A story you’ll never hear in Vegas

I assume that Rainawari is somewhere in the Kashmir, but from this story, I imagine that it’s quite different from Las Vegas. From Greater Kashmir Online Edition:

The residents of Mirzabagh, Mughal Mohalla, Rainawari and other adjoining areas Tuesday alleged that the areas have become hub of gamblers.
A delegation from the areas told Greater Kashmir that gamblers from every nook and corner of the city assemble in parks and other secluded spots in the area. “We didn’t allow our children to move out. It has become a nuisance and a hub of gambling and drugs,” they said.
They have appealed the police and the concerned superintendent of police to visit the area and arrest the gamblers and drug addicts.
Gambling nuisance in Rainawari areas

Here, it would be more like “residents were overjoyed that the area became a hub of gamblers, because it meant that the state budget might yet be saved.”

One man’s vice is another man’s tax base.

Poker protest

Part of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s proposed casino bill makes betting online a crime. Some thing that’s hypocritical, others that it’s just a blatant attempt to stifle potential competition. In any event, now that we’ve got some Harvard Law students on the case, it’s getting interesting. From the Boston Herald:

A card-playing Harvard Law professor and his poker-crazy students will stage a protest today outside the State House rallying against Gov. Deval Patrick’s casino plan.

But while most opponents, ranging from church leaders to social activists, will be warning of the perils of expanded gambling, the Harvard group will be arguing there is not nearly enough.

In particular, the newly formed Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society is targeting a provision in the governor’s bill that Massachusetts residents caught gambling online would face up to two years in jail and a fine of as much as $25,000.

Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, an avid player who formed the Harvard poker society, plans to testify today at a State House hearing on Patrick’s casino bill. The Harvard group contends that as many as 400,000 Massachusetts residents play poker online.

Poker’s hot at Harvard – BostonHerald.com

I’m the first to say that UIGEA and the proposed bill are unjust, but they are pretty low on my scale of current global injustices. Suffice it to say that the plight of online poker players doesn’t keep me up at nights. On the other hand, reversing UIGEA is something that a small group of interested parties could actually accomplish, whereas there are no quick fixes to the big problems facing the world today. So maybe it’s a good thing for people to devote some energy to.

I don’t think I’m being sarcastic here, but I’m not completely sure.

Antigua to get $21m from US

I haven’t posted in a very long time, but I wrote a draft of this a few days ago. It’s not breaking news now, but it’s still significant. From PC Mag:

Antigua and Barbuda won compensation from the United States on Friday in a long-running trade dispute about gambling, but the amount was far lower than the tiny Caribbean nation had been seeking.

A World Trade Organization WTO arbitration panel granted Antigua’s request to levy trade sanctions on U.S. intellectual property, for instance by lifting copyright on films and music to sell it themselves, prompting concern from Washington.

The WTO panel said Antigua was entitled to compensation of $21 million a year from the United States for being shut out of the U.S. online gambling market.

The ruling is only partial consolation for the former British colony, which built up an Internet gambling industry to replace declining tourism revenues, only to find itself shut out of the worlds biggest gambling market.

The award falls far short of what Antigua had demanded—$3.44 billion in “cross-retaliation”, allowing it to seek damages outside the original services sector. Washington had argued Antigua was entitled to only $500,000 in compensation.
Antigua Triumphs in U.S. Gambling Case – News and Analysis by PC Magazine

Twenty-one million isn’t so much. It’s not exactly the $3 USFL verdict, but this is hardly the sweeping victory Antigua was looking for. As has been the case, though, the saga will continue.

Win the lottery, go to jail

Usually, winning a million dollars is an unambiguously good thing. But for ex-con, a winning scratcher might be a ticket back to jail. From the Boston Globe:

His odds of winning $1 million on a scratch ticket were 1 in 1,247,400.

His odds of being busted if he won? A pretty safe bet.

