April 30 was an historic day for online poker players in the United States. Just a bit more than two years after the indictment and civil cases that were termed “Black Friday” shut down the industry, Ultimate Poker became the first live real-money online poker site in the United States after Black Friday.
Nevada became the first state to legalize online poker in June 2011, and the regulations governing online gaming were issued in December 2011. Nevada gaming authorities granted Ultimate Poker a license in October and last week signed off last week on Ultimate Poker’s technology, which allowed them to launch.
Ultimate Gaming, a majority-owned subsidiary of Station Casinos, LLC, is operating UltimatePoker.com. Station Casinos owns sixteen casinos in Las Vegas. Ultimate Poker is the exclusive online gaming partner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Right now, Ultimate Poker is only available to people who are over the age of 21 and are located in Nevada, though you do not have to be a Nevada resident to participate. Players can register and deposit money into their accounts from anywhere in the world, but can only play when they are physically in Nevada. Players can also make deposits and withdrawals at any of Station Casinos’ locations in Las Vegas.
To verify location, Ultimate Poker will triangulate a customers’ cell phone signal, though some cell phone carriers are not participating in the plan yet. Some players reported difficulty when they tried to play on Ultimate Poker on the first day, including issues with the geo-location services and players being unaware that their cell phone carrier was not participating.
Nevada recently passed a bill that would authorize the state to enter into interstate gaming compacts with other states, a reality that became possible after the U.S. Department of Justice released an opinion in December 2011 stating that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting. Liquidity could become an issue for a state with a relatively small population such as Nevada, so interstate compacts could become vital to the long term success of the state’s online gaming industry.
Online gaming is legal in both New Jersey and Delaware, though those states have yet to go live. Nearly a dozen other states have at least considered some form of online gaming legislation in the past year.
We are very happy to see online poker back online again. Some hurdles remain for companies to assure that their products operate smoothly and efficiently, but it is a good day for the industry and players that real money poker is back online.
The state of New Jersey filed its opening brief on April 29 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in a case that could ultimately decide the fate of sports betting in the United States,
In February, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp struck down New Jersey’s new sports betting law, finding it invalid as conflicting with federal law. The federal law at issue is the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act of 1992 (PASPA), which prohibits any state from offering sports betting unless the state had a sports betting scheme in place between 1976 and 1990.
In 2011, New Jersey voters approved a referendum by a 2-1 margin to amend the state’s constitution to allow sports betting in the state’s casinos and racetracks. The state legislature then passed a bill legalizing sports betting in the state and it was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie (R). The New Jersey law would allow wagering on all major professional and collegiate sporting events, except collegiate sporting events involving New Jersey colleges, and on all sporting events, professional or collegiate, taking place in the state.
In August, the four major professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) filed suit against New Jersey arguing that the sports gambling law violated federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) later intervened as a plaintiff in the suit, joining the leagues.
The district court agreed with the plaintiffs and held that PASPA was a rational exercise of congressional power.
There have been prior challenges to PASPA in federal court, but none of those cases directly addressed the constitutionality of the statute, which the Third Circuit is being asked to do in this case.
New Jersey argues that PASPA is unconstitutional because it violates the anti-commandeering principle that Congress may not “require the States in their sovereign capacity to regulate their own citizens.” The Third Circuit’s view on the application of the anti-commandeering principle to PASPA is likely the key to this case for both sides. The district court held that PASPA did not violate the anti-commandeering principle because the doctrine is limited to laws that require some affirmative act by a state, and here New Jersey does not have to affirmatively take any action under the law.
New Jersey argues in its brief that there is no doctrinal basis for this requirement of affirmative conduct for “commandeering,” and that PASPA’s requirement to maintain existing laws is indistinguishable from a requirement to pass new laws. New Jersey cites case law stating that the anti-commandeering precedent turns on whether a law seeks “to control or influence that manner in which States regulate private parties.”
New Jersey also argues that PASPA violates the principle of equal sovereignty, which requires any discrimination among the states to be justified by “a showing that a statute’s geographic coverage is sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.” New Jersey argues that PASPA plainly discriminates among the states and that sports wagering is not the type of “local problem” that justifies different treatment among them. The justification in PASPA for the different treatment of the states was that some states already permitted sports wagering, a difference that does not justify the different treatment between the states.
