Is Santa Ysabel’s Promise to Launch a Real-Money Online Poker Site Just an Elaborate Ruse?

On Sunday, Marco Valerio broke the news that the 300-member Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe is planning to launch a real-money online poker site as early as next week. The original announcement was made via press release, in which the tribe’s Commission Chairman David Vialpando justified the move by stating that the Santa Ysabel were “exerting its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to regulate and conduct Class II gaming from the tribe’s reservation.” While most table games are considered Class III, poker – which is a non-house banked game – falls under Class II. As of now, Santa Ysabel’s, which utilizes the same software as U.S-facing offshore network WPN, is offering players access to a play money version of the software. In short, is up, it’s running and it at least looks real. Yet, given the Santa Ysabel’s shaky history in the casino industry, the current condition of the software and the inevitable legal implications it would face by going rogue, I’m just as inclined to believe that Santa Ysabel’s foray into the online gaming biz is more an elaborate ruse to satisfy its own interests, or at best a move to facilitate the passage of one of the state’s existing iGaming bills, than it is a(n) (il)legitimate attempt to generate long-term revenue as an independent online poker company. Who is Santa Ysabel? A post by PokerXanadu on the Two Plus Two forums, sums up Santa Ysabel previous dealings in the casino industry quite sufficiently: A few points of clarification: The casino that PokerXanadu is referring to was The Santa Ysabel Casino, which opened in 2007 and closed this past February. The tribe cited local government’s unwillingness “to renegotiate its financial agreement with the Tribe in the face of economic hardship” as one of the primary reasons behind the closure – a claim which County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs called “absurd.” Santa Ysabel Casino’s closing left the tribe tens-of-millions of dollars in debt, with little means to pay it off. An attempt to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to the closure was denied by the court. Point number two: Despite its assertions, the legality of the Santa Ysabel launching a casino with servers based on its grounds is questionable at best. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not address Internet gambling, suggesting that it would have to be amended before the Santa Ysabel could roll out their operation. Along the same lines, while sovereign nations are more than permitted to accept real-money wagers within their lands, some legal experts “believe that limitations in tribal-state regulatory compacts and provisions in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) limit the ability of tribes to accept wagers from off Indian lands.” This according to an email from LA-based gaming lawyer sent to industry expert Chris Grove. The obvious point of contention here is that the Santa Ysabel are readying to offer all California natives access to its real-money poker site, not just those geo-located within the reservation’s boundaries. In short, even though there is no specific language necessarily prohibiting the Santa Ysabel from conducting iGaming operations, there’s no clause allowing it either. Moving on, the payment processor mentioned is the Financial Payment Network, a company no one has ever heard of and which features a website that is currently under construction. Enough said. And finally, the Kahnawakee Gaming Commission, which acted/acts as the regulatory committee for just about every online poker site that operated in the United States despite being in violation of the UIGEA, was in fact likely involved in the super user scandal that saw Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet steal millions from its customers. Given this, it’s hard to place any weight into Santa Ysabel’s claims that it’ll be launching a real-money poker site that abides by a similar set of regulations to those set forth by Delaware’s regulatory committee by next weekend. And I have to think that on some level, the Santa Ysabel realizes this too. Either that or its level of ignorance is unfathomable. So what’s really going on? A few possibilities: is a shady attempt by a desperate tribe to generate some sort of short-term revenue. Given the aforementioned legal murkiness of Santa Ysabel’s supposed real-money online poker site, it’s probably only a matter of time before the tribe would find themselves embroiled in a legal battle. But until then, the tribe will be happy to generate whatever income it can. Should this be true, the Santa Ysabel will endanger the future prosperity of the US regulated market, and give iGaming opponents just another reason to oppose its expansion – all in the name of its own preservation. Way to go Santa Ysabel.
The whole thing is a ruse. California’s smaller tribes, especially those facing debt, will hardly be able to prove that they can pay a $5 million deposit. Recognizing this, the Santa Ysabel threaten to launch its own site, and encourage other sovereign nations to the same, in the hopes that the licensing requirements are relaxed. The Santa Ysabel’s dewapoker offering is so grossly in violation of everything the regulated markets stands for (identification verification, strong authentication, responsible gambling etc.) that the proposed bills are amended as to be more amenable to smaller tribes. Admittedly, this theory is a bit of a stretch, but the idea that the Santa Ysabel are merely posturing is not.
The Santa Ysabel are doing this to facilitate the passage of an iGaming bill. Likely not, if only because government and the state’s most influential tribal factions are already in favor of iGaming legislation, with the “bad actor” language the only true dividing point. At best, Santa Ysabel’s announcement may encourage the Morongo and the state’s other tribes to settle their differences before other tribes go rogue. But even if the Santa Ysabel manages to launch its site by next week, its chances of drawing a significant user base are so low that it will likely not instill lawmakers with any sense of urgency. More to the point, how would the faster passage of an iGaming bill necessarily help the Santa Ysabel? Short answer: it wouldn’t. But it may spark a legal conflict that eventually sees sovereign nations gain the right to legally offer online poker, and that could certainly benefit the Santa Ysabel, as it would position itself as the pioneer of an alternative gaming market. Who knows, maybe by then the tribe would be in a position to host you know, a credible site. In either case, here’s a warning to California poker players: Don’t play on – especially if it launches under the current conditions. Previous Post Next Post private table|santa ysabel About Robert DellaFave Robert DellaFave writes for a variety of online gaming sites and is also working on programming a poker simulation creative enough to beat the best. Follow Robert on Twitter @DivergentGames and on Google+

