British court comes down on pair that allowed minors to bet on EA video game

A British court has ordered two men to pay fines and costs for breaking gambling laws as their web site allowed minors to gamble on Premier League Football matches using a virtual currency.

The Guardian reports that FutGalaxy was a “social gaming” website which had no age restrictions and let minors use a credit card to place bets in a virtual currency earned on Electronic Art’s FIFA soccer video game.

The site made the equivalent $120,000 US dollars from July 2015 to February 2016.

His You Tube video enticed gamers to go to the site advertising that there were “no age restrictions.”

FutGalaxy took bets on matches played in the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

Oregon bill would define DFS as “contest of chance”

House Bill 2761 was introduced in the State of Oregon which defines daily fantasy sports as a “contest of chance” for purposes of gambling and gaming laws.

The bill would effectively ban daily fantasy sports in the state.

The regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports varies from state to state with many looking to define it as a “game of skill” which would preclude it from certain gambling laws.

The bill was first introduced on Monday, February 6, 2017 so the road for this piece of legislation has a way to go.

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.

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.

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?