The reels are always spinning in the gambling industry, and “The Double Down” is here every Friday to catch you up on all of the week’s biggest news. Sports Handle’s “Get a Grip” rounds up everything on the sports betting side, and US Bets provides the best of the rest: brick-and-mortar happenings, online casino developments, poker headlines, and more. So pull up a chair, crunch the numbers, and slide forward another stack of chips.
Hold up in hold ’em’s home state
Is poker legal? Well, it depends what you mean by “legal.” And it depends what you mean by “poker.” And it depends what you mean by “is.”
For decades, it’s been a challenge to nail down the legality of poker in various forms and in various jurisdictions, and Texas — where there are no legal casinos and no legal sports betting — is the poster state for this confusion.
Even without getting into any of the tired “game of skill” vs. “game of chance” debates, poker in Texas is perplexing. Gambling is illegal in the state, but there’s a loophole that allows card rooms to operate as “social clubs” or “membership clubs” to get around the decidedly illegal approach of a host raking poker games. Players pay annual or monthly membership fees and daily or hourly seat fees, and a “private place,” as the law states, can host games.
It’s not so dissimilar from the online poker rules that allow the likes of Club WPT to offer games to players who pay for a membership, with prizes to be claimed but no real cash flowing around on the virtual table. But a mini firestorm emerged recently when Democratic Texas state Rep. Gene Wu introduced House Bill 732, and it appeared designed to shut down the card rooms.
Not so, Wu clarified. There was just some errant wording in the bill, referring to the membership-based games only being legal in a “private residence,” when it should have said “private place.” Wu isn’t trying to outlaw card rooms in Texas. What he’s trying to do is hand the decision on whether to have legal poker clubs over to each individual county and eliminate gray areas in the law.
Wu told Jessica Welman of SBC of the current setup, “Literally, you can be in one county, and it’s perfectly legal, you step across the line to another county, and you’re now a criminal. And in a county like Harris County, where we have like 28 different law enforcement jurisdictions, it can depend on who’s the chief of police. That’s bad public policy. People should know whether they’re committing criminal acts or not.”
What Wu really wants is to legalize all gambling in the state, including sports betting, though he isn’t optimistic. So he’s focusing this bill on poker.
But over in the Texas Senate, Houston Democrat Carol Alvarado is taking a shot, filing a resolution to put casinos and sports betting on the November 2023 ballot.
Don’t hold your breath. But don’t fold your breath either. There’s movement on the Texas gambling regulation front, and that’s a step — however incremental — in the direction in which most of the rest of the country is moving.
This week on Gamble On …
Every Thursday, US Bets drops a new episode of the Gamble On podcast, and this week’s welcomed professional gambler Captain Jack Andrews, one of the co-founders of Unabated, for what has become an annual tradition of chatting with him on the pod — snuck in just under the wire for 2022. Among other topics, Andrews was asked to compare running a gambling business with actually gambling for a living:
— US Bets (@US_Bets) December 9, 2022
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
Pennsylvania does the two-step
Breaking the law, breaking the law
Something to Bragg about
Brick-and-mortar casinos in the works
Ashes to ashes … eventually
Maryland casino revenue up a smidge year-over-year
Maryland casinos generated $163.3 million in revenue from slot machines and table games in November 2022, according to a press release from the Maryland Lottery. The revenue total is a 1.9% increase from November 2021 numbers. The state’s six casinos contributed $67.7 million to the state, including $49.2 million to the state’s Education Trust Fund, an increase of 0.8% from November 2021.
MGM National Harbor ($71.6 million) and Live! Casino & Hotel ($57.1 million) carried the state’s casinos in terms of revenue. Horseshoe Casino was the only other casino to surpass $10 million in November, recording a revenue total of $16.3 million. The state’s other three casinos (Ocean Downs, Hollywood, and Rocky Gap) combined for just over $18 million in revenue.
— Bennett Conlin
Portland-area casino grapples with antitrust rumblings
Fresh off the opening of its new sportsbook at ilani Casino Resort, Southwest Washington State’s Cowlitz Indian Tribe is facing accusations that it retained the paid services of a consulting firm to prevent other casinos — including those operated by fellow tribes — from operating in the Greater Portland (Oregon) area.
According to a lengthy report in The Oregonian, Cowlitz tribal leader David Barnett, who passed away in May, brokered an agreement between the tribe and the firm Rossman and Studer to protect the ilani property from competitors — namely the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon. Although the tactics the firm was to undertake were not specified, The Oregonian reported that tribal members were concerned enough about engaging in anticompetitive practices that they consulted with a pair of antitrust attorneys.
Located about 30 miles away from downtown Portland, the ilani Casino Resort is currently the closest full-service gaming property to Oregon’s biggest city.
— Mike Seely
More from around the gaming biz
STOCKING STUFFER ON THE STRIP: Venetian employees rewarded with $1,500 bonuses for good year [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
ENCORE VALUES: Wynn Resorts completes sale and leaseback of Encore Boston Harbor [CDC Gaming Reports]
VIRGINIA IS FOR LAWSUITS: Lawsuit challenging Virginia’s skill game ban will continue into 2023 [Virginia Mercury]
‘BRAT’ WORST IN THIS HEADS-UP DUEL: Jason Koon beats Phil Hellmuth in $1,600,000 High Stakes Duel match [PokerGO]
SOMETHING NEW IN ‘BIGGEST LITTLE CITY’: California developer plans to build a casino resort near Reno convention center [Nevada Independent]
ANOTHER NUGGET FOR FERTITTA: Cripple Creek casino changes hands [The Gazette]
ROCK SOLID ADDITION: Plans for giant, guitar-shaped hotel at site of Mirage revealed by Hard Rock executives [KTNV Las Vegas]
Image: Blundell Design