Santa Ysabel Plan Highlights Need for New Revenue Sharing Agreement

As California continues to work towards legalizing and regulating online poker there have been a number of problems, disagreements, and hurdles that have needed to be overcome; at times it seems as if they are encountering new obstacles faster than they can solve the old ones. The latest issue being the Santa Ysabel tribe’s decision to go it alone and offer online poker, citing their belief that online poker falls under the Class II Gambling designation in the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and is therefore perfectly legal for the tribe to offer on their own volition. The Santa Ysabel’s threatened launch of an online poker room without any type of legislation being passed has led to a number of arguments dealing with everything from Class II Gambling needing to be redefined by Congress, to the suitability of entities that are supposedly assisting Santa Ysabel in their online endeavors. However, there is also a very applicable issue that needs to be addressed in what the Santa Ysabel Indians are trying here: The need for a restructured or new revenue sharing model among California tribes. The Current System Under the current agreement tribes with more than 350 gaming machines / devices set money aside with the state gaming commission in what is known as the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF). This money is then doled out to certain non-gaming tribes and tribes with 350 or fewer gaming devices / machines – so if you ever wonder why so many tribes in California have specifically 350 machines and never 351, you now have your answer. Each non-gaming tribe and tribe with under 350 machines (there are a total of 61 tribes that are part of the RSTF either as contributors or beneficiaries) that is part of this agreement receive $1.1 million per year. If you’re interested, here is a great overview of the RSTF from the National Law Review website. However, this revenue sharing model is based on Class III Gambling (slot machines, table games and house-banked card-games), which doesn’t cover poker revenue, as poker is considered Class II gambling under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) – poker is not specifically mentioned but falls under the non-house-banked card games heading. On the other hand, online poker is currently not classified as either Class II gambling or Class III. In fact it’s not classified at all. There is an argument to be made that poker is poker, so it should be Class II gambling, but another side argues that the gambling doesn’t occur on tribal land (proponents of this argument feel the bet is placed where the player is and not where the internet servers are) so there is still quite a bit of legal gray area that needs to be worked out. Because of this, online poker in California is going to need a new or amended revenue sharing agreement that specifically covers online poker, distinguishing it as either as Class II (and adding this to the revenue sharing agreement) or some other Class of gambling, otherwise smaller tribes will not benefit in any way from the expansion into online poker. Why revenue sharing would help online poker A fair revenue sharing deal in California would achieve several aims: First, it wouldn’t put smaller tribes, who are unable to afford the cost of a license (presumably in the $5 million to $10 million range) and unlikely to be capable of raising the capitol needed to create and launch an online poker room, on unequal footing with the larger gaming tribes. And this inequity has not been lost on the smaller tribes, including Santa Ysabel, as the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission website states: Secondly, it will limit competition to a manageable number of online poker rooms by making it financially beneficial for most tribes to pass on online gambling and instead draw from the revenue sharing trust fund. With smaller tribes benefitting from the success of the larger tribes who do get involved in online poker there is little reason for them to try to launch their own online poker sites. This revenue sharing model has worked well for California in terms of casino gaming and should limit (in a good way) potential competition for California’s still hypothetical online poker industry. Who is for and who is against Revenue Sharing No tribe is publicly against setting up an online poker revenue trust fund, but some tribes have been more vocal about making sure the smaller tribes get their piece of the pie. One of the most vocal is the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, who have stated multiple times that revenue sharing needs to be included in any online poker bill (it currently isn’t) if the tribe is going to throw their support behind it – of course the Morongos larger issue is the bad actor / tainted asset clauses currently being pushed. Race tracks may need to be cut in as well In addition to the tribal revenue sharing, the current plan includes card rooms that already offer poker and meet certain other criteria, along with tribal casinos that offer poker and meet certain other criteria (read as: have money and political power): Everyone else will be shut out, including small tribes, small card rooms, and race tracks. Race tracks are definitely feeling left out, and they are likely to get even more vocal if smaller tribes are cut in via revenue sharing while the race tracks are left on the side of the road. Race tracks may not be the political power players they use to be, but they do still have some clout and are aligned with labor unions as well, so they are not to be trifled with. Previous Post Next Post morongo|santa ysabel About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Rogue California Tribe Further Complicating Online Poker

The Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Indians in California (commonly referred to as the Iipay Nation) have decided to give the old Spaceballs salute to the other tribes in California as well as the state legislature and launch their own online poker room even though California has yet to pass online poker legislation. The story was first reported by Marco Valerio who received a copy of a press release (the full press release can be found at the bottom of this article) from Sacramento-based attorney Martin Owens detailing the legal opinion the Iipay Nation feels it is operating under as well as the logistics and regulations that their rogue online poker room will operate on. The poker room goes by the name and uses IG Soft software, which is the same software in use at the Winning Poker Network (which operates several unlicensed online poker rooms in the US). The site is live for play-money games as we speak, and could offer real-money games as soon as today – assuming this isn’t some type of bluff by the Iipay Nation.

The tribe’s decision to make this bold leap seems centered around the capability of offering Class II gambling (peer-to-peer such as poker and bingo) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on the tribe’s reservation. We’ll have to see if California agrees. Interestingly, the site will offer real-money games only to California residents located in California, who are over 18 years of age. Some concerns The largest concern I see is a further fracturing of California’s tribes, as the lipay Nation has for lack of a better analogy thrown sugar in the gas tank by saying that there is no need for an online poker bill and tribes can offer online poker legally as the law is now written. Assuming this is not a bluff, I’d expect plenty of legal filings in the coming days and weeks. Another serious concern is over the entities involved. The Iipay Nation aren’t what you would call stellar performers with plenty of legal battles and debts in its past, and they have enlisted the Kahnawake Gaming Commission as their regulators – for those that are unaware, the Kahnawake’s were the regulators during the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Super User scandals and have licensed many offshore sites illegally operating in the US. Another troubling aspect is the payment processor the tribe has settled on, Financial Payment Network (or FinPay for short) which John Mehaffey researched and found to be a new company with almost no track record to speak of. Comparing the website with the established and licensed Optimal Payments (Neteller) will give you an idea of why this might be a problem. A big picture problem My biggest fear is that this website, which is unlikely to have any type of legitimate player verification system both in terms of geolocation and Know Your Customer checks will be propped up by online gambling opponents as the current state of the technology and the types of safeguards in place. I don’t think this site will be good for anyone, not even the Iipay who are likely to get very little traffic from it.

Some unanswered questions that could be extremely damaging to online poker expansion are: How many players will register with a false California residence, use a VPN and play on the site? What type of age verification is in place other than checking a box stating you are over 18? In my opinion, this online poker website should be derided by the entire industry as it is not an example of what licensed US online poker should be; in fact it is simply a version of the same unlicensed sites (right down to the software being used) using sketchy regulators located in other countries (the Kahnawake Tribe is located in Canada) who are themselves not accountable to anyone. There is literally not a single entity involved in this endeavor that doesn’t have skeletons in their closet: from Iipay’s, to Kahnawake’s, to IG Soft, to FinPay. As promised, here is the full press release: Santa Ysabel Interactive Launches Online Poker Site in California San Diego, California -July 10th, 2014 – Santa Ysabel Interactive, an enterprise of the Santa Ysabel Tribal Development Corporation, launched the first legal, tribal regulated interactive poker website from the Tribe’s reservation located east of San Diego, California. The Tribe’s I-gaming poker website,, accessible to adult California residents who register through the website, will be a legal alternative to the unregulated, illegal Internet-based gambling websites, operated from off-shore locations by operators of questionable character.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to expanding upon the lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s successful track record in the regulated gaming industry,” commented spokesperson Dave Vialpando. “The Gaming Commission has applied its years of experience to ensure the integrity of the games when designing the framework for Santa Ysabel Interactive’s I-poker website.” California Tribes have been actively involved in gaming in the state since the passage of Proposition 1A in 1999. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel successfully negotiated a Tribal-State gaming compact with California in 2003 and operated the Santa Ysabel Casino from the Tribe’s reservation. The regulatory structure implemented by the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission is more stringent than the regulatory requirements contained in either of California’s proposed I-gaming legislative proposals currently under consideration by the California Legislature. “The Tribe supports the effort by the Legislature to enact interactive gambling legislation in the State, but has decided to rely on the tribal sovereignty and the provisions of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to offer I-poker from the Tribe’s reservation, “continued Dave Vialpando.“