Timothy Elliott – the lucky buyer of a $1 million scratch ticket in the $800 Million Spectacular game – is a two-time bank robber whose lottery ticket purchase last week violated the terms of his probation. Last year, when he pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery, the 55-year-old Hyannis man was ordered “to not gamble, purchase lottery tickets, or visit establishments where gaming is conducted, including restaurants where Keno may be played,” according to his probation from Barnstable Superior Court.

So two days after a trip to the winner’s circle in the lottery’s Braintree headquarters, where he claimed the first $50,000 of his payout – about $35,000 after taxes – Elliott earned himself another court date. A hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 7 in Barnstable Superior Court to determine the penalties for violating his probation – and, perhaps, what happens to the winnings.

“This has not happened before, as far as we know,” said Dan Rosenfeld, the lottery’s communications director. “It’s new territory.”

Bank robber may see lottery win scratched – The Boston Globe

Since this a violation of his probation, Elliott could go back to jail, just for the crime of winning. That’s pretty harsh, but if not playing the lottery was a specific condition of his probation, it might be fair.

So blackjack skill players, stop complaining: you’re not the only folks being hassled for winning–at least not anymore.

Gambling ref pleads guilty

Tim Donaghy, the NBA ref accused of gambling on games that he refereed, has plead guilty. From USA Today:

The Boston Celtics, favored by four points, faced the 76ers in Philadelphia on Dec. 13 and won 101-81 in what seemed to be just another NBA blowout featuring bad Atlantic Division teams.

On or about the same date in Pennsylvania, an NBA referee assigned to that game had spoken in code with someone by phone to give him his pick for what NBA team to bet on. The next day, that “top-tier” referee, Tim Donaghy, met with gambling associates in Pennsylvania to pick up his cash payment for the pick.

On or about Dec. 26, Donaghy made a similar call to give another pick. That night he worked the Memphis Grizzlies-Wizards game in Washington, won 116-101 by the 7½-point favorite home team.

And on or about March 11 of this year, Donaghy met with a man in Toronto and got a cash payment. That night he worked the game won by the 6½-point favorite Raptors 120-119 vs. the Seattle SuperSonics.

In a court very different from where he once worked, Donaghy, 40, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felony charges in the gambling scandal that has stunned the sports world. Released on $250,000 bond from federal court in Brooklyn, he faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 9 for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

“Some of my picks included games I had been assigned to referee,” Donaghy said. It is not known if he made officiating calls during the game to help the team he predicted would win.

The “rogue” referee, as NBA Commissioner David Stern described Donaghy, must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.

Former ref Donaghy details his gambling deception – USATODAY.com

As with the Tocchet case, I would hope that some good can come out of what is an awful situation for everyone involved–namely, a serious discussion of the relationship between gambling and sports. But, since this is just a “rogue” referee, I guess we won’t be hearing too much more about gambling and sports—until the next “isolated incident” erupts into scandal.

Hearing on net gambling

Online gamblers can breathe easy: Congress is now on the case. This Friday, a panel will discuss whether or not it is possible to regulate online gaming. From ABC:

A U.S. House of Representatives panel said on Monday it will hold a hearing on Friday to look at Internet gambling, which is effectively banned in the United States.

The hearing will examine whether Internet gambling can be regulated to protect consumers and the payments system, said the House Financial Services Committee.

Committee Chairman Barney Frank introduced a bill in April that would repeal an effective ban on online gambling imposed last year by Congress.

The Massachusetts Democrat said the ban was “imprudently adopted” and the pastime is “a matter of individual freedom.”

Frank’s bill would make it legal again for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.

The bill includes provisions for licensing and regulating online gambling companies to protect against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money-laundering and fraud.

ABC News: House panel sets hearing on Internet gambling

As I’ve said many, many times previously, studying Internet gaming is a great idea. With states already using gambling for revenue and development purposes, it makes sense to take a serious look at the pros and cons of an Internet gaming regulatory regime.

Instant racing or slots in disguise?

