs.

Finally, Premier Ford and his government desire to allow B&M casinos to begin serving alcohol at 9 a.m. and, not only that, they will also be allowed to give alcohol away for free. These are some pretty sweeping and ambitious changes, so it will be intriguing to see how this all pans out. At the present moment in time, all of this is just wishful thinking, but there is real excitement surrounding these plans, and folks are hopeful that all of the above does, indeed, come to fruition.



Many Places for Online Poker in the Interim

Any hopes of Ontario-licensed online cardrooms will have to await the needed legislative changes. Until that time, you can head to an offshore poker room to get your fill of the game.

We encourage you to read our guide to the best online poker sites for Canadians. Right now, Bodog is the top dog, but there are plenty of options from which to choose. If you do opt to play at Bodog, be sure to take advantage of their 100% first deposit bonus that will give you up to $1,000 to play poker and $800 to use at the site’s casino and sportsbook.

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No matter where in the world you are, some form of gambling is available to you whether you know it or not. Though this is a constant truth, the legality of the gambling available to you is a point of contention no matter where you go.

This statement could not be any truer than when made with regard to the United States where the laws regarding gambling are vague where they exist at all. Being that gambling laws are, for the most part, handled on a state-by-state basis, understanding what is and is not legal can become a difficult and painstaking undertaking. Just look at the recent fracas surrounding the Wire Act and the legal uncertainty about live cardrooms in Texas, like the Texas Card House, to see how confusing the laws relating to this pastime can be.

In California, the gambling laws are clear; however, the way in which the gambling industry is set up has created a situation where illegal gambling rings are being raided by the police. Since the beginning of March 2019 alone, more than three illicit gambling establishments have been targeted with upward of 100 people arrested or detained as a result. Police may be tackling what they see as illegal gambling operations, but it seems as though lawmakers refuse to put in place legislation that eliminates the need for underground gambling rings.



Raids Conducted in Santa Ana, Westminster

The beginning of March is when this series of recent raids began, first taking place in Westminster, California. This particular raid targeted two households that were reportedly bustling with activity at all hours of the day and night. After months of investigating, authorities moved in on the two houses and, by the time the dust settled, had arrested more than 25 people. Along with the people arrested, authorities also seized drugs, weapons, and gambling devices.

Flash forward a month, and two more raids were carried out, this time in neighboring Santa Ana. On April 10, police raided the Lucky 999 cyber café and arrested more than 20 people while capturing many gambling machines, believed to be slot games and video poker terminals. Though the investigation commenced thanks to tips from concerned residents, the location was named “Lucky 999,” which, to many, was a dead giveaway that illegal gambling was taking place inside.

Finally, another Santa Ana cyber café was raided a week later and more arrests and seizures were made. Though this raid was also a product of community tips, the operation made seemingly no attempt to cover up what it was doing.

First of all, the cyber café was open 24 hours a day: something that you do not normally see. In addition to that, there seemed to be a constant stream of visitors even late at night. All told, only five gaming terminals were seized, but it is clear that California authorities are sending a message to those who are currently operating or wish to operate an illegal gambling concern.

Why Do Illegal Operations Exist?

With California being one of the most liberal-leaning states in the country, you might be wondering why there is a need for illegal gambling to exist at all. After all, the state is home to multiple racetracks, casinos, and card rooms, all of which offer varying styles of legalized gambling. What’s more, there are plenty of CA offshore online poker rooms and casinos whereby Californians can play their favorite games.

The answer to this, though not a simple one, has to do with the way in which gambling is segregated. In the Los Angeles area – where all of these raids are taking place – the only widely available form of gambling is that which occurs in the local card rooms.

Typically, these venues are dominated by poker but will sometimes also feature other table games, such as blackjack. What these card rooms don’t have, however, are other classic casino games like slots, roulette, craps, and so much more. In order to play those types of games, LA residents must pack up their cars and venture to Native American reservations, where the gambling laws are much more relaxed.

Commerce Casino, Near Los Angeles, Has Hundreds of Poker and Gaming Tables
However, Slot Machines, Video Poker, Craps, Roulette, and Other Popular Gambling Options Are Absent

Seeing as not everyone has the time and money to drive multiple hours to gamble, many are instead turning to the types of illegal operations that exist much closer to home even though they are against the law.

Legal Reform Long Desired

This problem seems like it could be solved if the government would not place such arbitrary, restrictive laws on the gambling industry, but attempts at reform have gotten very little traction. Part of the reason for this is because the Native American tribes who are allowed to offer full-scale casino gambling are constantly lobbying against any sort of relaxation of the gambling laws and regulations especially online.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association Is Generally Against Gambling Expansion

Legislation for California-licensed online poker has been floated many times over the course of the last decade, but each and every time it has been dissected and eventually killed. Californians do have plenty of places to play poker and other casino games both online and at brick-and-mortar locations, but there is a desperate need for the laws governing the gambling industry to be updated.

It Is Possible to Play Online

In the meantime, offshore operators may be technically frowned-upon by the California authorities, but the state government has no effective jurisdiction over them, and so these gaming destinations are de facto legal. If you are in the market for competitive real money online poker, check out our review of the top poker sites for players from the United States, including California.

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