Santa Ysabel Interactive currently has no plans to offer Internet-based slot machines or banked-games through its website,, but will consider offering other gaming consistent with IGRA.” Santa Ysabel Interactive has partnered with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, establishing an Inter-Jurisdictional Agreement, to host a portion of Santa Ysabel’s interactive gaming structure within the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is recognized internationally as the gold standard of interactive gaming regulation and has demonstrated uncompromising integrity in I-gaming hosting. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, whose membership has struggled with high unemployment and a lack of economic opportunity, is looking forward to applying the revenues generated from Santa Ysabel Interactive to further the economic goals of the Nation. It is the Tribe’s goal to increase the standard of living for the Nation’s members, invest in tribal infrastructure improvements, and achieve economic self-sufficiency through multiple, different and diverse business ventures. It is Santa Ysabel Interactive’s goal to offer a safe, exciting, and secure quality interactive gaming experience for California adult residents, employing cutting edge technology, customizable to the customer’s personal preferences.

Contact: Dave Vialpando [email protected] PO Box 558 Santa Ysabel CA,92070 USA (619) 888-2536 Photo credit: Marco Valerio via Previous Post Next Post iipay nation|private table About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

California iGaming Week in Review: Deadline Looms, PokerStars Zooms

Another week brings no big news on the California online poker front. Everyone claims to be working toward a solution, but no word from any of the parties involved keeps poker fans, players, and media in limbo. In order to get a true picture of the status of California online poker, one has to read between the lines. News that pertains to entities like PokerStars and the Bicycle Casino can be disseminated to give some hints as to what may happen in California. For now, it remains categorized as speculation. With that said, a looming deadline on the California Legislative Calendar, a tournament coming through the Bicycle Casino, and hints at a fast-moving finalization of the Rational Group / Amaya Gaming deal give some insight as to what factors may influence the online poker bills. In the end, however, someone has to make a move. One of the pertinent parties has to bet, raise, or fold at some point.

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Deadline for Poker Bills Less than Two Months Away Technically, the first deadline for the California legislature to pass either of the online poker bills passed on May 30, 2014. Of the two pending bills, neither moved an inch when that date came and went. There are ways to pursue a bill after that date, such as by replacing a bill with a newly drafted one by the same legislator. The other date is August 31, 2014, and that deadline is non-negotiable. As the law states, August 31 is the “last day for each house to pass bills.” If nothing happens by that date, both pending bills are dead. They will need to be redrafted and reintroduced in 2015. Whether supporters and current bill sponsors State Senator Lou Correa and State Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer are up for the task remains to be seen. In fact, it all remains to be seen. The bills currently collecting dust in the legislature could begin moving at any time. And as pointed out here, time is ‘a tickin’. Amaya Might Move Quickly to Finalize Rational Group Deal When Amaya Gaming announced its acquisition of the Rational Group, including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, last month, there was a wide window for the finalization. The deadline was set for the end of September 2014, as financing had to be secured, the Scheinbergs had to step down, and other pieces had to fall in place before all was said and done. However, numerous reasons have arisen that could put the deal on a faster timeline.

