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The failure of Florida´s gambling regulators to enforce the law has resulted in the Seminole Tribe suspending its $350 million per year payments to the state.
In 2010, the Seminole Tribe agreed to a twenty-year compact with the state of Florida giving the Tribe exclusivity to run house-banked card games (i.e. blackjack) for a period of five years. In return the Tribe guaranteed to pay a minimum of $1 billion to the state over the five years – more if net win exceeded $1 billion per year. To date, the average annual payments have been around $350 million.
When the compact expired in 2015, former Governor Rick Scott and Tribal Leader James Billie reached a provisional agreement for an extension to the compact that would also allow the Tribe to add craps and roulette to its existing casino operations. Florida´s legislature failed to approve the agreement, but the tribe continued to make revenue-sharing payments in good faith.
There then followed a round of tit-for-tat lawsuits in which the state (under pressure from Florida´s racinos) claimed the Tribe no longer had the exclusive right to run house-banked card games. The Tribe responded by claiming the state had breached the compact by allowing racinos to run “designated-player games” in which a player stands in for the bank. Both court cases went against the state.
In August 2016, an administrative law judge ruled the designated-player games were violations of the compact and had to be withdrawn. Three months later, a federal judge ruled that, under the wording of the original compact, the Seminole Tribe had exclusivity to run house-banked card games until 2030. Despite the Tribe having the right to withdraw from the revenue sharing agreement, the payments continued in good faith to smooth the passage for further negotiations.
Negotiations Complicated by PASPA and Amendment 3
In the past couple of years, negotiations have gone nowhere. The Seminole Tribe has offered to pay as much as $500 million per year for the right to add craps and roulette to its existing casino operations, but with the proviso that Florida´s gambling regulators take the promised “aggressive enforcement action” to shut down illegal designated-player games.
Then, when the Supreme Court repealed PASPA in May 2018, the Tribe held out an olive branch to the racinos by suggesting they work together to bring regulated sports betting to Florida. The proposed deal was reliant on the racinos complying with the court judgement to stop providing designated-player games, but the racinos declined and the state´s gambling regulators allowed the games to continue while discussions were ongoing. Then came the passage of Amendment 3 in last year´s ballot.
Amendment 3 removes the power of Florida´s legislature to approve any expansion of gambling without a state-wide referendum. There is some dispute about whether the Amendment applies only to casino gambling (as PASPA had not yet been repealed at the time the language of the proposal was approved), or whether it applies to any type of gambling activity. Some lawmakers believe the Amendment can be circumnavigated, but the legislative session ran out before their proposals could be discussed.
Seminole Patience Runs Out and Payments Stop
Throughout the negotiations, the Seminole Tribe continued to make payments to the state, despite not getting what they were paying for (exclusivity to house-banked card games). Eventually the Tribe´s patience ran out, and it warned the state that if it allowed racinos to continue running player-designated games, it´s payments would stop at the end of the current legislative session (May 4th). As threatened, the Seminole Tribe has now confirmed it will no longer make payments to the state.
On Tuesday, a letter from the Seminole Tribe was delivered to Governor Ron DeSantis in which the current Tribal Leader – Marcellus Osceola Jr. – announced the Tribe is suspending its revenue share agreement until the issue of the player-designated games was resolved. Osceola acknowledged there are proposals waiting to be discussed, and he expressed a desire to resume negotiations in the summer. Although gentle in its language, the letter notes the failure of the state´s gambling regulators.
The withdrawal of the revenue-sharing payments is not really a surprise. The income had already been removed from the budget, and – in a prepared statement – House Speaker José Oliva said yesterday the legislature was not relying on Tribal income in any future planning – a comment that implies Oliva doesnot anticipate a quick resolution to the issue. However, the longer regulators fail to enforce the law banning player-designated games, it is going to cost the state – and its tax payers – $350 million per year.
While some have bemoaned the lack of progress towards regulated online poker in the U.S. since the repeal of PASPA, it´s actually been good news for players.
Yesterday saw the first anniversary of the Supreme Court repealing PASPA – an event it was hoped by some would result in a massive wave of sports betting legislation that would include measures to regulate online poker. Sadly for those optimists, the wave of sports betting legislation failed to materialize; and, to date, only eight states have regulated sports betting.
