PokerStars set to pull out of Canada

Posted by on 14 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: The Rumor Mill

It came as a bit of a shock recently when PokerStars announced it would no longer be sponsoring the Montreal Festival and asked that all their branding be removed from the event. The announcement was posted on 2+2 forum by PokerStars head of communications Lee Jones as follows:

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, PokerStars will not be continuing its participation in the upcoming festival,” Jones wrote. “However, the tournament will continue as planned as the ‘Playground Festival of Poker’ and we will, of course, honor our previous commitment to players and satellite winners. No other PokerStars services in Canada are affected.”

The announcement of course has tongues wagging and Canadian players asking what the future of PokerStars and Full Tilt is in Canada especially considering that Skrill/Moneybookers pulled out of Canada last year and Matchbook pulled out earlier this year. I spoke with two individuals with some knowledge of the situation and both stated that everyone is spooked by the budget bill passed this year by the Canadian Federal government that would require full regulation of online gambling sites as well as digital currencies to eliminate any anonymity associated with those transactions. The government stated the legislation was necessary to stop money laundering and terrorist activities and while there is nothing in that budget that specifically relates to offshore gambling it was quite clear that sites which had any Canadian affiliation at all (i.e. management living in Canada, assets in Canada etc.) could be targeted if the government chose to go after them. Not surprisingly the announcement of that legislation received mixed reaction by Canadian bitcoin companies since the regulation of the digital currency gives it extra legitimacy but at the same time one of the biggest benefits of the currency, especially to gamblers, was the anonymity associated with transactions. So it’s truly a catch-22 situation for bitcoin websites.

At the same time, Amaya, being a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange with its head office in Montreal is clearly a Canadian operation and would have an immense amount to lose if they are found to be in violation of the Canadian law. Moreover, Amaya is currently in talks with the Quebec government to be a partner for their online poker product and all that is left is the crossing of the “t”s and dotting of the “I”s. As a private company operating in Alderney, PokerStars really wasn’t at risk with the Canadian government but as a Canadian owned company things have changed. PokerStars is also looking to operate in New Jersey and other states like Nevada and California and while they were shot down by various sources in those states due to the “bad actor” clause, the complaints against them are now lifted since Isaiah Scheinberg is no longer an owner of the company. This was reported by OSGA earlier when a legislator at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement stated at GIGSE that the bad actor clause related only to an individual and not to a corporation. And there’s no question that Amaya wants to get out of all grey markets to look squeaky clean when they receive a license in those jurisdictions.

As to why PokerStars chose to withdraw from the festival and not just pull out immediately, one of the sources said that he is almost certain that Amaya made a deal with the government to withdraw gradually so there wasn’t the same backlash that occurred in the U.S. after Black Friday where PokerStars and Full Tilt account holders were left scrambling and all parties including the federal government came out looking bad. He also said that the fact that the Montreal Festival was being held in a poker room in Kahnawake, which he called “so grey it’s almost black”, made PokerStars more anxious to remove all association with the event.

If the source is correct then an announcement will come from Amaya in the next month or two indicating that the company will be withdrawing from Canada on a certain date. The company will announce that Canadian players will no longer be permitted to enter any events with a prize after that time and will also announce the last date Canadians can play in any PokerStars game. The announcement will also state that money in player accounts must be withdrawn from the accounts by year end and the site may even offer some easier ways to withdraw the funds for Canadian players such as credit cards.

Fortunately for Canadians it seems clear that the anti-money-laundering bill is only affecting companies that are publicly traded and that have major assets in Canada. That excludes most of the offshore companies that Canadians have grown to love.

Final Days to Get a Full Tilt Poker Refund

Posted by on 08 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: OffShore Insiders

It looks like the final chapter is being written in the Full Tilt poker saga. The ordeal is coming to an end for U.S. players as the Garden City Group has announced that September 3 is the final day that players will be able to file for refunds from their now 3 year old dormant online poker accounts.

