Archive for August, 2012

Federal Judge Rules Poker Isn’t Gambling

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Poker advocates were dealt what might be a winning hand regarding their ongoing battle to see Internet poker legalized when a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled this week that the popular card game, according to federal law, did not constitute gambling.

Judge Jack Weinstein, on Tuesday, rejected a jury verdict from July that convicted Lawrence Dicristina of conspiring to operate an illegal poker club.  Dicristina had not been accused of participating in any other organized criminal activities, and so the judge focused on whether poker truly qualified as gambling under current federal law.

In his decision, the judge wrote, “Because the poker played on the defendant’s premises is not predominately a game of chance, it is not gambling.”

This is an argument that poker advocates have been making for years.

Weinstein seemed to place great significance on various studies that have been conducted in order to prove whether skill is more of a determining factor than chance in the game of poker – specifically, Texas Hold’em – the type of poker that was played at Dicristina’s club.

Weinstein referred to one study in which approximately three-quarters of all hands that were played never involved any cards being shown.  In these hands, the winner was able to induce the other players to fold through skillful betting.  And since the study analyzed over 100 million hands of poker, the judge must have concluded that it accurately represented the true nature of the game.

It will be interesting, moving forward, to see what effect this ruling will have on efforts to legalize Internet poker in the United States.  One can imagine that advocates will often point to the decision written by Judge Weinstein when making the case that poker is a game of skill.

Last December, the Department of Justice opened the door for state-by-state legalization of online poker when they ruled that the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 does not prohibit online gambling.  The DOJ instead stipulated that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.  This was a significant reversal of their previously held position that the Wire Act did in fact apply to all forms of online gambling.

In addition to efforts happening on the state level, there are attempts being made to federally legalize online poker as well.  Those arguing in favor of legalization often point to the benefits of regulation while making their case.

Another popular argument is that legalization would lead to an increase in tax revenue.  Proponents suggest that additional revenue created from taxing online poker could be applied to important areas of the federal budget like education and healthcare.

But the argument that seems to be most popular amongst poker enthusiasts is simply that poker is not gambling – it is a game of skill – and thus it should not be illegal.

It seems that Judge Jack Weinstein has been convinced.

Now we will have to wait and see how helpful this one ruling by a federal judge in Brooklyn will be to the larger effort to legalize online poker.  One thing is clear though – it can’t hurt.

Sources:  Huffington Post

Harriet Harman Criticial of UK Betting Act

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Harriet HarmanGreat Britain’s Labour Party is receiving a lashing concerning it’s relaxing of gambling laws by one of its own – and not just anyone –  it’s very own deputy leader, Harriet Harmen. Harmen’s call to conscious is linked to the dramatic decline of low income areas that have become a feeding ground for predatory betting shops peddling high-stakes gambling machines. Researches recently revealed that the countries citizens lost a combined amount of 1 billion pounds on the fixed odds terminals last year alone. With bets as high as 100 pounds being taken at a rate of every 30 seconds, it becomes less astonishing as to how such a massive debt could accumulate.

The targeting of poorer areas is apparent when researches disclose that areas with more concentrated wealth feature about 5 betting shops per 100,000 people, in contrast to the 12 setting up shop for that same sized segment of lower-income population. What also differs is how the book-makers concentrate on one central area, or a single high street in low income areas, accommodating the ritual of abuse for problem gamblers. This, says Harriet Harman, is what her and her party colleagues did not anticipate and has caused them to rethink their decision to loosen the regulation that would have prevented these issues.

Harman openly admits what she feels to be a failing of her constituents and is readily accepting responsibility, stating, “If we had known then what we know now [about the clustering of betting shops], we wouldn’t have allowed this, because it’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives. I got the most heartening letters and emails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP, just saying ‘Please do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous and the problem is it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law to be changed so that something can be done about it’.”

When asked how this might shape her parties future approach to policies concerning the gambling industry, Harman went on to add, “Well, I think we were wrong, we have made a mistake and this result is the consequence and we need to do something about it.”

From a lay-persons perspective, it seems somewhat apparent that such betting shops and high-stakes touch screen terminals would primarily attract individuals that would most likely be identified as gambling addicted – especially in contrast to strictly regulated and self-contained casinos that offer a more entertainment and leisure focused experience. Individual who are more inclined to bet casually and only with the disposable income they can afford are going to do so at such an establishment -where they include it into an evening worth of activities such as dinner, a show, a spa treatment, or dancing.