Of those eight states, one (Nevada) already had regulated sports betting, three had already passed legislation in preparation for the Supreme Court´s decision, and one only allows sports betting under a tribal compact. Even with my ropey math, that means just three states have passed sports betting bills in a year – and one of those only got the Governor´s signature last Monday.
What about Regulated Online Poker?
In the past twelve months, online poker has largely been ignored by lawmakers. Only West Virginia has passed a law that makes a provision for regulated online poker – but the prospects for a regulated playing environment may be thwarted by DOJ enforcement action if interstate compacts are prohibited. West Virginia simply doesn´t have the population to support a ring-fenced market.
The one bright-ish spark on the horizon is that – more than eighteen months after legislation was passed – regulated online poker in Pennsylvania may actually get the green light on July 15. The official launch of the ring-fenced and highly taxed market is still subject to the satisfactory testing of payment processing services, geolocation services, and responsible gambling measures.
Examining Comparative Performances
To explain how post-PASPA inactivity is good news for online poker players, you have to examine the comparative performances of the regulated and unregulated markets over the past year. Whereas the regulated market has seen a 10% decline in player numbers (and a 6% decline in tax revenues), cash game players in the unregulated market have increased by 10%.
Although cash game traffic can be an unreliable source from which to determine trends (because traffic monitoring sites don´t account for fast-fold poker games, Sit & Go games, or online poker tournaments), it´s also noticeable that operators in regulated states are reducing their guaranteed tournament prize pools (i.e. NJCOOP), while operators in the unregulated market are increasing theirs.
How is the Inactivity Good News?
Had more states passed legislation, a larger number of players would have been trapped in declining regulated markets, and the unregulated market may not have grown as much as it has – although USA-friendly poker sites operating in the unregulated market are not US-exclusive, and they could have seen an influx of players from other countries as well.
Regardless of the reasons for the unregulated market growing, players eligible to play at USA-friendly poker sites enjoy more liquidity, more rewards, and more opportunities than their compatriots playing in regulated environments. They also have the opportunity to bet on sports from their mobile devices – an activity prohibited in many states that have regulated sports betting.
My Message to Lawmakers – Keep Up the Inactivity
Consequently, if I lived in a state threatening to regulate online gambling, I would be hoping for the legislation to fail. Most regulated online poker sites only see meaningful traffic during peak hours so the passage of the legislation would remove my freedom to play whenever I want and – due to many operators being charged unreasonable tax rates – reduce the likelihood of enjoying a profitable session.
Therefore, my message to lawmakers is keep up the inactivity, and if you must regulate something, keep your hands off of online poker. I´m very happy with the status quo, and I guess a lot of other poker players share my views – otherwise they would have told you by now.
President Warren G. Harding is remembered for several not-so-positive events during his presidency – one of which involves a set of china and a game of cards.
If you are a fan of trivia nights, you will be familiar with the name Warren G. Harding. The 29th President of the United States was the shortest-serving president of the 20th century, one of only four presidents to die from natural causes during their presidency, and the only president to be elected into office on his birthday (November 2, 1920).
Unfortunately – despite promoting tax cuts, civil rights, and infrastructure improvements – Harding is remembered as one of America´s worst presidents. Predominantly this perception is due to Harding seeing his role as ceremonial rather than governmental, and spending much of his time in office playing golf and hosting lavish poker parties at the White House.
Following his death in 1923, Harding´s extra-marital affairs and involvement in numerous scandals came to light – prompting rumors that, rather than having died from a heart attack, Harding´s wife had poisoned him to avoid facing charges of corruption. However, if she had poisoned him, it was possibly due to the former president losing a set of White House china in a game of cards.
It Wasn´t Just Any Set of China
White House China (Harrison Service)
According to a news article published in 1965 by the Associated Press, the game of cards took place following one of Harding´s regular poker parties at the White House. Having played with his regular guests – which included Secretary of War John Weeks, Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, and Gen. John J. Pershing – Harding invited Louise Heiberg to a single hand of cards.