The Garden City Group was appointed as the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administrators back in 2012 and have done a very solid job of keeping in touch with bilked players, the media and the DoJ, while doing their number one job, getting players paid in full. To date, GCG has paid out over $100 million to more than 40,000 players all in less than a year. GCG is trying to wrap this up before the one year anniversary of their involvement and the first petitions being filed with a new drop-dead deadline for filers. According to the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration website, the final deadline for all petitioners – including affiliates and pros – to file a Petition for Remission is September 3, 2014.

Players who have corresponded with GCG are urged to follow through with their claims. According to the Full Tilt Poker Claims website, “If you previously received an email Notice, please be sure to use the logon credentials provided in the Notice when you begin the Petition process.” For those who have done nothing to reclaim funds, this is the final deadline, as after September 3 the filing portion of the Full Tilt Poker Claims website will no longer be available and applications for refunds will no longer be accepted.

Though we have been a bit critical of the Garden City Group, in the end they have paid back a huge sum of money to a boatload of players. They have navigated the DoJ hurdles and the transformations of the parent company that bought Full Tilt, the Rational Group (essentially Poker Stars), enabling this repayment to take place. Instead of paying back customers in a timely manner the DoJ dragged their feet for over a year and once the GCG got involved, the repayment process moved rather quickly and efficiently. But now there is a hard deadline and apparently a final one!

It looks to us like only a little more than half of the funds that were required for full payback of everyone involved have been used. We cannot stress to players enough that this is your last chance to get funds thatf were in FTP in 2011. Contact the Garden City Group at http://www.fulltiltpokerclaims.com/contact.php.

Rooting for a Triple Crown or Betting Against California Chrome

Posted by on 06 Jun 2014 | Tagged as: Bets and More

This Saturday will be one of the biggest days horse racing has seen in more than five years. The last time there was a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown was by Big Brown in 2008. Unfortunately, Big Brown become the first Triple Crown hopeful to fail to finish the Belmont Stakes, as jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled the horse up in the homestretch. The thrill of horse racing never gets so big as it does when there is a legitimate horse, with a legitimate shot at winning the Triple Crown. When the favorite is in the lead and turns for that long homestretch, the thrill is every bit as big as a last second 3-pointer in basketball or wrist shot in a hockey shootout. That is if you are rooting for the favorite.

Millions will be betting on the Triple Crown and California Chrome on Saturday at 6:52 at Belmont Park on Long Island, NY. But tens of thousands will be betting against him too.

One horse racing enthusiast, who is attending this year’s Belmont Stakes, flat out said he is betting against California Chrome. “You know odds-on favorites aren’t my thing,” he said. Despite going to the race to see a Triple Crown won, he is doing what any gambler would, looking for value, and perhaps a big payday.

Craig Donnelly, the resident horse writer/handicapper for the Philadelphia Inquirer put his tickets out on Friday placing his win bet on Wicked Strong. The Sporting News has a good piece called “Taking shots against California Chrome” where four different handicappers pick their horses to bet, still skeptical and not about to lay 3-5 odds or worse. Their video points out that jockey Victor Espinoza is just 2 for 66 at Belmont Park.

Is it possible to bet against California Chrome while rooting for a Triple Crown?

I wouldn’t know as I cannot. Yes, I would like to make some ching this Saturday, but I would rather see the Triple Crown finally conquered. I cannot jump for joy when California Chrome crosses the finish line first, knowing that I lost a bunch of money trying to beat him. But . . . if the horse loses, I want to make sure I cash a ticket as well.

So I will be betting California Chrome to win across the board and head to the OTB to get a $2 win ticket as a souvenir. But, I will also be playing an exacta with him finishing second and a win bet on one of the longer priced horses, like Commanding Curve or Medal count, a horse that is 12-1 of longer. I will also be playing the Pick 4, which is scheduled to get underway at 4 p.m. with race 8, the $750,000 Longines Just a Game, continue with the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan and conclude with the Belmont Stakes. In fact there are three pick 4s on Saturday and Pick 5 starting with the first race. We checked and all of the big online sportsbooks are offering the Pick 5.

Whether you end up betting or just watching, rooting for a Triple Crown or rooting against the heavy favorite, enjoy the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes. What will you do if California Chrome wins the Triple Crown?

