Days after the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee hosted a positive hearing on potential online gaming expansion, a new bill has emerged in the Keystone State, but this time the sponsor and cosponsors are trying to prohibit online gaming. This new bill, HB 1013, introduced on April 20 by Representative Thomas Murt and cosponsored by seven other lawmakers expressly prohibits Pennsylvania from regulating online gambling, and makes no qualms about its intention as the memo reads: “Banning Internet Gambling in Pennsylvania.” The bill’s text reads in part: “The board shall not promulgate rules and regulations allowing any form of Internet gambling.” The bill was referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee after being introduced. It’s unclear who is pushing for the bill behind the scenes, but it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if we were to find out Sheldon Adelson’s fingerprints are on the legislation. New year, new effort at PA online gambling prohibition A somewhat similar bill was floated last year by Representative Mario Scavello. Scavello’s bill from 2014 would not only have prohibited online gambling, but it sought to make it a criminal offense, punishable by stiff fines and/or jail time. A first offense would result in a fine of up to $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. A second offense could be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. You read that correctly, Rep. Scavello thought it would be a good idea to send people to prison for playing online poker, because you know, it’s not like we have a prison overcrowding problem. Scavello’s archaic bill was supported by Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online gambling lobby group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), who called the bill a “step in the right direction,” in a statement by CSIG-cochairs, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb: “We call on the Pennsylvania Legislature to vote in favor of this bill and send a powerful message that online gaming has no place in American society.” Scavello’s bill was roundly criticized for its overreach, and eventually left for dead. While HB 1013 doesn’t go nearly as far, it will almost certainly suffer the same fate. Here is why. Spitting into the wind HB 1013 is unlikely to gain traction for two reasons: The momentum in Pennsylvania is all on the side of legalization and regulation. The leadership in the Gaming Oversight Committee is clearly in favor of regulation. It is certainly not a given that Pennsylvania will pass online gaming legislation in 2015, but it appears to be a case of when not if. Three different legislators have already introduced bills that would legalize online gaming in the state. They are: John Payne’s HB 649, a comprehensive bill that would legalize and regulate online casino and poker; Nick Micarelli’s HB 695 – a poker-only bill with strict Bad Actor language that goes against the zeitgeist; Tina Davis’s HB 920, which seems to be little more than a redundant, watered down version of Rep. Payne’s legislation. The GO Committee is also in the midst of a number of hearings on online gambling. If the next hearing is as positive as the most recent one, HB 1013 will be filed in the large blue file cabinet with waste management emblazoned on the side. The Gaming Oversight Committee passed a resolution (HR 140) which was also introduced by Chairman Payne. The resolution calls on Congress to oppose Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill, and/or any legislation that would prohibit states from legalizing intrastate online gaming. The resolution easily passed by an 18-8 margin – a clear indication of where the Pennsylvania GO Committee stands on the regulation/prohibition debate. Finally, considering that House Gaming Oversight Committee Chair John Payne and Democratic Chair Nick Kotik are both pushing for regulation, it’s unlikely they will allow HB 1013 to move forward in the GO Committee. So you’re saying there’s a chance… The chances this latest attempt to prohibit online gambling passes are almost nonexistent. In fact, the bill will likely receive nary a mention in the coming weeks and months as the talk remains focused on expanding into the online gambling sector in the Keystone State. The appetite for state-level prohibition, particularly in Pennsylvania, is simply not there.