First, PokerStars wants its place in New Jersey, and New Jersey wants PokerStars. Within days after the deal was announced, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement revealed that it was looking forward to examining the developments. Even State Senator Raymond Lesniak recently commented that he’s anxious for PokerStars to take a place in the state’s online gaming market. With a seasonal decline and other factors causing the state’s online gaming revenue to dip, there is no better time than the present to push things forward. Now that PokerStars is under the Amaya Gaming umbrella, or soon to be so, the DGE only needs to review the Amaya Gaming license and made adjustments for the PokerStars addition. “The PokerStars acquisition becomes part of the ongoing Amaya licensing process and is reviewed for suitability by the Division like any other significant transaction by a CSIE or Casino Entity licensee,” said a DGE representative. This could happen quickly. Second, the UK may be quite a distance away, but the upcoming licensing process for online gaming in the UK may prompt Amaya Gaming to speed up its acquisition. Per the newly enacted laws, the UK Gambling Commission is requiring all companies wanting to operate in the UK to have obtained a license by October 1. Applications must be submitted by September 16. If Amaya sticks to its original timeline of completing the acquisition at the end of September, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Amaya Gaming will need to obtain licenses individually in the UK. And when the merger is complete, Amaya will have to submit paperwork to change the licenses, and there may be a break in operations while the changes are approved by the UKGC. This will result in downtime for players and operators, and the lack of revenue would be significant.

The benefits of Amaya and Rational Group finalizing their deal prior to mid-September are great. The sooner the acquisition is complete, the sooner New Jersey can give its approval for PokerStars and the UKGC can begin processing the operating license for the UK market. What does this mean for California? The “bad actors” of PokerStars, namely the Scheinbergs, will be gone from the company, and the new management of Amaya (not a bad actor) will be ready to make a case for entry to California. By finalizing the deal as soon as possible and pleading a case to California legislators and tribes, there is hope that one of the bills could be amended, resubmitted, and pushed through the state legislature before the August 31 deadline. Live Poker Moves On in California The Bicycle Casino is one of the entities that partnered with PokerStars prior to its deal with Amaya. Live poker at “the Bike” continues to thrive with numerous tournament series headed its way.

The Summer Poker Series started on June 19 and runs through July 15. Other tours will head there later in the summer, like the World Poker Tour for its annual Legends of Poker festival, as well as the Card Player Poker Tour. And fellow PokerStars partner Commerce Casino will be hosting the Heartland Poker Tour later this year. On the other side of the aisle, “bad actor” clause supporters will also be hosting some poker tournaments. The Heartland Poker Tour will be hosting an August/September series at Agua Caliente, and Pechanga will offer a Summer Spectacular poker series in July. Poker is a big part of California, and there is a very large group of poker players in the state who would be happy to begin playing online poker again. Live tournaments would benefit from online poker satellites, and California would again be a hub for poker of all kinds. The legislators must decide in the coming weeks if they want to take advantage of their prominence in live poker and its possible translation into online poker success … or not. Previous Post Next Post amaya|bike|pokerstars About Jennifer Newell Jennifer has been writing about poker for nearly a decade, including extensive work as a freelancer, where Jennifer has worked for numerous gaming-related websites, magazines, and blogs with a focus on players, news, and interesting stories. Follow Jennifer on Google+ and Twitter.

