Issue 291
April 10 - April 16, 2006
Volume 6
page 2

Poker players fight online gambling ban
As Reported by San Francisco Chronicle

WASHINGTON DC - America's 70 million poker players say they aren't bluffing in their resistance to the latest congressional efforts to ban online casino gambling.

To dramatize that determination, their leader, San Franciscan Michael Bolcerek -- president of the national Poker Players Alliance -- staged some of the most unusual events on Capitol Hill. He brought three big-name professional poker stars to court the press, lobby with members of Congress and attend an evening reception for members and their staffs at which a few hands of Texas Hold 'Em were probably played. Not for money, of course.

Congress is considering legislation that seeks either to get banks to block customers' transactions with overseas Internet gambling sites or force Internet service providers to block access to poker Web sites. Poker players say the proposed bans attack nothing less than the American way of life.

"I'd hate for 70 million poker players to wake up one day and learn that their game has been made illegal," said pro Howard Lederer, who with his sister Annie Duke forms a sister-brother pro duo in a sport that has become a TV staple the last few years.

Bolcerek, a Cow Hollow resident who says he plays in a weekly game with friends, portrayed poker as a game of skill that's as American as apple pie and motherhood.

"Poker is an American tradition. It has its roots in New Orleans, just like jazz. Many presidents played, including Gen. Grant, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon. So did Chief Justice William Rehnquist," said Bolcerek, a longtime high-tech executive who took up his post as paid president of the 20,000-member alliance just a few months ago.

His group estimates that of the 70 million Americans who play various forms of poker, 23 million do so online. Of that figure, 3 million actually play for money via the Internet, said Bolcerek, whose group has opened an office in Washington, and plans a presence in Las Vegas and San Francisco.

While Bolcerek said the alliance doesn't have direct financial ties to any of the online casinos, he won't disclose the names of the few wealthy individuals he said provided the organization's seed money.

Instead of banning online gaming, the alliance says Congress should regulate and tax it, turning it into a profitable domestic business that can create jobs.

There are at least three bills pending in Congress that seek to ban Americans' from playing poker or other casino games online for money. It is already illegal for online casinos to operate domestically, so the multi-billion-dollar business has moved overseas. Credit card companies have also been ordered not to allow customers to use their accounts for the offshore gambling, so players have switched to online payment services that are also based overseas and pay with checks, debit cards and electronic funds transfers.

Sponsors of the legislation cite several reasons for their proposed crackdown, an idea that has been approved by both houses in Congress in the past, but not in the identical form required for sending legislation to the president. They say the lure of games that people can play at home on their computers is addictive and could be financially ruinous.

The bills' supporters also say the games present unfair competition for the regulated, taxed and legal bricks-and-mortar casinos and card clubs. And they say prosecutors have tied online gambling to money laundering and even potentially to terrorist financing. They also say the ease of online betting makes it all too easy for underage players to get deep into debt.

"This is the most addictive form of gambling that's even been invented," said David Robertson, former chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

"You've got a casino in your home now," added Robertson, of Cody, Wyo. "You don't have to get in your car or go somewhere."

Nothing in Congress is ever straightforward, and the poker proposals are no exception.

The bills, while trying to ban games like poker and blackjack, carve out exemptions for some online betting on horse races and state-run lotteries. The poker backers call those exemptions hypocritical and say they show that powerful lobbies have managed to protect some forms of gambling at their expense.

That brings in Jack Abramoff, the convicted lobbyist whose influence-peddling schemes are at the heart of scandals that have already nabbed several congressional aides and threaten several lawmakers.

Among Abramoff's clients was eLottery, a company that opposed earlier versions of the bills that made online lotteries illegal. Abramoff helped block those bills. Although Abramoff is gone, the bills moving forward allow some use of the Internet by state lotteries.

The advocates of the bills now paint their bills as part of lobbying reform efforts, and say the Abramoff affair has boosted prospects for their legislation to finally become law in 2006.

"Chances are very good this year,'' said Robertson, of the bills moving through committees now.

"The Abramoff scandal proves that gambling corrupts. It wasn't anything other than gambling money that funded Abramoff," Robertson said.

But the poker fans say Abramoff is a smokescreen for proposals that would lead to new government intrusions into Americans' private lives.

"Monitoring what American citizens do in their own homes on their own time with their own money is not the federal government's business," said Radley Balko, a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Balko said Congress was putting itself in the position of reacting to the Abramoff scandal "by limiting the civil liberties of Americans. ... This is insane."




Packer, Ho lure Dream-catchers
As Reported by

HONG KONG - Investors and the market have been confused by differing comments on whether the joint venture will go ahead with its ambitious plans for an underwater casino.
PBL executives have indicated that the plans for what would be a very expensive design concept have been shelved, but Mr. Ho implied last week that the underwater casino idea was still on the cards.