At the 2014 World Series of Poker, Caesars and the WSOP made a concerted effort to merge their brick and mortar and online offerings. Among the crossover proposals the WSOP implemented were: Players were encouraged to play online poker while playing in WSOP events. The WSOP created a designated area for players to log on and play at WSOP.com. WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey sent hundreds of players to the WSOP via official online satellites. Judging by the information relayed during last Tuesday’s 2015 World Series of Poker conference call, there will be an even stronger push at the 2015 World Series of Poker to create synergy between the WSOP and WSOP.com. Starting with the first-ever WSOP online poker bracelet. The online poker bracelet Event #64, a $1,000 buy-in No Limit Holdem tournament, will begin at WSOP.com’s online poker tables and play down to the final nine players. Once the final table is decided these players will travel to the Rio to battle it out for the bracelet the old-fashioned way. What else is in store for the 2015 WSOP Mobile and wifi improvements Last year, the WSOP encouraged players to play at WSOP.com while participating in WSOP tournaments at the Rio. But there was a major logistical issue that likely hindered players from taking advantage of this new, exciting opportunity. During the 2014 WSOP, WSOP.com didn’t have a mobile offering, and players interested in double-dipping in live and online tournaments would have to use their much bulkier laptops. This year players will be able to play on their phones and tablets. Additionally, the WSOP has made wifi available in all areas of the Rio, as well as getting the Nevada Gaming Control Board to “white-list” the Rio so players can be seated at the same cash game table or tournament table even if they are playing from the same IP address – usually a no-no in Nevada. Daily satellites WSOP.com will run satellite tournaments to the following day’s WSOP events every night at 6PM. Signature event (Ladies and Seniors Championship and Millionaire Maker, for example) satellites will start at 4 PM. Additionally, STT’s and Steps satellites to WSOP tournaments will be available around the clock. A bigger scramble One satellite tournament that was a rousing success in 2014 was the WSOP Main Event 25 seat Scramble. Last year the tournament attracted 1,339 entries, and the company expects even more entries this time around, with potentially more seats won. This year the tournament will have a slightly reduced price-point (185+15) and will allow players to reenter. The scramble will take place on Day 1a of the WSOP Main Event. Satellites to the 25 seat satellite are already running at WSOP.com. Streamlined deposit options Caesars also announced they have made it easier than ever to deposit into your online poker account. As always, players can use credit cards, eChecks (ACH), or cash at the cage. This last option has been streamlined by the WSOP. According to Caesars’ reps, players are now capable of walking up to the cage with their ID and making a deposit to their already setup online poker account. In the past players would first have to initiate an online chat before depositing at the casino cage. Additionally, Caesars expects the list of properties where the cash at the cage deposit option is available to grow from one to three, as they are awaiting approval for Harrah’s and Planet Hollywood to join Caesars. The return of direct buy-in satellites In 2014 Caesars sent about 200 players to the WSOP via direct satellites at WSOP.com – about 100 to the Main Event and a similar number to preliminary events. That number should be much larger in 2015. In addition to direct buy-in satellites at WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey, Caesars has teamed up with their iGaming partner, 888 Poker, who will be offering official direct buy-in satellites to the WSOP in regulated markets around the globe. According to Caesars, they expect 888’s direct satellites to send around 100 players to the Main Event. During the conference call, Caesars also announced they have entered into similar partnerships with PlayNow in Canada and Winamax in France. Caesars Interactive VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky, the WSOP expects over 200 players will win their way into the WSOP Main Event through these official satellites, and over 500 total WSOP seats (Main Event and preliminary events) to be awarded through official online satellites. By comparison, during last week’s call, Caesars estimated the 56 land-based casinos they have partnered with will send about 300 players to the Main Event. Tidbits The Global Poker Index (GPI) will be sponsoring the 2015 WSOP Player of the Year award. the WSOP POY calculations had previously been handled by Bluff Magazine’s POY system. According to a press release by the WSOP, “… this new, multi-year agreement includes marketing initiatives for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and WSOP Europe… to include exclusive editorial content on WSOP.com and content within the WSOP final table livestream.” For the first time, live reporting of WSOP tournaments will be handled in-house and exclusively available at on WSOP.com. The GPI wasn’t the only company to enter into a multiyear agreement with the WSOP. According to Caesars, DraftKings extended their sponsorship of a WSOP event (Event #55) into multiyear agreement. Image NAN728 / Shutterstock.com