2011 was perhaps the biggest year yet for the U.S. Department of Justice with a bonanza of multiple arrests, indictments and seizures. They had multiple arrests, indictments and seizures. But, 2011 was also a year in which states began to legislate Internet gambling with a nice little present from the DoJ right at the end of the year.
Our biggest Cheer goes out to the State of New Jersey. Not only did they move on Internet gambling regulation, but they also vowed to get sports betting up and running. Our Cheers and Jeers for 2011 start with New Jersey.
1) Cheers go to New Jersey legislators for leading the way into both Internet gambling and the potential for sports betting. State Senator Raymond Lesniak has wanted sports betting in New Jersey for several years and this year was able to get a referendum on the ballot back in November. The referendum asked voters to decide if the state should challenge the 1992 PASPA Act, which effectively bans sports betting and most non-lottery games) in virtually all of the U.S. Enthusiastic voters approved the referendum by a 3-1 margin. In addition, the NJ House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to legalize online gambling within their borders only to have it vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. Still, we will Cheer New Jersey for having the fortitude to do what was best for the state and its residents.
2) Poker Stars: On April 15th the three biggest poker rooms catering to U.S. players were indicted and effectively shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice. â€˜Black Fridayâ€™ was suddenly given a new meaning while tens of thousands of players were immediately affected. Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and the group behind Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet all claimed to have funds to pay back players. But only Poker Stars did. Within a few short weeks all U.S. players were reimbursed, to the tune of over $120 million! The last time a mass payout went this smoothly was when Pinnacle decided to leave the U.S. market in 2007. The other two companies still havenâ€™t paid back a nickel or deal another card for money, yet Poker Stars continues to offer a VERY strong product to every market allowing legal and regulated online poker.
3) Poker Players Alliance: 2011 was in our opinion a breakthrough year for the PPA. Sure they have been on the frontlines for a few years, but in 2011 fomer Senator Afonse Dâ€™Amato testified at every hearing we witnessed regarding Internet gambling. Dâ€™Amato is chummy with most politicians and gets his message across in a very casual and calculated way. The PPA was relentless in 2011 after Black Friday and due in part to their efforts, Full Tilt players are optimistic that they will be paid back in 2012, per an agreement with Group Bernard Tapie, the buyers of the downtrodden company, and the Department of Justice. With the latest rulings we expect a big year for the PPA in 2012.
4) Ron Paul: One of the ONLY politicians who actually stands up for what he believes in and then sticks to his guns. No waffling from Ron Paul. By supporting online gambling, drug use, gay marriage etc. Paul greatly reduces his chances for the Presidential bid in 2012 but it's refreshing to have a politician who sticks up for freedom of choice regardless of whether you agree or not.
5) Jon Kyl: After years of landing on our Jeers list, he hits this yearâ€™s Cheers side of the field. Not only did the Senator from Arizona come out at one point saying that maybe the U.S. was capable of regulating online gambling; he decided to leave. Ding Dong The Kyl is GONE! He will not run for office and will not seek re-election in 2012. The deserves a huge CHEERS!
6) The U.S. Department of Justice: What? Giving the DoJ Cheers!??! Yes, because in the waning days of 2011 the DoJ issued a ruling declaring that almost every form of intra-state Internet gambling is legal under federal law, and so may be games played interstate and even . . . internationally. This should pave the way for poker and casino games online, in addition to lottery ticket sales. In fact, the DoJ went so far as to say the Wire Act of 1962 ONLY applies to sports! So in a year where the Department of Justice is the #1 Jeer, they also get a Cheer.
1) The U.S. Department of Justice fired off some of their biggest salvos in the war on online gambling in 2011. In April, the DoJ shut down the three biggest poker sites catering to U.S. players causing players worldwide to have funds put into limbo. They subsequently used a similar tactic to seize the domains of several gaming websites, causing BetED to disappear with more player funds. However, by going after dot com domain names, the DoJ did effectively move many online operators forward to .eu, .ag domains. Now with the latest, the new Bovada.lv, this trend effectively ends the threat of the DoJ seizing future gambling URLs.
2) Full Tilt Poker: YES, FTP could easily have been the consensus #1 Jeer this year. They basically have tainted the game for U.S. players forever, or at least until U.S. gaming companies can get involved. Online poker traffic worldwide went down over 75% after Black Friday and, with Full Tilt generating what everyone seems to like to call a â€˜Ponzi schemeâ€™, the online poker industry still has not recovered despite new regulated jurisdictions. The fact that tens of thousands of players are still waiting for funds to be returned cannot be ignored and thus FTP is near the top of this yearsâ€™ Jeers.
3) Poker Pros: After Black Friday, Poker Pros worldwide had a collective, uh oh. Several of them reacted outrageously while others hid. Phil Ivey decided to sue Full Tilt and refused to play in the WSOP was a good way to protest against a company that paid him millions over the years. Many Pros were given legal advice to not discuss the matter, which is outrageous and instead spent their time removing pictures of themselves in UB or FTP gear from their websites. To be the frontmen for online poker companies, make millions in sponsorships and endorsements and to then run at the first sign of danger? Cowardly? Slimy? Pick your term for most of the Pro Poker players who decided that suddenly online poker might be illegal in the U.S. after luring American players in and promoting a â€˜legalâ€™ online game for years.
4) New Jersey Governor Christie: His decision to veto the bill passed by the New Jersey Senate was politically motivated and was anti-democratic. In a state long-established with land-based gambling, his later decision to support online gambling after he chose not to run for President confirmed this. The peculiar thing is that Christie may make next yearâ€™s Cheers list if New Jersey lawmakers accomplish overturning PASPA.
5) Caesars Entertainment Corporation: The gaming giant decided (and lobbied) for a Federal law for online gambling at the expense of state laws. They selfishly did not like what New Jersey, California, Nevada and other states were doing and issued rhetoric that only a Federal law would work. Ceasers probably has the most to gain with a Federal online gambling law and continues to press on as the major supporter of several Federal bills. Their backing and creation of the â€˜advocacy groupâ€™ Fair Play is a blatant attempt to skirt lobbying rules while fulfilling their own hypocritical demand for a federal law.
2011 will always be remembered as the year of Black Friday. It forced many players away from online gambling and gave operators servicing the U.S. even more reason to run and hide. But solid companies are still offering wagering to Americans and change is most likely on the horizon. The vast amount of hearings and rhetoric aimed at online gambling in 2011 will only ramp up in light of the most recent DoJ ruling. In an industry that is constantly evolving, 2012 may see its biggest evolution yet.