UK Government to Tighten Online Poker Regulations

The UK government has decided to design stricter online gaming regulations after watching the struggles of Full Tilt Poker, one of the biggest US online poker sites, to remain in existence.

When the US government cracked down on Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker, non US players believed that they would not be affected. Although Full Tilt Poker could not refund US player deposits, it continued offering poker gaming services to non US players. However, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) suspended Full Tilt Poker’s licenses in late June, after which non US players also lost poker funds deposited at Full Tilt Poker.

So far, offshore online gambling sites could provide gaming services to UK players as long as they were licensed and regulated in a different country. But after the tragic events of Black Friday and especially after Full Tilt Poker’s licenses were suspended, the UK government decided that it ought to tighten its online gaming regulations for the benefits of UK players. Accordingly, the UK government has decided that all offshore online gaming sites and online sportsbooks should obtain the UK Gambling Commission license to operate in the UK.

Even UK-based online sportsbooks and online gambling sites are licensed and regulated by the Government of Gibraltar in a bid to escape the high online gambling taxes in the UK. Heritage Minister John Penrose said that the UK government is willing to change this scenario to encourage online gambling services to obtain a UK Gambling Commission license.

According to MP Matthew Hancock, the “online gambling industry requires a level playing field by ensuring all gambling in the UK pays UK tax and levy.” However, these new regulations need to be first introduced and passed, a process that is time consuming, owing to which the laws will come into effect only 2013 – 14.

Full Tilt Poker’s Hearing Adjourned to September 15th

The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), which recently suspended Full Tilt Poker’s gaming licenses, has adjourned its hearing on Full Tilt Poker to September 15, 2011, by which time it is hoped that Full Tilt Poker will be able to find a good investor and a proper solution for its US poker financial problems.

According to Isabel Picornel, the lead AGCC commissioner, the AGCC took the decision to adjourn the hearing “in the best interests of the customers of Full Tilt Poker” and “to give the company more time to finalize an investment.” Picornel also told a small group of 20 people and media persons that “the decision was not taken lightly.”

The decision to adjourn the hearing to mid September is meant to benefit Full Tilt Poker’s poker customers and to give Full Tilt Poker enough time to continue negotiating with potential investors and come to a solution regarding its various problems. AGCC feels that Full Tilt Poker will find a solution that will be in the best interest of its poker customers.

The AGCC’s recent public hearing to decide the fate of Full Tilt Poker was attended by 150 people. The hearing commenced at 10:25 a.m. at Victoria Park Plaza Hotel in London and concluded an hour later with AGCC’s two commissioners and the lawyers representing both Full Tilt Poker and AGCC announcing that the rest of the hearing was to be in camera.

At 5:52 p.m., the people who had attended the hearing were confused as to whether the rest of the hearing would be held behind closed doors or in public. Finally, only a small group of 20 people, including reporters, decided to wait for the final decision.

Picornel later announced the adjournment and said that the AGCC feels that September 15 is a reasonable date for the hearing to be adjourned.

US Senators Question US Crackdown on Online Poker

US Senators Kyl and Reid have written a letter to the Department of Justice questioning their stand on the whole online gambling controversy. They have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to reiterate DoJ’s stand on the issue of US online poker.

The Senators have referred to the events of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Blue Monday’ in the letter and have said that lack of any action on the part of the government for so many years increased the perception that internet poker did not violate any laws in the US, either that or the case against internet poker was not strong enough to be enforced, and hence why has the DoJ suddenly woken up to the internet poker problem.

The letter also spoke about the intrastate proposals of the likes of those passed in the District of Columbia, and it mentioned that these internet gambling or poker activities spread across the borders and hence they bring into question the federal anti-gambling laws such as the Wire Act.

Senator Kyl was not always in favor of internet gambling and he has recently softened his stance on the same; upon being questioned why, he stated that he was led to believe that internet gambling cannot be treated the same as other kinds of gambling and it posed several other problems like no other form of gambling brought up. He has now learned that is not the case and hence has softened his stance, although he will see to it that online betting in general is dealt with appropriate rules and regulations, while internet poker can be considered as a game of skill and let by since many consider it to be so. Senator Reid has always backed online gambling policies but his poker bill did not go through in December.

This letter questions the position of the federal bills proposed by Barton and Campbell and since there have been differences in opinion, although all of them are working towards the same common goal, their paths are different, and may never cross each other.

Chris O’Donnell Declared Winner Of UKIPT 2011

The largest ever UK & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) involving PokerStars was held in Brighton, England recently and around 603 players turned up for the event. The event had a buy in of £500, which is half the price of what it was last year. The prize pool came up to £292,455.