California Is Running Out of Time to Pass Online Poker

Earlier this year the California Senate and Assembly introduced bills that would allow the state to expand their gaming options, adding online poker to the mix that already includes card rooms, tribal casinos and race tracks. The attempt is nothing new, as this marks the fifth year in a row that California has flirted with expanding into iGaming, and even though the state is closer than ever before, it’s starting to look like we can get ready for California’s sixth try next year, as the legislature is running out of time to get something done before the session comes to an end. The online poker bills introduced by Senator Lou Correa and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer are fairly similar but not identical, as they were crafted by two different factions. Additionally, the bills have run into numerous roadblocks since they were introduced, most notably the ongoing fight over who should be allowed to apply for a license should California legalize and regulate online poker, the so-called “Bad Actor” clause. Bad Actor opponents On one side of the aisle is the coalition that includes Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Commerce Casino, the Bicycle Casino, and the Hawaiian Gardens Casino who are calling for lawmakers to strip out any language that would preemptively bar certain companies from applying for an online poker license – namely those that accepted wagers from the US after December 31, 2006. This opposition is not surprising considering all four of these entities have signed an agreement that will see them partner with PokerStars should online poker come to California, and PokerStars falls under the definition of a Bad Actor used in the bills. The PokerStars coalition stance is that the regulators, not lawmakers, should decide which companies are suitable and which are not, just as New Jersey regulators have done. Basically, let the regulators do the job they are paid to do; regulate. Bad Actor proponents On the other side is basically everyone else, or at the very least 13 other tribes. To oppose PokerStars a group of 13 tribes have teamed up, not only voicing their opposition in letters and at public hearings, but going so far as to hold meetings to hash out any disagreements between themselves in order to focus all of their scorn on the PokerStars issue. This coalition of tribes has even drafted their own online poker bill which they were hoping would be introduced by a friendly Senator / Assemblyperson. So far nobody has stepped up to the plate and introduced the bill. The proposed bill contains comprehensive Bad Actor / Tainted Assets language that would preclude a company like PokerStars from even applying for a license in California. This groups stance is that companies that violated UIGEA should not be allowed to participate in the new regulated markets; they should not be rewarded for continuing to operate in the US during that time period. You can read more about this disagreement here: PokerStars Past Under Siege What the Bad Actor debate has done The debate over PokerStars may not have “killed the bill” directly, but the ongoing fight, and the inability by the two sides to come to some type of an agreement has stalled online poker talks in the state, and at this point stalling talks is pretty much the same as “killing the bill.” The legislature has already passed one deadline (all bills were supposed to have been passed by their House of Origin by May 30, 2014) although as I pointed out in an article at several weeks ago, there are several potential loopholes to get around this deadline, including the almost farcical “Gut and Amend” solution that allows a lawmaker to essentially erase a current bill that has passed its house of origin and replace it with an entirely new bill. The only restriction being that the bill would have to be passed by both houses. However, there is another more steadfast deadline looming, as the legislative calendar states: Aug. 31 Last day for each house to pass bills (Art. IV. Sec. 10(c), J.R. 61(b)(17)). Final Recess begins upon adjournment (J.R. 51(b)(3)). Essentially, anything that is not passed by August 31 is officially dead. No workarounds, no loopholes, no nothing. If the California legislature does not pass an online poker bill (Senate and Assembly) by August 31 the legislative session comes to an end and any pending bills are wiped from the books. If California doesn’t make some headway on online poker in the very near future we can kiss 2014 goodbye. Previous Post Next Post bike|commerce|hawaiian gardens|morongo|pokerstars About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Rivers Casino General Manager Setting Sail Away From Struggling Casino

1 Cheeks chose to step down from NY casino
2 Is Cheeks jumping ship the sign of a problem? After less than a year, the leader of Rivers Casino Schenectady is stepping down. General Manager Mary Cheeks announced earlier this month she would seek opportunities away from the property. During her tenure, Cheeks oversaw day-to-day operations of the casino. She was also the public face of the property. Rivers Casino opened in early February. So far, the casino is severely underperforming in terms of revenue. Cheeks chose to step down from NY casino Cheeks worked with Rivers Casino’s parent company, Rush Street Gaming, since 2010. Prior to accepting her post in Schenectady, she served as CFO of the Rivers Casino property in Pittsburgh. Cheeks’ affiliation with Rivers Schenectady dates back to when construction on the property began in summer 2015. In that time, she was the one speaking with the press about the new commercial New York casino. The company issued a statement about Cheeks’s departure earlier this month. In it, Rush Street CEO Greg Carlin hoped for good things his former employee. “We’re grateful for Mary’s many contributions and wish her all the best.” In addition to helping launch the new casino, Cheeks also played an integral role in diversity programs at Rush Street. In her absence, previous Assistant General Magnager Justin Moore will oversee day-to-day operations. Is Cheeks jumping ship the sign of a problem? It is no secret Rivers Casino is struggling to meet very lofty expectations. Expected to bring in around $220 million in first-year revenue, the casino will fall short of that mark by around $80 million. That is not to say the property is without successes though. Its larger competitor, del Lago, is coming up even shorter on the revenue front. Additionally, the casino quickly established itself as a major poker destination in the Empire State, an important niche. Really though, 2017 is a disappointing start for the resort casino, which hoped to be a destination venue in the vein of Las Vegas properties. Revenue is not the only problem either. In fact, prior to Cheeks’s departure, she had to answer questions from the press regarding the property’s turnover rate. Back in August, the Albany Business Journal reported 475 Rivers employees either quit or were fired in the first six months of operation. With just shy of 1,500 employees total, that amount represents a turnover rate of 32.5 percent. At the time, Cheeks of all people issued a statement suggesting the press was overblowing the numbers. She claimed it was consistent with industry rates for new casinos with many employees needing to go through more training than usual. She also added: Given the public nature of her role, it will be interesting to see whether or not Rivers Schenectady can find another spokesperson in addition to a CEO.