“Popping” into a Betting shop on a high street , and having the ability to make numerous high stake wagers in a very short period of time is catering to a problem gambler’s impulse oriented addiction. But, the ABB, Association of British Bookmakers, defends the strategy behind the location choices of their establishments, saying, “”Like any retailer, betting operators look at footfall, demand, location, rental rates and competitive presence when deciding where to open a new shop. Up to 80% of new shops are opened in vacant units, providing jobs and investment that would otherwise be absent.”

Such economic benefits are not clearly illustrated when such research results by Birmingham University professor Jim Orford paint a much more grim economic picture with an estimated near 300 million pounds are being wagered and lost by individuals who identify themselves as having a degree of problem gambling that negatively effects their careers and relationships.

Facebook’s Foray into Real Money Wagering

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

FaceBook-LogoBy now, you’ve probably heard of, seen or even experienced the world’s largest social network, Facebook, toying around with the idea of online gambling. The number of third-party “fun money” gambling apps such Zynga Poker, Double Down Casino, or most recently, WMS Technologies’ Jackpot Party Casino seems to be growing by the day. And now that Facebook has given a green light to Gamesys’ Slots and Bingo Friendzy app to begin accepting real money wagers from British citizens (where online gambling is regulated), you will be hearing even more about Facebook’s unfolding role in the online gambling industry.

At the moment, Facebook finds itself  “testing the waters” so to speak. Critics of Facebook’s move to begin allowing real money wagers say it could alienate many of its users who are opposed to gambling, while others believe that Facebook simply doesn’t stand a competitive chance against well-branded and established gambling companies – the likes of Caesar’s and several UK betting brands – that have already tapped the online gambling industry.

And, of course, there is Zynga. Struggling to keep it’s shares afloat after a big drop in valuation over the last few months, Zynga is looking to expand into real money gambling ventures as well. The company is rumored to be currently developing slots and casino gaming platforms that will permit real money wagering like that of the Slots and Bingo Friendzy. But here’s the kicker – Another rumor floating about is that Facebook is in talks with Zynga about potentially acquiring the company. That Mark Zuckerberg and Zynga CEO, Mark Pincus, reportedly have dinner together every week, certainly gives cause to raise an eyebrow…or two.

The fact is, Facebook needs to generate more revenue to keep its shareholders happy. And quite frankly, online gambling is a surefire way to do this. Even if there are some user’s who strongly disagree with Facebook’s move to enter the gambling market, it’s most likely not going to stop them from using their Facebook account. Gambling is a part of society and culture…and it’s not going away any time soon. So long as there is demand in regulated markets, it would be senseless for Facebook to not make this a part of its advertising model.

At least that’s what we believe here at OCS. And yes, we have our own presence on Facebook as well. Give us a Like if you too support Facebook’s foray in the real money wager industry!

Belle Rock Publishes Online Video Poker Tips

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Video Poker Glitch Allows Players to Increase Wager on Double Up Feature

Via press release, Belle Rock Entertainment – one of the oldest online casino groups in business today (not to mention one of the most reputable) – has announced the publication of a mini strategy guide for Jacks or Better video poker. Offering unlimited free-play on their suite of Microgaming-powered video poker games, Belle Rock is hoping to attract gamblers who’ve never played video poker before, but have always been curious about the game.

The fact of the matter is that when played with optimal strategy, Jacks or Better video poker offers one of the lowest House Edges of any casino game. And while video poker strategy is not as mind-taxing as the “basic” Blackjack Strategy, it certainly takes a good deal of practice to master. While this is certainly what Belle Rock is encouraging players to do with a mini Jacks or Better strategy guide like this one, a more comprehensive video poker strategy guide will be necessary to lower the House Edge as much as possible.

As far as Belle Rock is concerned, they still welcome bettors to play Jacks or Better with perfect strategy. In the end, the edge will still be in the favor of the casino. Just how much can be verified by payout percentage reports, which at the best online casinos generally hover around the 98 percentile. Nor is it rare to find video poker payouts actually exceeding 100% – in the favor of the player!

By publishing strategy tips of their own, Belle Rock simply wants to encourage action on their video poker machines and give players a solid shot at winning money. It’s not too often that online casinos do this, which is one of the primary reasons why we give Belle Rock a top rating.

Furthermore, Belle Rock online casinos, such as Jackpot City (reviewed here) and Lucky Nugget (reviewed here), are eCOGRA approved. This means that monthly payout percentages are indeed available for player perusal every month. Just look for the eCOGRA seal located near the footer of each Belle Rock website to see the latest payout report. Jackpot City’s payout report, for example, shows a return of 97.26% for the month of June, 2012. Go see for yourself, and don’t forget to sharpen up on your video poker strategy while you’re at it!