New Jersey also challenged the leagues’ standing to bring the suit, arguing that although PASPA granted the leagues a right of action to enforce PASPA, “that act does not alter Article III’s jurisdictional requirements.” A separate hearing on just the standing issue was held by the district court in December, and the court found that the leagues did have standing to bring the suit. New Jersey argued that the district court relied on the general harm caused by illegal sports wagering, but that this harm was not traceable to the legalization of sports wagering in New Jersey. New Jersey also noted that the district court placed heavy emphasis on the 3rd Circuit decision in Office of the Commissioner of Baseball v. Markell, a decision that did not address the issue of standing.
The state argues that the standing of DOJ to enforce the law is irrelevant here because “intervention will not be permitted to breathe life into a ‘nonexistent’ law suit.” The court will sometimes treat the pleadings of an intervenor such as DOJ as a separate action, but New Jersey argues that this would not be justified here since DOJ’s intervention cannot be construed as a separate action because it did not sue to enforce the law; rather, DOJ intervened to defend PASPA’s constitutionality.
Intervenor defendants, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, Inc. as well as State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly Sheila Y. Oliver, also filed briefs arguing that PASPA is unconstitutional.
The deadline for the response from the leagues is May 23 and New Jersey will have an opportunity to file a reply brief by May 30. Oral arguments are scheduled in the appeals court on June 26.
The ruling in this case will have very far-reaching implications. A decision in favor of New Jersey will allow states to offer sports betting within their borders. It was not surprising that the district court ruled that New Jersey’s sports wagering law was invalid, but the law may have a different fate in the 3rd Circuit. New Jersey has some very compelling arguments that PASPA is unconstitutional and later this year we will find out if the appeals court agrees.
On March 19, 2013, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), announced that it has adopted temporary regulations authorizing the state’s casinos to offer fantasy sports tournaments to their patrons. The regulations permit casinos, on their own or in partnership with fantasy sports providers, to offer fantasy sports tournaments or contests.
The temporary regulations will remain in effect for a period of 270 days. During that time, the DGE will propose the regulations for final adoption. The text of the regulations could change from their current form to the form that is eventually adopted. The regulations will become effective on April 22, 2013. The minimum age for participation in fantasy sports tournaments at casinos is 21. Full text of the temporary regulations is available here.
A fantasy sports tournament is a simulated game in which a player manages an imaginary sports team and competes for a monetary prize against teams managed by other players. Since fantasy sports involve considerable skill in the selection of teams and players, they are widely considered not to constitute gambling. Fantasy sports can involve season-long or single-day tournaments.
The New Jersey temporary regulations clearly define that all prizes and awards must be made known to all participants prior to the start of the tournament. The winning outcome of a fantasy sports tournament shall reflect the relative skill of the participants and the outcome cannot be determined solely on the performance of any individual athlete or on the score, point spread, or performance of any single real world team or combination of teams.
The temporary regulations authorize casinos to utilize the casino cage to accept entry fees and pay out winnings from fantasy sports tournaments in the casino. Under the temporary regulations, fantasy sports are not considered to be gambling under state law. Therefore, revenue generated from these games is not subject to the same taxes as revenue generated from table games and other games offered in casinos.
This announcement on fantasy sports is part of a flurry of activity in New Jersey dealing with the state’s gaming industry. Last month, New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gaming within its borders, and games could be online by the end of the year. Earlier this month, a federal judge in New Jersey struck down the state’s sports betting law and the decision has been appealed by the state to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
We are very happy to see New Jersey add fantasy sports offerings in its casinos. This will be a boost for the state as well as for patrons who will soon be able to play these games in casinos.
On February 28, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion in which it declined to address the legality of playing poker in the state but left open the possibility for the issue to be decided in a future case. The full opinion in the case, Daniels v. Mobley, is available here.
Charles Daniels, a former poker hall operator who operated charitable bingo halls in Portsmouth, Virginia, for decades, filed suit in 2010 seeking a declaratory judgment that Texas Hold ‘em poker is legal under Virginia’s gambling statute.
Under Virginia law, “illegal gambling” is defined as:
“the making, placing or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.”
The law also states that:
“Nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent any contest of speed or skill . . . where participants may receive prizes or different percentages of a purse, stake or premium dependent upon whether they win or lose or dependent upon their position or score at the end of such contest.”
Daniels argued that the outcome of Texas Hold ‘em poker is determined by skill and not luck and therefore the game does not violate the Virginia statute. In the circuit court Daniels presented testimony of two math experts and a world champion poker player to support the skill argument.
The lower court ruled that poker was a game of chance, stating that “all the evidence indicates that the outcome of any one hand is uncertain.” Daniels then appealed the case to the Virginia Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court declined to address the legality of poker, holding that the court could not rule on the case because the request for a declaratory judgment on the status of Texas Hold ‘em poker “failed to present a justiciable controversy over which the circuit court could exercise jurisdiction.” Since there was no justiciable controversy, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the claim.