Melco told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last week that the City of Dreams would float "serenely above a crystal lake, providing 2000 rooms from unique boutique hotels and themed time-sharing serviced apartments".

It said the 72,000 sqm casino would feature "world class gaming facilities in a tropical underwater environment housing over 450 gaming tables and around 3000 slot machines".

It would also include an underwater restaurant pavilion.

The PBL/Melco group has already delayed till next year its plans to open its first casino, in the $300 million Crown Macau.
The partners say they want to open the casino and the hotel at the same time.

But Macau sources indicate that the construction of the Crown Macau has not gone ahead as smoothly as the partners would have liked.

Mr. Packer is believed to have approached Leighton Holdings chief executive Wal King about the Australian construction company becoming involved in building the City of Dreams. Leighton, which has almost completed the $1 billion Wynn Macau that opens in September, is keen to retain its profitable relationship with Steve Wynn, who has plans for further projects in Macau.

Leighton Asia already has a workforce of some 2500 in Macau and is looking at other work there, including a new light-rail project.

But whether it gets involved in the City of Dreams could depend on whether Mr. Wynn allows it to work with a competitor.

The Hong Kong-based Mr. Ho has also spoken of plans for the PBL/Melco venture to open more poker machine parlors in Macau, under the banner of Mocha Slots.

The joint venture already operates six Mocha Slots parlors around Macau, with more than 1000 poker machines.

Mocha Slots turned over about $25 million in 2005, but this can be expected to rise considerably this year as three of the six parlors were only opened in 2005.

In his stock exchange filing last week, Mr. Ho said the group planned to open another two or three Mocha Slots venues in Macau this year, with another 500 poker machines, most likely in mid-range hotels.

Mr. Ho also told the exchange that the group had received proposals from "a number" of investment bankers about listing its Macau casino assets.

PBL and Melco are yet to raise the financing for City of Dreams, the bulk of which will be needed towards the end of next year.

Mr. Ho said a listing was one of several options to help finance the City of Dreams, but said no decision had been taken.

Melco told the exchange last week that there had been no discussions so far on a possible listing.

Italy blocks Malta betting websites
As Reported by

ITALY - The Maltese gaming council is insisting it is in line with EU law after the Italian authorities blocked access to various internet betting sites, including those based in Malta.

The Remote Gaming Council (MRGC) advised all those involved in the industry that it is currently following procedures according to EU law to ensure that such measures are withdrawn.

In what is widely acknowledged as a protectionist move, the Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli Di Stato (AAMS) has blocked over 100 Malta-licensed internet gaming sites which they consider to be illegal. This comes in the wake of Italy's recent budget, which decreed that all online gaming sites which are not licensed in Italy will be blocked. Those ISPs who circumvent the action face stiff daily fines.

Following an extraordinary general meeting, convened by the MRGC management, advice was given to all members to lodge a formal complaint with the European Commission against Italy and AAMS. Another complaint will be sent by the MRGC in the name of all its members.

A meeting is being set up between the management board of the MRGC and MEPs Louis Grech and Simon Busuttil to inform them of the problem and to discuss what course of action would be best to follow. The MRGC underlined the fact that all its Malta-based members have to qualify for a license from the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) and to do so have to attain a high standard ensuring that, among other conditions, they are not used in fraudulent activities. Over and above, every operator has to present to the LGA the company accounts every six months for inspection and make sure that all is in order. Barring this, the license will be revoked.

The AAMS also claims that websites opened under Maltese law do not comply with Italian law and therefore put Italian-based companies, opened under Italian law, at a disadvantage.

However, one of the fundamental principles of European law is freedom to provide services across EU borders and there is no reason why Maltese gambling websites should be stopped, other than to protect the Italian government's monopoly, which runs the betting sector in Italy, the MRGC charged.

The number of licensed e-gaming companies in Malta has mushroomed in recent months, as Malta is considered to be one of the few licensed EU gaming domiciles with clearly set regulations and its gaming structures are considered to be ideal. Only last year, Betfair, a multi-billion euro exchange, selected Malta for a gaming license and invested heavily to be able to exploit the trade benefits of a commercial license.

JuJReba McEntire

Las Vegas Hilton Theater: Superstar legend Reba McEntire will be performing in a multi-week engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Dates: May 3-7; June 7-11, 14-18; July 19-23, 26-30; Aug. 24-26

Time: Wed-Sat 9:00pm; Sunday 8:00pm

Ticket Price: $124 to $225 plus tax

For more information: (800) 222-5361
Tell us what you think about our newsletter.
Copyright 2000-2005 Casino City. All rights reserved
Casino City is a trademark of Please read our Disclaimer of Warranty