Heiberg – who at the time was the wife of General Douglas MacArthur – accepted the challenge, and she and Harding played a version of poker known as “Cold Hand”. Heiberg won and, as her prize, she asked for a set of White House china. The following day, a set of White House china dating back to the Benjamin Harrison administration was delivered to her home.
The original series Harrison china service is extremely valuable. Designed by First Lady Caroline Scott Harrison, the service was designed with a goldenrod and corn motif etched in gold around a wide band of blue, with forty-four gold stars – representing the forty-four states of the Union at the time – forming an inner circle. Sadly, First Lady Harrison died before the service was delivered.
These Days Harding Could Play Anonymously
Historians are of the opinion that Harding´s negative legacy is not so much attributable to his extra-marital affairs or involvement in numerous scandals, but rather due to his lack of vision and failure to get involved in government business. The loss of the White House china only adds to his negative legacy; although if he were alive today, he could avoid the embarrassment by playing poker anonymously.
Americas Cardroom is giving away fifty-four Venom Step 5 tickets – each worth $215 – to players who help test its new software playing in freeroll tournaments.
After months of beta testing, Americas Cardroom´s new software – ACR V2 – is due to go live next Monday (May 20th). To ensure the new software can support thousands of players simultaneously, the site is hosting six special freeroll tournaments on ACR V2 over the next three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) at 5:00pm and 7:00pm ET each day.
Each freeroll tournament will pay nine prizes of Venom Step 5 tickets and each ticket is worth $215. Players who win a ticket will be just two Steps away from winning a seat in the site´s $5 million guaranteed Venom event. Whether or not you have been trying to qualify for the Venom event via the Steps promotion, this is a fantastic opportunity that should not be missed.
How to Take Advantage of this Opportunity
In order to play in the freeroll tournaments, you have to download ACR V2 from the Americas Cardroom website. The link to the software appears in the top left-hand side of the ACR Home Page (“Beta V2 Download”) and the installation file is large; so downloading the file may take a few minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection and what other programs are running on your PC.
When the installation is finished and the poker client opens, you have to create a new account using a different email address, username, and password from your existing Americas Cardroom real money account. When the current platform is migrated to the new platform next Monday, your existing details will automatically be carried forward, but a separate account is required for the purposes of playing on ACR V2 while it is in beta.
Once your new account is created, you will find navigating the new poker client very similar to what you are used to at Americas Cardroom. Therefore, click on the “Tourney” link in the poker client, and then on the “Freeroll” button to access the Venom freeroll tournaments. Due to the time it may take to download the new software and create a new account (especially if you have to create a new email addresses as well), I recommended downloading ACR V2 well in advance of the freeroll start times.
If you win one of the nine Venom Step 5 tickets up for grabs in each freeroll, you have to manually claim your ticket by writing to ACR customer services with the usernames and email addresses for both your real money ACR account and your beta ACR account (don´t disclose your password). Americas Cardroom will check to make sure your claim is genuine, and – once the claim has been authenticated – the Venom Step 5 tournament ticket will be credited to your real money account. (This may take a couple of days).
Important Note for New ACR Players
If you don´t already have a real money account with Americas Cardroom, you will need to create one in advance of downloading ACR V2 – otherwise it will be impossible to credit you with any Venom Step 5 tickets you win. Consequently, visit Americas Cardroom today, and create a real money account using the Americas Cardroom bonus code “USAFRIENDLY”.
You don’t have to fund your account right away, but when you do, using my bonus code will make you entitled to a 100% bonus on your first deposit up to $1,000 (200% if you deposit using cryptocurrency). You will also be eligible for twenty days of free poker and entry into up to four first time depositor freeroll tournaments with prize pools of $250. Further details of the Welcome Package can be found in my review.
Rather than win cash prizes in Intertops Poker´s Day of Light freeroll, you can win free casino spins on selected games in the site´s online casino.
The International Day of Light celebrates the role light plays in science, art, education, communication, and energy. It is held each year on 16th May to commemorate the invention of the laser in 1960 by American physicist and engineer, Ted Maiman; and, keen to maintain its recent record of celebrating at least one notable day per month, Intertops Poker is hosting a special Day of Light freeroll tournament.