If PASPA Gets Overturned, Where Does NY Stand On Sports Betting?

1 Lawmakers looking into a voter referendum on sports betting
2 Sports betting part of 2013 casino referendum
3 New laws necessary for tribes, racetracks to get a piece of the action Dec. 4 is almost here. That day is the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the case pitting the state of New Jersey and the major sports league against one another. It is a case that will determine the future of sports betting in this country. At the heart of the matter is the legality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The law exempts Nevada and a handful of other states, outlawing sports betting everywhere else. Should the court case go New Jersey’s way, it opens the door for wagering across the country. New York could very well be one of states printing tickets. Lawmakers looking into a voter referendum on sports betting In 2013, New York state ran a voter referendum on whether or not to open NY commercial casinos upstate. That resulted in the new casinos that opened earlier this year. Now, lawmakers are looking into a similar measure to prepare the Empire State to act if PASPA is overturned. The state Assembly’s Racing and Wagering committee chair Gary Pretlow told the Albany Times-Union the legal team was evaluating the options. Should the state try the voter referendum route, it would take two years to go into effect. Meanwhile, the legistlature introduced two new bills earlier this year. Additionally, Sen. John Bonacic, who is online poker’s strongest supporter in Albany, is also exploring the financial benefits of legal sports betting. However, there is already an existing sports betting law on the books. Sports betting part of 2013 casino referendum When voters agreed to allow upstate casinos in 2013, they also voted in favor of a framework for sports betting. As Gambling Compliance noted a couple of years ago, the referendum allows for the issuance of five-year licenses to casinos to accept sports wagers. The referendum sets up the framework for casino sports wagering at commercial casinos like del Lago and Rivers. Those are far from the only gambling institutions in the Empire State though. New laws necessary for tribes, racetracks to get a piece of the action In addition to commercial casinos, New York is also home to tribal casinos, racinos, and racetracks. With live racing revenue waning , leadership in that industry is worried about their position should the Supreme Court rule in favor of sports betting. It is a justifiable fear given that there is no law in place allowing them to compete. Even if the state passed a law allowing tracks to participate in 2018, the casinos would have a massive head start and, likely, a massive market share. As for tribes, that is an issue few are talking about. Several states besides New York are dealing with similar issues. For example, California tribes are currently sparring with lawmakers about what kind of piece of the action they will get. Unlike California, tribal gaming in New York is not quite as powerful. Nonetheless it could be interesting to see if sports betting comes up in the ongoing negotiations between Seneca Nation and New York over the tribe’s cessation of payments from its tribal casino properties.

Town Supervisor Race Was More About del Lago Than Candidates

1 Incumbant McGreevy promised tax cuts en route to victory
2 Opponent Lynn Barbuto was a strong opponent of del Lago
3 McGreevy defeated Barbuto by a 195-64 margin There was no referendum on the ballot for Tyre, New York this year. However, the Town Supervisor race ended up being a de facto litmus test for support of del Lago Casino. The Seneca County property in Waterloo, NY brought a tax windfall for Tyre. However, the candidates were on opposite sides of the casino issue. In the end, the town sided with the incumbant, who strongly supports the casino. Incumbant McGreevy promised tax cuts en route to victory The incumbant candidate was Ron McGreevy. His tenure extends back to the start of the del Lago casino project. McGreevy strongly supported the new caisno from the very beginning. Since then, McGreevy’s support of del Lago has not waivered, per the Finger Lake Times. This in spite of the fact that del Lago, like all upstate commercial casinos, is not living up to revenue expectations. In fact, of the three properties, del Lago is the biggest with the highest expectations. Yet, it is the casino missing the mark by the widest margin. However, McGreevy points to the positives for Tyre thanks to del Lago. He noted a 50 percent tax cut in 2017. He also predicts a comparable tax break in 2018. McGreevy also says the town’s nearly 1,000 residents benefit from the jobs del Lago offers. This especially after other major businesses in the area closed in the past couple of years. Currently del Lago employs roughly 1,500 people. Opponent Lynn Barbuto was a strong opponent of del Lago The other name on the Town Supervisor ballot was Lynn Barbuto. Her opposition of del Lago dates back as far as McGreevy’s support. Barbuto’s attempts to block the casino’s construction include a wide range of attempts. She largely protested them for environmental reasons. She also questioned the safety of the entry road to the property. Once the casino opened, Barbuto lamented the parking lot location. While del Lago was not allowed to relocate the historical cemetary located where the parking lot was slated to go, it was allowed to literally build the parking lot around the cemetary. “I understand the development is here, but they also should show respect,” Barbuto said of the decision. Barbuto was one of several local residents who tried to overturn the casino’s Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with Seneca County officials. The court denied the appeal. McGreevy defeated Barbuto by a 195-64 margin With both candidates known primarily for their stance on del Lago, the future of Tyre’s relationship with the property was essentially up for a vote this week. The town overwhelmingly voted to stick with what they know on Tuesday. McGreevy defeated Barbuto by a 3-1 margin, securing his tenure as Town Supervisor. That means, for the near future, Tyre will continue to call del Lago a positive development, even if the revenue is not.