Instant racing’s been around since 2000, but it’s become a hot topic recently. With some states holding the line against slot machines, could these terminals allow tracks to become backdoor racinos? From the AP:

A bill in the state Legislature that would allow Ohio’s seven horse tracks to install machines that take bets on horse races that have already been run is key to saving the industry, supporters say.

Examples can be found in other states, one track owner in Arkansas said. Louis A. Cella’s family helped to build Oaklawn, a racetrack in Hot Springs, Ark., more than 100 years ago.

“In the 1990s, our business started tanking,” he said. “We had to come up with something or close. … It was that dire.”

So in 2000, he brought in instant racing terminals, which look like slot machines, and gamblers bet on races that already had been run. The track is making millions of dollars on them, track officials said.

Rob Walgate, vice president of the Ohio Roundtable, a conservative-leaning group that has opposed previous slots proposals, said instant racing is someone betting against a machine and that makes it an odds-based system that’s not allowed without amending the Ohio Constitution.

“Very little information is provided up front,” he said. “It’s not skill-based at all.”

The machines have a library of about 100,000 races, give gamblers the winning percentages of jockeys, trainers and horses. But the dates and sites of the races and the names of the horses remain hidden.

Players spend a quarter or $1, pick horses to win and then watch a video of the race. The amount won depends on the number of other bettors. It gives bettors something do between live races.

Backers of instant racing say it’s key to horse racing’s future

Is it a slot or isn’t it? On one hand, the player is getting paid out of a pool, not at fixed odds. I’d be interested in seeing just how much skill is involved with picking an instant racing winner as opposed to doing so with an actual horse race, either in perrson or via simulcast. Does keeping the jockeys and horses anonymous make it a total crapshoot? I’d tend to think not, but I haven’t seen this demonstrated.

Berkley to the rescue?

Nevada Representative Shelly Berkley has introduced a bill to study, not ban, online gambling. From the LVRJ:

In another effort to roll back an Internet gambling ban, Rep. Shelley Berkley on Thursday introduced a bill calling for a one-year study of online wagering by the National Academy of Sciences.

“One of the advantages of this legislation is that it doesn’t take a side,” she said. “It doesn’t say Internet gambling is good or bad. It says ‘Let’s study the issue.’ ”

But Berkley, D-Nev., acknowledged she wants to repeal the Internet gambling ban approved last year by Congress.

“It’s very difficult to unring a bell once it has rung in Washington,” Berkley said. “But the ban was sneaked onto a port security bill, and the people who voted for it, including myself, were not contemplating a ban on Internet gambling.”

The measure was passed and signed into law in October.

Berkley’s bill comes one week after Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., proposed legislation to repeal the Internet gambling ban and require the Department of Treasury to regulate the $13 billion online wagering industry.

Berkley is a co-sponsor of Frank’s bill and Frank has said Berkley’s bill is “perfectly complementary” to his.

While Frank’s bill has 11 co-sponsors so far, Berkley claims to have 60 co-sponsors, including Frank and Nevada’s two other House members — Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter, both R-Nev.

Other Berkley co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which is likely to review Berkley’s bill, and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican who represents casinos in Atlantic City.

ReviewJournal.com – Business – Berkley offers bill on study of Web wagers

As I said last year when Representative Porter introduced a similar bill, I think this is long overdue. Honestly, they should have done this study in 1998. Better late than never, I guess. I really hope they take a serious look at the history of gambling prohibition in the U.S. before making any recommendations.

Frank introduces anti-ban bill

In what might be the opening salvo of a campaign to reverse 46 years of federal anti-cross-border gambling action, Barney Frank has introduced a bill to legalize Internet gaming. From Marketwatch:

Attempting to roll back a ban on online gambling, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank introduced on Thursday a bill that would permit Americans to place bets over the Internet.
Frank’s bill would enable companies to be licensed to accept bets and wagers online from individuals in the U.S.
The bill would exempt the operators from current restrictions on online gambling and would require licensed companies to have protections in place against underage and compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud. Read text of the bill.
Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, called existing Internet-gambling law “an inappropriate interference on the personal freedom of Americans” that should be undone.
Current law prevents U.S. banks and credit-card companies from processing payments to online-gambling businesses outside the country.

