Weekly Poker Roundup: June 25, 2016
Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Moving Through Assembly
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed an amendment to HB 2150 this week that would legalize online gambling, including poker, as well as daily fantasy sports (DFS). The bill has been sent to the Appropriations Committee for financial review, after which it will go to the House floor for a final vote. Should all go well there, it will move on to the Senate. Proponents of online poker want and expect this to happen in a hurry, as the state budget is due by the end of the month.
There is nothing particularly ground-breaking in the amendment as far as online gambling is concerned. All the requirements for consumer protection that one would expect are there. The state’s casinos are authorized to apply for licenses, but must pay an $8 million licensing fee. Online gaming operators can also apply for licensing after partnering with a casino; their licensing fees will be lower. The state will tax online gambling sites 16 percent, most of which will go to the state, while a small portion will be used for local grants.
The positive vote (115 to 80 in favor) seemed to hinge on video gaming terminals (VGTs). VGTs are basically video gambling machines like slots and video poker; one version of the amendment allowed for the installation of VGTs in thousands of venues throughout the state, such as bars and social clubs. The version that included the widespread VGT expansion was handily voted down, while the version without it was the one that succeeded.
California Online Poker Bill Passes Assembly Committee
An online poker bill in California has also made progress, as AB 2863 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee vote this week. It now moves along to the full state Assembly.
As is always the case in California, a group of hardline Native American tribes continue to try to either shut down online poker legislation or have amendments added that would stifle competition and give the tribes a larger piece of the online poker pie. As it turns out, some amendments did make it into the bill to try to appease these tribes.
One of the most significant was a version of a “bad actor” clause, unofficially targeting PokerStars, which has partnered with some other tribes in case online poker does become legal in California. The hardline tribes wanted operators like PokerStars who took bets from U.S. players after the UIGEA was passed in 2006 to be excluded entirely, but what they got was an amendment that will allow such operators to still apply for a license if they pay a $20 million fee or wait five years.
Another amendment requires that ten percent of gaming revenue go to the state’s General Fund before any gets sent to pari-mutuel betting venues. The racing industry agreed to be left out of the online poker industry in exchange for $60 million per year. They will still get it (provided enough money is made), but the General Fund will get its piece first.
Benny Glaser Becomes Third Player to Win Two Bracelets at 2016 WSOP
A third player has now won two bracelets at the 2016 World Series of Poker, foiling an opponent who was going for a third. This week, the UK’s Benny Glaser won the $10,000 Omaha High-Low Split-8 or Better Championship, collecting the $407,194 top prize. Just a few days earlier, he won the $1,500 Omaha High-Low Split-8 or Better title. See a pattern?
You might guess that Glaser’s specialty is Omaha High-Low Split and you would be correct. “It’s surprising that I would win two gold bracelets, at all,” Glaser said in his victory interview. “But if I was going to win, it would have been in this game since this is my best game and the one I have played the most online.”
“I think it’s the one game that plays closest to a cash game as a tournament. Definitely, some adjustments need to be made. But these limit games are more like I am used to in day to day,” he added.
Though Glaser was coming off a bracelet victory, all eyes at the final table were on Jason Mercier, who was at his fourth final table of the 2016 WSOP and was gunning for his third bracelet of the summer. Mercier has a well-publicized prop bet with Vanessa Selbst in which he stands to win $1.8 million if he can nail the trifecta, so there was even more interest than normal. Obviously, he didn’t win, finishing eighth.
This was Glaser’s third career WSOP bracelet. His first came in $1,500 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball last year.
Ian Johns is the other double-bracelet winner of the 2016 Series.
PokerStars Eliminates Lowest Stakes Cash Tables in Belgium
PokerStars initiated an experiment on June 15th in which it removed nano-stakes cash games from the lobby of its Belgian site. It is a surprising move for an online poker operator that has made many changes in the past year or two to try to make its site friendlier for casual players. Eliminating the tables that were the most popular for recreational players goes against that trend.
No-Limit, Pot-Limit, and Fixed-Limit games at the $/€/£ 0.01/0.02 levels were all taken away. A customer service rep responded to an e-mail inquiry from a customer, saying, in part:
We frequently review the selection of ring games and tournaments within our lobby and monitor how that affects the overall playing experience, whether playing on smartphone, tablet or desktop. We experiment with all aspects of the game by trying out new challenges, promotions and types of poker; launching new online series, such as the MicroMillions; and sponsoring live poker festivals around the world.
It seems that this move is an attempt to see if nano-stakes players will be content to simply move up in stakes, rather than cashing out and quitting. If enough players do make the move to $0.02/$0.05 or higher, PokerStars could generate much more rake.
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