However, rather than stick to the usual formula of giving away cash prizes to the winners, Intertops Poker is rewarding the top players with free casino spins on selected games in its online casino. In total, the value of the freeroll tournament prizes amounts to $98; but, if the reels fall in the right order for you when you play your free spins, you could win a lot more – so the freeroll is definitely worth playing.
Intertops Poker´s Day of Light Freeroll
The Day of Light freeroll tournament is scheduled for next Thursday 16th May at 6:30 pm (all times ET). It is a “proper” tournament (rather than a hyper-turbo shootout) inasmuch as you start with a decent stack of 4,000 chips and blinds increase every ten minutes. However, unlike the majority of online poker tournaments at Intertops Poker, there is a very short late registration period of just five minutes.
The tournament will reward the top fifteen players with free casino spins as per the payout table below. If you are skillful enough to win some free casino spins – and then lucky enough to turn the spins into cash – there is a play-through requirement of thirty times your winnings before they can be withdrawn. You should also be aware there is a cap of $250 on how much you can win from your free casino spins.
Free Casino Spins
Golden Owl of Athena
Golden Owl of Athena
4th – 6th
7th – 9th
10th – 15th
More Chances to Qualify for EPC Velden
A couple of weeks ago, I updated my “Latest Live Event Qualifiers” page for Intertops Poker to account for a promotion the site was running that qualified players into the European Poker Championships Main Event between July 24th and July 27th in Velden, Austria. Due to the success of the promotion, the site is running it again – culminating with “Satellite Finals” on Sunday 19th May and Sunday 9th June.
Usually, Intertops Poker doesn´t run its two-Step qualifiers into the Satellite Finals until a few days before the Satellite Finals take place. However, looking at the tournament lobby today, there is a $3.30 buy-in Step 1 event and an $11.00 buy-in Step 2 event scheduled for 6:30 pm and 9:00 pm respectively this coming Thursday 9th May. If you are looking to play in the Satellite Final on 19th May, this could be a good opportunity to qualify against a small field as the Step satellites have not been announced on Intertops´ website or through any of its social media channels.
Plenty of Opportunities at Intertops Poker
The two promotions above are typical of the opportunities that exist at Intertops Poker. So, if you are not playing at the site yet, visit Intertops Poker today, where you will be welcomed with a new player package that includes a 200% bonus on your first deposit (use the Intertops Poker bonus code USAFRIENDLY) and a ticket into a depositor freeroll with a $1,000 prize pool. And don´t forget to play on Thursday 16th May, when you could win free casino spins in the Day of Light freeroll tournament.
BetOnline is encouraging players to try 6+ NL Texas Hold´em Poker by offering freeroll tournament tickets to players who complete daily missions.
BetOnline Poker´s latest promotion is an attempt to attract players to its latest cash game format – 6+ NL Hold´em. However, rather than reward players for trying out the new cash games, the site is rewarding players who play its regular games with a freeroll tournament ticket. The twist is that the freeroll tournament has a 6+ NL Hold´em format.
The logic behind this promotion is that many players at BetOnline Poker are reluctant to leave the regular games to try something new because they risk missing out on a share of the Bad Beat Jackpot if it is won while they are away from the tables. BetOnline Poker hopes that, by giving players a free taste of 6+ NL Texas Hold´em, they will return willingly to play the new format.
How the Daily Missions Promotion Works
Each day BetOnline Poker is hosting five 6+ NL Texas Hold´em freeroll tournaments at 8:00pm (all times ET). The freeroll tournaments have varying prize pools ranging from $50 to $250; and, to win a ticket to one of the tournaments, you have to complete a mission. The mission consists of playing at least a hundred raked hands between 6:00 am on the day prior to the freeroll tournament and 5:59 am on the day of the freeroll tournament. Basically, play a hundred raked hands within a day.
You can play the hands at any regular NL Hold´em table or at a Jackpot table for stakes of $0.50/$1.00 and upwards. The stakes you play at determines the value of the freeroll you are eligible to enter. For example, if you play a hundred raked NL Hold´em hands at stakes of 10 NL, you will be awarded a ticket for the $50 freeroll. If you play a hundred raked NL Hold´em hands at stakes of 25 NL, you will be awarded a ticket for the $100 freeroll.
