New York introduces bill to legalize online poker

Last week, New York legislators introduced a bill that would make online poker a game of skill.

Specifically, the bill reads:

Allows certain interactive poker games be considered games of skill rather than games of luck; includes definitions, authorization, required safeguards and minimum standards, the scope of licensing review and state tax implications; makes corresponding penal law amendments

The bill was introduced by Republican Senator John Conacic.

The bill goes into detail discussing the differences between a contest of chance and one of skill and evaluate poker as one of skill.

We will see if this will gain any traction.  States such as Washington which has contemplated a bill are likely looking at New York’s legislation and hoping it’s something that pro-poker proponents hope happens.

Valve tries to skin, skin betting in TF2

Valve Corporation announced late last week that it would begin blocking Team Fortress 2 gambling accounts.  This comes on the heels of a skin betting issue in which the state of Washington demanded that the company immediately ban of the transfer of weapons on its Steam platform.

 (via Wikipedia)

The Washington State Gambling Commission determined that skins were used as consideration in illegal gambling on third party web sites.

Valve was sued in Washington state due to allowing an alleged online illegal gaming market.  However, the court dismissed the case on Valve’s motion to dismiss.

The recent move by Valve likely looks to curb additional issues with potential skin betting and lawsuits down the road.

New Jersey advances DFS bill in state Assembly

Will Daily Fantasy Sports become legal in the state of New Jersey?

A bill introduced to legalize Daily Fantasy Sports was approved by the New Jersey state Assembly’s tourism and gaming committee on Monday.  An updated bill established guidelines including a 10.5 percent quarterly tax rate on the gross revenue of all operators.

The legislation would define daily fantasy sports as a “game of skill” versus a “game of chance.”

Some of the key statements within the bill:

the outcome of a game will be determined by statistics generated based on the performance of actual individuals participating in real professional or collegiate athletic events;

all prizes offered to participants will be established and disclosed in advance to all participants;

the outcome will not be based solely on the performance of an individual athlete, or on the score, point spread, or any performance of a single real team or combination of real teams;

The bill imposes an annual registration and renewal fee for all daily fantasy sports providers in an amount equal to 9.25% of daily fantasy sports gross revenue.

  Also, the bill sets forth penalties for violations of the provisions of the bill and regulations

DraftKings gets go ahead in Germany

The Sports Business Daily reports that the Malta Gaming Authority has issued a controlled games skill license to DraftKings to allow the company to operate in the country of Germany and other European nations.  The license allows the company to operate in countries that do not require a local gaming license.

The report notes that the license applies to DraftKings only as the application predated the merger with FanDuel.  Unlike the license it was given in the UK, this one designates daily fantasy sports as a game of skill.

The expansion is big news for the daily fantasy sports company.

The status of legalizing online poker in Washington state

A hearing was held on January 18th before a Washington State Senate Commerce Committee on the future of online poker within the state.

The hearing was held before the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee to discuss the possible regulation and taxation of internet poker and daily fantasy sports.  We have discussed the DFS discussion here.

As for online poker, the committee took testimony from John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance (a grassroots activist group per Pappas) as well as an interesting testimony from a math schoolteacher and avid online poker player.

Pappas spoke about how Washington’s law prohibiting online gaming is one of the strictest criminal penalties for wagering on the internet.  Pappas said that the law was nonsensical and unenforceable.  He hoped that the legislature would look into ways of licensing and regulating online gaming. Pappas asked that online gaming be viewed as a consumer protection issue.

He pointed to New Jersey as a state that has done well in regulating online gaming.

It is a Class C Felony penalty (5 years in prison and/or $10,000 penalty) if someone is caught gambling online in the state, which, according to Pappas is similar to the penalty given to sex offenders.

Online poker is illegal in Washington state despite attempts to repeal the law.  But there’s nothing currently before the legislature regarding repealing the law and/or legalizing online poker.

The Washington State Gambling Commission gave an overview of the Gambling Act.  It noted that Consideration, Chance and Prize are the three issues the commission considers.  The attorney for the commission noted that it has not arrested any players as it stated that it focused more on companies.

The question of what other states are doing with online poker and whether those states that have regulated it determine whether it is a game of skill was a query.  The commission went over states that looked at license fees and what taxes each assessed.

Testimony was also provided by proponents of online poker.

Ernie Stebbins of the Washington Indian Gaming Association noted that tribal gaming were an economic benefit for tribes.  According to Stebbins, on an annual basis for state and local sales tax provides $255 million to the state treasury.

On the other side, the concern of compulsive gambling was an issue raised by those that might be opposed to the legalization of online poker.

There was no bill before the committee which is problematic if there is to be any movement for the state of Washington.