Why Pretlow Might Be Souring On Gambling Expansion In NY

1 Pretlow spent much of 2017 lobbying for online poker
2 Is Pretlow starting to falter in his support?
3 Interstate compacts could and should sway states in favor of iPoker
4 Poor commercial casino performances have Pretlow worried
5 Is Pretlow getting gun shy about gambling? Certainly the poker community in New York never thought Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow was a strong ally for the cause. However, this year it seemed like the key lawmaker was moving to online poker’s side. Lately some comments from Pretlow suggest his love affair with online poker and the New York casino industry in general might be waning though. Pretlow spent much of 2017 lobbying for online poker Online poker is not going to happen in 2017. The good news is a new law means the effort to legalize online poker will pick right back up where it left off in New York next year. This past year, the bill once again breezed through the state Senate only to get stuck in the Assembly. Pretlow chairs the Racing and Wagering committee, so his support is basically required in order to get the bill to pass. In past years, Pretlow opposed the idea of online poker, but this year he came around to support it. Pretlow visited with New Jersey regulators, and left believing in the online gambling system’s safety and management. He did not manage to get enough support from fellow Assemblymembers though, so the poker bill never got out of committee for a vote. Is Pretlow starting to falter in his support? With his support this year, most assumed Pretlow would continue the fight. Especially when you consider that neighboring state, Pennsylvania, just passed a law allowing both online casinos and online poker. According to a recent report from Gambling Compliance (paywall) though, Pretlow does not see what that has to do with the Empire State. In Pretlow’s words: This is an interesting statement from Pretlow for a couple of reasons. First, as mentioned earlier, Pretlow said a large part of the reason he came around on online poker was seeing New Jersey in action. Granted, he is referring to the mechanics of the operation. Not the more than $20 million the industry generates in revenue each month. Nonethless, he openly admitted his opinion changed because of New Jersey. Interstate compacts could and should sway states in favor of iPoker Moreover, as Head of Online Poker Bill Rini explained to Online Poker Report, the existence of more states with online poker only helps states on the fence about the idea. Just last month, New Jersey agreed to pool players with Nevada and Delaware. This compact will increase player liquidity on sites, resulting in bigger prize pools, bigger guarantees, and more action on the site. To Rini, this development is something other states will absolutely notice: Poor commercial casino performances have Pretlow worried Pretlow’s disinterest in the developments in Pennsylvania could be a sign he is growing less enthused with gambling expansion in New York. To his credit, that is somewhat understandable. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office stated a concern about online poker was cannibalization of the new commercial casinos upstate. New Jersey online casinos readily shows cannibalization is not an issue. But the lackluster performance of these new properties is enough to make anyone gun shy. Now Pretlow is focused on these brick and mortar properties. Namely, coming up with numbers that are more realistic when it comes to future revenue projections. Pretlow wrote state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli regarding the financials on the three new casinos. In his letter, he expressed his concern the casinos will seek state help to avoid going under: Is Pretlow getting gun shy about gambling? Many racetracks in the state got tax breaks after Cuomo announced plans to build four commercial New York casinos. Currently the Seneca tribe is in the midst of arbitration that could cost the state money as well. Pretlow’s thinks these properties claimed an ability to generate more revenue than they realistically could. And that the state might have to foot the bill. With this latest land-based casino project underwhelming even the lowest expectations, it would certainly make sense Pretlow is not particularly eager to start rallying the troops for more gambling expansion, even if it is online.