The other stakes you can play at are 50 NL ($150 freeroll tournament), 100 NL ($200 freeroll tournament), and 200 NL ($250 freeroll tournament). You can, if you wish, qualify for more than one 6+ NL Texas Hold´em freeroll tournament a day and there is no requirement to opt into the promotion. You ticket will be issued automatically for you to manually register for each freeroll. Please note however that the freeroll tournament tickets will expire if you don´t use them.
One important point to mention is that the 6+ NL Texas Hold´em freeroll tournaments are timed tournaments and will end after an hour. Players who survive the hour of action will win a share of the prize money depending on the size of the chip stack they have in front of them when the tournament ends. It´s quite a sensible idea to use the timed tournament format, as a lot of players will want to get back to the Jackpot tables in the hope the Bad Beat Jackpot gets won.
6+ also Added to the Regular Tournament Schedule
In addition to the freeroll tournaments, BetOnline Poker has also added a limited number of 6+ NL Texas Hold´em events to the regular tournament schedule. These have buy-ins from $1.00 to $5.00 (BetOnline Poker has taken off the fee while these tournaments are still new) and have a guaranteed prize pool of 100 times the buy-in. Each 6+ NL Texas Hold´em tournament allows players to re-enter up to four times before the end of late registration (typically eleven levels).
If you would like to try the new format out, and you don´t yet have an account with BetOnline Poker, you could take advantage of this promotion and the site´s first deposit bonus simultaneously. Simply visit BetOnline to create your account, and then make your first deposit using the BetOnline Poker bonus code VIP1000 – which entitles you to a 100% match first deposit bonus up to $1,000. Then play a minimum of 100 raked hands to qualify for a seat in a 6+ NL Texas Hold´em freeroll tournament.
At the same time as you are playing the 100 raked hands, you will be earning Comp Points towards clearing your bonus. However, before you start playing, it is important you follow the instructions in my review for claiming the bonus at BetOnline Poker. Players who forget to contact Customer Services after making their first deposit may find their bonuses forfeited due to the site´s unusual procedures.
A reworking of Michigan´s Lawful Internet Gaming Act will be required to address concerns about a perceived decrease in revenue for the state´s School Aid Fund.
Last Thursday, Michigan´s House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to discuss the current package of online gambling bills introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden. The package is very similar to the one vetoed last December by outgoing Governor Rick Snyder, who – at the time – cited concerns about the impact regulated online gambling would have on the School Aid Fund.
Although the more plausible reason for the veto was the influence of anti-online gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, concerns about the School Aid Fund were once again raised at the hearing – with Chief Deputy Treasurer Jeff Guilfoyle telling the committee that the regulation of online gambling in Michigan could cost the state´s public schools $28 million per year.
How Could Online Gambling Cost $28 Million?
To see how the regulation of online gambling in Michigan could (allegedly) cost $28 million, you have to understand where the money currently comes from for the School Aid Fund. At present, Detroit´s brick-and-mortar casinos pay 19% tax on their profits, and about 8% of that goes towards the School Aid Fund. Lottery sales are taxed at 27% – all of which goes towards the School Aid Fund.
The proposed tax rate for online operators is 9%. One percent would go to the City of Detroit and 8% of the remainder would go towards the School Aid Fund. The Treasury is concerned that if brick-and-mortar casinos drive customers towards their online operations (to pay less tax on their profits) the tax revenues for the School Aid Fund will fall from 1.52% of Gross Gaming Revenues to 0.64%.
A bigger concern is the impact online casino games will have on lottery revenues. At present, Michigan´s online lottery generates a lot of its income from online games that resemble slots, scratch cards, and Keno. These games have terrible payout percentages, and the perception is that players would stop playing these games for online casino games with better payout percentages and lower tax rates.
The perceived threat to School Aid Fund revenues is not new. It was first raised in a Fiscal Impact Study (PDF) in December 2017; and, according to a second Treasury official to give testimony at the committee hearing – Bethany Wicksall – new Governor Gretchen Whitmer would alsoveto the Lawful Internet Gaming Act if it were to arrive on her desk with the current distribution of tax revenues.