LA Gear files opposition to LA Chargers Trademark

From my Copyright and TM Blog:

The San Diego Chargers NFL franchise is moving up the 5 to Los Angeles.  Among the issues that the franchise had to address is a trademark issue involving its logo.

The franchise, Chargers Football Company, LLC, filed for the mark last January.

The logo has been under criticism by the public and has been opposed by LA Gear.  You might recall LA Gear was popular for footwear back in the 1990s.

The trademark was published for opposition on December 20, 2016 and LA Gear filed an opposition on the same day.

In its Notice of Opposition, LA Gear claims that the proposed mark by the Chargers will be over to the “same classes of consumers and at least through the same channels of trade as Opposer’s (LA Gear’s) Goods.”  its mark will be diminished and dilute “the distinctive quality” of its famous marks.

LA Gear by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The Chargers have until February 7, 2017 to file an Answer.

Hawaii introduces new bill to legalize online gaming

A new internet gaming bill was introduced in Hawaii on Friday.  The bill is one of the many different pieces of legislation being introduced across the nation as a swell of bills concerning gaming is coming to the forefront in 2017.

The bill identifies that “tens of thousands” of Hawaii residents are already using illegal online gambling on unregulated internet web sites.  The bill is meant as a way “[t]o protect Hawaii residents who gamble on the Internet, and to capture revenues generated from internet gambling in Hawaii…”

The legislation will seek to create an “internet-only lottery and gaming corporation, which shall be a public instrumentality…”  It will be subject through a “system of audits and reports.”

The bill goes on to define its scope on what the internet lottery and gaming corporation may do:

(1)  Offer internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill, including lottery, poker, and casino games, to individuals over the age of eighteen years; provided that the corporation shall not offer internet wagering on any sporting event or sporting contest;

(2)  Enter into agreements with other state gaming entities for the offering of multistate games, consistent with state and federal law;

(3)  Utilize the broad reach of its internet gaming platform to offer legally compliant free-play games and sweepstakes with Hawaii related prizes to individuals outside of Hawaii, for the purpose of attracting tourists and providing free exposure for Hawaii and Hawaii businesses to domestic and overseas markets;

(4)  Conduct no more than two land-based gaming entertainment events annually, related to the corporation’s internet game offerings, for the purpose of attracting tourists to Hawaii; provided that the corporation shall not have the authority to conduct any other form of land-based gambling; and

(5)  Engage in other activities consistent with the purpose of this chapter and rules adopted hereunder, and with state, federal, and international laws.

Notably, the bill does not attempt to define a “game of chance” versus a “game of skill.”

The introduction of the bill comes a year after it ruled Daily Fantasy Sports illegal gambling.  Just a year ago, the state’s Attorney General defined Daily Fantasy Sports as contests that constitute gambling under Hawaii law.  Could we see the state revisit this in light of the proposed law?

What will the Supreme Court do in The Slants case?

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of whether a Portland, Oregon-based rock band can trademark the name, The Slants.  The long, winding case history stems from whether an Asian American rock group could call itself a traditionally derogatory name.

According to the band’s leader, the name was meant to empower and retake the meaning of the racial slur which refers to the physical eye trait of many Asians.

The Court seemed weary of the portion of the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act which prohibits the registration of a trademark that “may disparage…persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”  Some of the justices believed that it would engage the government in determining “viewpoint discrimination” as there would need to be a determination on whether a trademark was positive or negative speech.  The example of whether an entity could trademark The Slants are Superior was used as an example.

The justices noted that negative or even offensive speech is eligible for copyright protection but the Lanham Act precludes this happening for trademarks.

Justice Anthony Kennedy noted, “So the government is the omnipresent schoolteacher?”

On the other side, the justices took issue with The Slants attorney as they indicated that the band was free to call themselves the name but they are asking the government to endorse it via a federally registered trademark.

They also found it hard to reconcile the issue that the trademark office could deny registration that denigrated an individual or a competitor’s product yet still be protected under the First Amendment.  A hypothetical which would allow trademark rights to a libelous mark in which a court may find such cause of action and subsequent damage might still be protected under the First Amendment.  The circular application of law did not make sense to the justices.

The written opinion will not be out until June and its hard to make a call on how this will turn out.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins will be interested onlookers as their “Redsins” mark was cancelled under the same section of the Lanham Act as cited here before the court.  If the Court strikes down the portion of the Lanham Act, the Redskins will certainly seek to reapply its mark.

The issue seems to hinge on whether the justices believe the application of the Lanham Act seeks to overreach in dragging the government into determining what is discrimination versus reconciling the Lanham Act and the First Amendment.

U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Lee v. Tam

Can an Asian American rock band trademark the name, The Slants was at issue before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon.  The much talked about case which may affect the NFL’s Washington Redskins trademark looks at whether the USPTO can preclude from trademarking names that might disparage.

A text of the oral argument can be found here.