Last of the big offshore poker rooms leaves NJ

Posted by on 30 May 2014 | Tagged as: OffShore Insiders

June 20, 2014 UPDATE: Bovada has also decided to leave the two other regulated U.S. markets, Nevada and Delaware. Players in these two states will no longer be able to create new accounts on the Bovada website.

Current customers in the three states are still able to play but are now unable to make new deposits. Visitors from NJ, DE and NV are now unable to sign-up.The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is certainly getting the job done in New Jersey, at least as far as driving out the competition. Just 10 days ago letters were sent to six online affiliates doing business in the New Jersey online gambling market telling them to remove any links to online gaming sites that “are not authorized under federal law or under the law of any State.”
Included in the letter were the specific website that the DGE was targeting, amongst them Americas Card Room and Bovada.

The entire poker network that is used by Americas Card Room pulled out of New Jersey almost immediately. The affiliates took down the links to the offending sites within a day or two and today Bovada announced that they too are pulling out of New Jersey. In a statement, Bovada said: “Our partner brand Bovada.lv has chosen to stop new account registrations for residents of the state of New Jersey. Existing account holders will not be affected.”

It is not as if the Feds were banging on the doors of Bovada, instead the site has made the decision of “their own volition”. We tested the Bovada.lv website and even thought a prospective clients can pick NJ as a state on the sign-up form, the ‘Open Account’ button is replace with a note saying, “We are sorry. We do not accept registrations from your state. For more information please contact us.”

Many online sites refuse registration from certain states, especially those that have laws on the books against Internet gambling (Washington) and states that have prosecuted online operators (NY, MD, LA, MO). Clearly, Bovada, as well as the Winning Poker Network that runs ACR, is looking to avoid being in the cross hairs of any US governmental agency, which frankly is smart in today’s online gaming climate.

Or maybe this move by Bovada is based on the numbers for the licensed and regulated site in New Jersey, which have been woefully low. Bovada Poker is one of the most popular poker rooms for U.S. players and still will be, with fresh New Jersey players or not. Existing players should keep in mind that they are still able to play at any of the sites or poker networks identified in the DGE letter. The sites mentioned here are reputable and even if they stopped taking NJ bets altogether, we are 100% certain players would be paid out any remaining balances.

New Jersey DGE Intimidates Online Affiliates with Cease-and-Desist Order

Posted by on 21 May 2014 | Tagged as: OffShore Insiders

It has been widely reported in the last 24 hours that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is doing just that – enforcing the laws of New Jersey for the now legal online casino market in that state. The DGE sent a letter to six US poker affiliates requesting these affiliates “immediately remove any online gaming links that are not authorized under federal law or under the law of any state” under threat of civil and criminal sanctions.

The cease-and-desist notifications, signed by New Jersey Assistant Attorney General George N. Rover, were sent to CardsChat.com, PokerSource.com, RakeBrain.com, Pokersites.com, RaketheRake.com, and one unnamed site. These sites all clearly list legal New Jersey online poker sites right next to offshore online operators. Several, if not all, of the sites that were issued the cease-and-desist notices are licensed to do business with casinos in the state of New Jersey. Apparently the DGE is quite concerned with Bovada Poker, Merge Gaming, Black Chip Poker and Americas Cardroom, which were singled out in the DGE correspondence.

This notification may explain why the Winning Poker Network, which includes Black Chip Poker and Americas Cardroom, announced just last week that they would stop accepting players from the three states that have licensed and regulated online gambling (NJ, DE and NV). This tactic has been employed by many offshore operators over the years since the arrest of several high-profile executives, the UIGEA and Black Friday. To date many offshore sites will not accept players from Washington State, Missouri, Louisiana and New York. So far both Merge and Bovada still accept players from Jersey. Though Merge may make a move, it is no doubt that Bovada and many other offshore online poker operators will continue to service regulated US markets.