How Real is the Perceived Threat to the School Aid Fund?
The threat to the School Aid Fund is unlikely to be anything near the scale being suggested by Michigan´s Treasury officials. Research has shown there is minimal cannibalization between online gambling and brick-and-mortar casinos; and, while there may be a small exodus from the lottery´s online games to regulated online casino games, the impact is also likely to be minimal.
The reason suggesting the threat is minimal is because any discerning online gambler would never play the low payout games offered by the state lottery. Instead they would choose to play at any number of US online casinos that accept players from Michigan. Therefore, what should happen is that regulated online casino capture business from the unregulated market – bolstering the School Aid Fund.
However, while the threat to the School Aid Fund is perceived to be real, what I would do if I was Rep. Brandt Iden would be to change the distribution of tax revenues in the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, and then change them back when the concerns are proven to be unfounded. The shortfall in payments to the Internet Gaming Fund would only be temporary, and partly covered by the first year licensing fees.
Iden Still has to Address Constitutional Concerns
There is one final sticking point though. Even if Rep. Iden did tinker with the figures to address concerns about the School Aid Fund, he still has to overcome the issue of his proposals being an unconstitutional expansion of gambling. Michigan´s constitution states any expansion of gambling has to be approved by a statewide ballot, and although Iden is trying to overcome this obstacle by referring to online gambling in Michigan as an “expansion of gambling opportunities”, the bill is likely to face a legal challenge.
Anti-gambling interests in New York have already shot down one unlawful expansion of gambling; and, as I noted last week, a second anti-gambling group in Rhode Island has started legal action against the state´s legislature to roll-back the passage of mobile sports gambling. It would be no surprise if the same happened in Michigan. Considering how long it has taken to reach this stage, it would have made sense to have a ballot when the “significant legal and policy questions” were first raised in 2016, but when was sense ever a factor in online gambling discussions?
States circumnavigating their constitutions to pass gambling legislation are increasingly likely to face legal action from unhappy anti-gambling campaigners.
Rhode Island´s constitution is similar to a number of others inasmuch as the state has no authority to expand gambling without a statewide referendum approving the proposals. Fortunately for Rhode Island´s gamblers, voters have twice approved constitutional amendments to allow for the construction of two Class III casinos which now offer in-person sports betting facilities.
Unfortunately for the state of Rhode Island, gamblers have had the upper hand since in-person sports betting went live in November. Rather than raise anything like the projected tax revenues of $11.5 million, the state had collected only $150,000 from regulated sports betting by the end of March. The legislature subsequently passed a bill authorizing mobile sports betting in order to increase revenues.
Anti-Gambling Campaigners Unhappy with the Bill
Although mobile sports betting wasn´t going to be available to Rhode Island´s gamblers before the fall, anti-gambling campaigners have been quick to launch a legal challenge to the bill. A group led by former mayoral candidate Dr. Daniel Harrop claim the bill is unconstitutional because it represents an expansion of gambling not authorized by the electorate.
The group also claims that, when the General Assembly was given advice about the legality of authorizing mobile sports betting without a referendum, the legal opinions presented to them were based on reports funded by DraftKings and the Twin River Casino. Furthermore, when the electorate approved Class III gaming in 2012 and 2016, sports betting did not even appear on the ballot papers.
Who´s Afraid of the Big, Bad Supreme Court?
It has also come to light that, at the time Rhode Island´s legislature was considering the regulation of sports betting, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio – the chief advocate for sports betting in the General Assembly – initially supported getting an advisory legal opinion from the state´s Supreme Court, but subsequently changed his mind after receiving additional legal advice.
Speaking with the Providence Journal, Ruggerio said he was confident the state will prevail in the legal challenge; however, Joe Larisa Jr., one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, believes the Superior Court will be unable to resolve the case and that it will eventually end up before the state Supreme Court – the same court from which Ruggerio was unwilling to solicit a legal opinion.
There´s a Precedent in Favor of the Plaintiffs
In 2015, New York´s legislature reclassified Daily Fantasy Sports as a game of skill in order to regulate it and raise tax revenues. Anti-gambling campaigners brought a court case against the state, contesting that Daily Fantasy Sports was skill-based, and claiming the legislature had reclassified the activity to circumnavigate the constitution which prohibits an expansion of gambling without a referendum.