Speaking to reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference, Frank said he doesn’t gamble himself but said the bill is meant to address personal choice.
“This [current bill] is an intrusion on individual liberties,” Frank said. On Wednesday, Frank called Internet gambling a “victimless crime.”
The estimated 12 million to 20 million online gamblers in the U.S. contribute more than half the industry’s estimated worldwide annual revenue of $12 billion, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Internet gambling would be legal under Rep. Frank’s bill – MarketWatch

Online poker players will no doubt cheer the bill. I’ve got to confess that I don’t know enough about the political climate in Congress right now to handicap the bill’s chances. I just think we should keep in mind that we’re heading into what promises to be an extremely divisive poltical season en route to the 2008 presidential campaign, so you’ve got to think about how a yea or nay vote would help or hurt members of Congress and their respective parties.

I’m not sure that wrapping online gambling in the flag of personal liberty is the best tack for Frank to take, because there’s a fairly solid body of law that says gambling is not an inalienable right. Here’s why:

In 1960, the Nevada Gaming Control Board published it’s “Black Book,” or list of excluded persons. It had on it 11 men suspected of links to organzied crime–many hadn’t been convicted of anything–who were to be barred from all Nevada casinos. One of the men, John Marshall, was ejected from the Desert Inn after deliberately flouting the ban. Marshall sued just about everyone–governor Grant Sawyer, the Control Board, and the DI–and argued his case up to the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Marshall’s exlcusion was justifiable and not a violation of his 14th amendment rights, though the court made it clear that the Control Board should follow regular procedures in putting people in the Black Book.

The upshot of this is that gambling isn’t a natural right: if a state or federal government can give a reasonable explanation of why you shouldn’t be allowed to gamble, you can’t gamble. And this is precisely the argument the Justice Department has used, arguing that “unregulated” online gambling is a conduit for money laundering and organized crime. You can disagree over whether they’ve proven that, but I’m not sure that you’d win in court.

The better rationale for legalization, looking at history, is dollars and cents: Legalizing online gaming will allow states to channel some of the money spent on it to the public good. A secondary argument should be that, by allowing already-regulated U.S. and European companies into the field, fly-by-night and criminally-linked competitors will be driven out. Regulation, rather than prohibition, may be a more effective regime for player protection and crime control, and it would definitely benefit states–at least those that chose to legalize it.

NM bans cockfighting

New Mexico has outlawed cockfighting–from the ABQ Tribune:

Gov. Bill Richardson signed a measure today that outlaws cockfighting in New Mexico, leaving Louisiana as the only state where the centuries-old bloodsport remains legal.

State Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, a Doña Ana Democrat who has introduced legislation to ban cockfighting over the past 18 years, thanked Richardson, who until this legislative session had declined to take a stance on the issue. The prohibition takes effect June 15.

“Today, New Mexico joins 48 other states in affirming that the deliberate killing of animals for entertainment and profit is no longer acceptable,” said Garcia.

Richardson signed the bill at a ceremony at the state Capitol in Santa Fe.

Cockfighting fans have accused Richardson of taking a sudden interest in cockfighting now that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. They also defend cockfighting as a family activity and said opponents were meddling.

“I’m so upset that it’s damn near ruining my life,” said Ronald Barron, president of the New Mexico Game Fowl Association. “I’ve got 38 years doing this. I don’t know if I should hatch off some baby chicks right now. This isn’t a business. It’s my pleasure. It’s my right, or rather it was my right.”

Richardson signs ban on cockfighting : Local State Government : Albuquerque Tribune

You might not know this, but cockfighting still has many fans, and is very popular in many states. You’ve got to wonder what made the legislature pass the bill in the first place, Richardson’s presidential aspirations aside.

At least they haven’t brought bear-baiting back.