Chris O’Donnell was announced as the new winner of the UKIPT, and he boasts of having Toby Lewis as his roommate. Toby Lewis is the EPT Vilamoura Champion. Chris O’Donnell won £71,100 as the final take home from the UKIPT and he beat the other lead Richard Hasancebi and Jeff Duvall by a large margin.

The winners of the event along with the prize they won are as follows:

1st place: Chris O’Donnell, UK; Prize: £71,100,

2nd place: Richard Hasancebi, UK, PokerStars player; Prize: £41,300,

3rd place: Jeff Duvall, UK; Prize: £25,300,

4th place: Rudi Johnsen, Norway, PokerStars qualifier; Prize: £18,600,

5th place: Sinem Melin, UK; Prize: £14,900,

6th place: David Rudling-Smith, UK, PokerStars player; Prize: £11,400,

7th place: David Trigg, UK, PokerStars player; Prize: £8,950,

8th place: Jaroslav Horak, Czech Republic, PokerStars qualifier; Prize: £6,900, and

9th place: Alex Ferguson, UK, PokerStars qualifier; Prize: £4,930.

After around three hours of playing the cards Chris O’Donnell was ahead of Richard Hasancebi by a seven million to two million chip lead, and the game ended with Chris taking the lead with AK, while Richard held A7.

Last year there were around 250 players are the event, and the turn out this year has been doubled; This shows that like the US poker scene, the UK poker industry is also buzzing with excitement.

The next part of this tour will take place at Edinburgh between 11th August and 14th August 2011. Players can take part in the qualifiers that are now running at PokerStars.

US Senator Speeds Up Online Poker Legalization in California

In order to speed up the federal regulations in terms of legalizing US online poker, California lawmaker Lou Correa, an Orange County Democrat provided the Senate Bill 40 to the California Senate Committee on Government Organization. Correa said, “We have an opportunity to generate 1,300 new California jobs and $1.4 billion.”

The bill was introduced by Correa on December 6th 2010 and since then the bill has gone through three modifications including the last one which took place last week. The recent presentation was an attempt to get a strong support for online poker legalization in California. Talking in support of legalized online poker in California was former speaker of the State Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, as well as Rick Weil, CEO of Sciplay, a worldwide leader in Internet gaming technology,

In the current financial situation that has been faced by California, Senator Correa says that getting ahead with the legalization bill would be beneficial to the state. Correa mentioned in the committee, “What our state needs right now is revenue. SB 40 will allow California to generate $250 million this fiscal year, money that will help us meet the revenues projected in this (year’s) budget but not identified. SB 40 will help avoid the triggers that will result in deeper cuts to education and other public services.”

Correa is doing everything under his power to push the California legislature to act as soon as possible on the bill. One of the main concerns of Correa is the fact that the bill provided just a few weeks ago in the US Congress, H.R. 2366 by Representative Joe Barton of Texas, will provide states with an established legal gambling license such as California’s neighbor Nevada, an advantage in the impending federal legislation.

Full Tilt Poker Loses A Mass of European Players

Full Tilt Poker’s European customers are leaving the website in multitudes after the seizing of the site’s French license by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission last month. According to a recent report in PokerScout, Full Tilt Poker has seen more than half of its European players, around 9300 leaving the site with almost 5000 of them registering with its competitors.

As a consequence, other websites have seen a rise in numbers as some US poker players opted go to Canada or Australia. Others have stayed for the WSOP in Las Vegas, and many of them are still in the USA for the main event, which is still in progress. The online traffic was increased by 3.4% for the week as eight of the top ten websites and networks reported statistics.

According to AGCC, the seizing of Full Tilt Poker took place on June 20 since it failed “to satisfy the AGCC that its activities inside and outside the US were in order.” Moreover, the AGCC has also mentioned that the hearing into the suspension of Full Tilt’s license will be conducted at Park Plaza Victoria Hotel in London at 10am on July 26th.

AGCC’s Executive Director, André Wilsenach mentioned that the organization’s “choice to hold a public hearing in to the future of Full Tilt Poker demonstrates our willingness to act transparently – and we will welcome members of the public and the media. As ever, at all times, our primary concern is the protection of the player,” he added.

For now, PokerScout’s reports state that PokerStars still continues to be the website with the highest traffic with an increase of 17% while PartyPoker follows PokerStars for the first time after 2007 and they have seen a great leap of 35% in their traffic.

Amidst all this, the French gambling agency, ARJEL (Autorité de Régulation des Jeux en Ligne), has also seized Full Tilt’s license within the European nation after players realized that they were not able to play poker for real money.