Last October, Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connolly found in the plaintiff´s favor – stating that no amount of skill by a person playing Daily Fantasy Sports games can predict future athletic performances, and therefore the games contained a considerable element of chance. You can still play Daily Fantasy Sports in New York, but it´s unregulated and technically it´s illegal.
A Lesson for Michigan, Ohio, Florida, etc.
At present, three states are trying to push through gambling bills that circumnavigate their constitutions prohibiting an unapproved expansion of gambling – Michigan, Ohio, and Florida. In Michigan, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is likely to contest the legality of an online gambling bill that doesn´t expand gambling, but instead expands “gambling opportunities”.
In Ohio, legislators are classifying sports betting purely as a game of chance so it can be considered a constitutionally-allowed lottery game; and, in Florida, legislators are contemplating a fairly similar approach to their colleagues in Rhode Island – ignore the constitution and do it anyway. Maybe if they just asked the voters first, they could avoid all this grief!
With the state-tribal compact about to come to an end, and just days left in the legislative calendar, what´s next for state-sanctioned gambling in Florida?
It would be an understatement to say the situation regarding state-sanctioned gambling in Florida is complicated. At present, the state has a compact with the Seminole Tribe that allows the Tribe to operate six casinos in return for a revenue-sharing deal worth more than $300 million per year. The compact gives the Tribe state-wide exclusivity for house-banked games such as blackjack.
The state also licenses more than 20 pari-mutuel facilities that enable gamblers to place on-site bets on horseracing. Up until 2016, the facilities also offered card games using the “designated player” system to circumnavigate the Seminole´s exclusivity agreement. This practice was found to be illegal by a US District Court, but the Court´s ruling has not been aggressively enforced by regulators.
More recently, the pari-mutuel facilities have also brought in poker-blackjack hybrid games – further infringing on the tribal compact. The Seminoles gave the state three years to sort the mess out, during which time it has continued to honor its agreement and make monthly revenue-sharing payments. The state has done little to comply with the Court´s ruling, and the three year period expires on May 31st.
Negotiations to Revise Compact get Nowhere
The Seminole Tribe not only wants the state to enforce its part of the agreement, it has also been pressing for a while to get craps and roulette games built into the compact. Since the repeal of PASPA last May, the Tribe has also been keen to offer sports betting facilities – ideally online, but it would be willing to settle for in-person betting at its brick-and-mortar establishments.
The pari-mutuel facilities – which also contribute a significant amount to the state´s coffers – aren´t happy with the Seminole Tribe getting exclusivity over sports betting, so a compromise agreement has been suggested in which the pari-mutuel facilities are sub-licensed by the Seminole Tribe to offer on-site sports betting. That might work if it were not considered by some to be an expansion of gambling.
Last November, voters passed an amendment to the constitution that prohibited Florida´s legislature from expanding state-sanctioned gambling in Florida without a statewide referendum. The amendment effectively ties regulators hands for giving the Seminole Tribe what they want; although Senator Bill Galvano claims he has a solution that will comply with the amendment and satisfy the Seminoles.
Too Many Plates Spinning to Achieve Anything
The problem with Galvano´s proposal is that it doesn´t have the full support of the legislature – many of whom are wary about violating their constituents´ wishes to prevent any further expansion of gambling. Furthermore, if the state were to pass legislation to regulate sports betting in Florida without a statewide referendum, there would definitely be a legal challenge from anti-gambling groups.
There is also no agreement over whether any expansion of gambling – whether approved by voters or not – should be on-site only or online. In states that have regulated online sports betting, revenues are considerably higher than those that don´t, and although Florida is not desperate for tax revenues at present, both the state and the Seminole Tribe want to get a satisfactory long-term solution agreed.
So where does that leave state-sanctioned gambling in Florida? The Seminole Tribe has continued to make payments in compliance with its compact; but Florida´s regulators have failed to uphold their side of the agreement, and I can see the Tribe´s good faith wearing thin. Florida´s legislature could go to the electorate to get support for an expansion of gambling, but it seems lawmakers are trying to find ways to circumnavigate existing laws rather than trying to create new ones.