The letter orders the sites remove any links to online gaming sites that “are not authorized under federal law or under the law of any State.” The Federal law part is a head-scratcher. The Wire Act was singled out in a 2012 report by the Department of Justice to include ONLY sports betting. The UIGEA from 2006 is simply a banking law. We have been hard pressed to find any federal law stating that the playing of online poker is illegal. Thus, in a federal sense it is okay to play poker in the U.S. wherever it is not expressly made illegal by state law. New Jersey does fill this caveat, but it is obvious that the language of the letter is meant to intimidate the affiliates and anyone else that works in the online gambling industry both globally and in New Jersey.

This may be a huge issue if it weren’t for the tepid market for poke currently in New Jersey. The state wants these sites to take down links to offshore operators, but it may be in the sites’ best financial interests to take down the links for the Jersey poker rooms! There is no doubt that these affiliate sites have huge player bases currently established at offshore sites and thus make a ton of revenue there. IN addition, the letter states any link, so any of the affected sites will have to eliminate not only the banners and offers for the offending sites, but also any blog posts, forum posts or cached Google pages, of else they could still face prosecution.

This action by the DGE will limit the traffic driven by these five or six high volume affiliates and in the short run cost NJ operators a new infusion players. After this past months’ declining revenue figures from the state, especially for online poker, the DGE should look before they leap. And affiliates should think long and hard about their presence in any of the regulated US markets, if they want to continue working with the online behemoths that got them to where they are today.

2014 NFL Draft Bits ‘n Bets

Posted by on 08 May 2014 | Tagged as: Bets and More

In the arena of ‘people will bet on anything’, today is the NFL Draft. And of course, there is wagering available and has been for several years.

Most mock drafts have defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from the University of South Carolina going to the Houston Texans who are the owners of the 1st pick tonight. You can bet whether he is the first pick at Bovada where “yes “ to the #1 overall NFL Draft pick is -500 (1/5). But you can also take him at over/under draft position 1.5 at 5Dimes for -675 for under. The last time there was this much consensus on the #1 overall pick was in 2012 when surely it was going to be Andrew Luck. There were no odds available to take him. At least this year, even with the inflated price, you can still have action on pick #1.

After the first pick, the wagering gets a bit more interesting and potentially profitable. Sportsbooks are offering player matchups, over/unders for draft positions and how many players will be drafted in the 1st round for different positions like Wide Receiver.

Every online sportsbook that offers NFL Draft betting odds has a wager available on when Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M) gets selected. The number is 5.5 and the oddsmakers (and the public) think he will be going with pick #6 or later. Over 5.5 sits at -280 and even at those odds looks like a decent play. However, if the Cleveland Browns take him with pick #4 or another team in need of a QB trades up, you could get 2/1 on Johnny Football.

Player Matchups are also very interesting and using mock drafts from ESPN, CBS Sports and Bleacher Report it is easy to identify the need for each team and if a player will be available.

Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State) is featured in a matchup with Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville). The quarterback generating the most buzz in the days prior to the draft has been Derek Carr not Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater had his stock tarnished a bit at the annual NFL pro day and many projections have him slipping into round 2. Take Derek Carr in this matchup at (-140 at Diamond Sports) as just about every mock draft has him as a top 20 pick.

The final wager to look at only comes from 5Dimes. They offer both 6.5 and 7.5 for the total number of WRs and TEs taken in the first round of the NFL draft. The key here is the addition of the tight end. Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina) is projected to go somewhere in the first round along with at least five wideouts. However, thinking that there will be 8 taken is just too many. The number at 5Dimes for over 6.5 is (-320) but under 7.5 is just (-160). We will take Under 7.5 all day long.

With all of the mock drafts that are out there, and all of the talking heads’ opinions and the added NFL Draft odds this year, the 2014 NFL Draft has the potential to bet a winner for a savvy bettor.

Check out the full list of NFL Draft prop odds at Bovada. Here are a few interesting ones:

2014 NFL Draft – How many Defensive Players will be drafted in the 1st Round?
Over/Under  – 17

2014 NFL Draft – Draft Position – Khalil Mack (LB Buffalo)
Over 3½ (+150, 3/2)
Under 3½ (-200, 1/2)

2014 NFL Draft – Who will be drafted 1st?
Johnny “Football” Manziel (QB Texas A&M)  -150 (2/3)
Blake Bortles (QB UCF)  +110 (11/10)

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