I feel the Seminole Tribe will probably agree to a short-term extension of the current arrangements, provided some enforcement action is seen to be undertaken. Then, of course, the pari-mutuel facilities will kick off and put pressure on the legislature to do something for them. When nothing happens, there will be a greater division of interests between the Seminole Tribe and other gambling stakeholders, and ultimately nothing will ever change. My guess is we´ll be discussing the same problems for years.
BetOnline Poker has become the latest site to add Six Plus Hold´em to its repertoire of cash games, giving players the opportunity for “a truckload more action”.
If you like your online poker action fast and furious, BetOnline Poker has not historically been the place to play. Due to the structure of the Bad Beat Jackpot promotion (in which everybody playing at a Jackpot table wins when the Jackpot hits), attempts by BetOnline Poker to introduce new formats of cash games have often fallen flat.
However BetOnline Poker is now jumping on the short deck poker bandwagon by launching Six Plus Poker – a game similar to NL Texas Hold´em, but with cards rated Deuce to Six removed from the pack. The result of playing with a short deck is that you are dealt premium opening hands more often, and consequently more players are involved in each pot.
The game has proven to be a hit – albeit a modest one – at many other online poker sites, and BetOnline Poker is hoping Six Plus Hold´em will help add a little variety to its repertoire of games – the site recently having withdrawn its fast-fold Boost games due to a lack of traffic. Whether or not the site´s hopes will be realized, we shall have to wait and see.
Watch Out for Different Hand Rankings
If you are going to try Six Plus Hold´em, you need to be aware that hands rank differently from regular NL Hold´em. With a smaller pack, it is now easier to make a Full House and harder to make a Flush, so a Flush is ranked higher than a Full House. Similarly, it is also harder to make Three of a Kind than it is to make a Straight, so Three of a Kind is ranked higher. Hands now rank in the following order:
Four of a Kind
Three of a Kind
6 Plus Holdem Poker Hand Ranking
Where to Find the Six Plus Hold´em Games
BetOnline Poker has included the new Six Plus Hold´em games in its regular cash game lobby, so you may have to use the filter below the “games” bar in order to find them. The games are available at all stake levels from $0.05/$0.10 to $10.00/$20.00 and there is a fixed buy-in of 100x the Big Blind; so, if you want to play in a $0.50/$1.00 game, you will have to take $100 to the table.
All Six Plus Hold´em games are played in 6-Max format and your action at the tables will contribute to your position in the site´s Daily Cash Race. However, because it is easier to make Four of a Kind or better, players at Six Plus Hold´em tables are not eligible to win the Bad Beat Jackpot or share in the prize pool if the Jackpot is won at a regular NL Hold´em table.
Talking of the Bad Beat Jackpot
Since the Bad Beat Jackpot was won four times in quick succession in January, it has been won twice more since – once in February and once in March. However, it is now more than eight weeks since the last time the Jackpot hit and the prize pool has built up to more than $380,000. This means that if the Jackpot was won today, the player suffering the Bad Beat would pick up more than $66,500.
Furthermore, because every player sitting at a Jackpot table shares in 10% of the prize pool, more than $38,000 would be distributed to players who are “in the right place at the right time”. With that sort of incentive to play at the Jackpot tables, it may be difficult to encourage traffic to the Six Plus Hold´em tables;
Will You Play Six Plus Hold´em at BetOnline Poker?
The primary benefit I can see of playing Six Plus Hold´em is that new players will be able to clear the BetOnline Poker first deposit bonusquicker than playing at the site´s regular NL Hold´em tables. This because more players are involved in each hand, so more hands see the flop – the threshold for rake being deducted from the pot.
As Comp Points are only awarded when rake is deducted from the pot, players will avoid the scenario in which they are waiting for ages for a playable hand – only to have every other player at the table fold their cards in the pre-flop action and collect no points. Therefore, the Six Plus Hold´em tables could become a magnet for new players, which in turn could encourage existing players to abandon Jackpot games or mix their action between the two formats; but, as I said above, we shall have to wait and see.