The court did not directly address the argument that poker is a game of skill and not chance, an argument that has been accepted by other courts. It thus left the door open for the argument to be made in the future.
Daniels also argued that the state’s anti-gambling statute is unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the circuit court that the statute is not unconstitutionally vague because it gives fair notice and an individual of ordinary intelligence can discern its meaning.
In our view, poker is a game of skill and not chance and thus should not be considered gambling under the Virginia statute. The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to rule on other grounds left poker supporters with a lost opportunity, but there will be other opportunities to make the argument in this and other courts.
Last night, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp released an opinion in the widely watched New Jersey sports betting case, stating that New Jersey’s sports betting law is invalid as conflicting with federal law. Now, the future of sports betting in the United States will be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act of 1992 (PASPA), prohibits any state from offering sports betting unless that state had a sports betting scheme in place between 1976 and 1990. Under the law Delaware, Oregon and Montana were granted limited sports betting schemes and Nevada is the only state authorized to offer single-game sports betting.
In 2011, New Jersey voters approved a referendum by a 2-1 margin to amend the state constitution to allow for sports betting in the state’s casinos and racetracks. The state legislature then passed a bill legalizing sports betting in the state and it was signed into law by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R). The New Jersey law would allow wagering on all major professional and collegiate sporting events, except collegiate sporting events involving New Jersey colleges, and all sporting events, professional or collegiate, taking place in the state.
In August, the four major professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) filed suit against New Jersey arguing that the state’s sports gambling law was in violation of federal law.
In December, the court heard oral arguments on the leagues’ standing to bring the suit and found that they did have standing. After that ruling, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its intention to intervene and join the four major sports leagues and the NCAA as plaintiffs in the case. The DOJ filed a brief on February 1 defending the constitutionality of PASPA.
Judge Shipp heard oral arguments on February 14, 2013, on the constitutionality of PASPA. The oral arguments focused on three main constitutional issues: Congress’s power to regulate sports betting under the Commerce Clause and the applicability of the uniformity and equal sovereignty principles under the Commerce Clause, due process and equal protection issues under the Fifth Amendment, and the contention that the law violates the anti-commandeering principle that prohibits the federal government from imposing duties on state legislators or executive officials to carry out a federal initiative.
After a very lengthy analysis, the court found that PASPA did not violate the anti-commandeering principle because it “neither compels nor commandeers New Jersey to take any action.” One point of contention during oral arguments was if the anti-commandeering principle applies only when a state is required to engage in affirmative activity. The court agreed with the leagues on this point, by stating that the case law makes it clear that, “Congress cannot, via the Commerce Clause, force States to engage in affirmative activity” and noted that the difference between forcing a state to affirmatively do something and being prohibited from doing something “is not merely academic or insubstantial.”
The court’s opinion also made it clear that it does not believe that PASPA violates any Tenth Amendment principles. The state has argued that Nevada was essentially granted a monopoly on single game sports betting through PASPA and that was a challenge to its state sovereignty. The court did not agree that PASPA usurps state sovereignty and noted that “the fact that gambling might be considered an area subject to the States’ traditional police powers does not change this conclusion.”
The court found that PASPA’s grandfathering clause that allows a few states to offer sports betting comports with the Commerce Clause. The court pointed to the legislative findings of PASPA stating that, “Congress has determined that the substantial reliance interests of the grandfathered states merit preservation and protection,” and therefore, the grandfather clause contained in PASPA passed the rational basis review.
This decision on the constitutionality of PASPA will almost inevitably be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the state will have 30 days to file its appeal. The Third Circuit has heard prior appeals regarding PASPA, but has never directly addressed the constitutionality of the statute, which it will need to in this case.
New Jersey could also appeal the decision by Judge Shipp granting the leagues standing to bring this lawsuit. The leagues have stated in court filings that “the impact of state-sponsored gambling on the public perception of their games and their relationships with their fans are sufficient to confer constitutional standing in this case.” The leagues also argue that Congress expressly recognized that they would suffer from the spread of state-sponsored gambling on their games and provided them with a cause of action under PASPA.
The two sides disagree on what precedent has been set by the Third Circuit on standing issues related to PASPA. In 2009, the Third Circuit ruled in Office of the Commissioner of Baseball v. Markell, that Delaware’s plan to expand its sports betting offerings violated PASPA. Standing was not discussed in the opinion in Markell and lawyers for the leagues argued that this was because the standing of the leagues was so obvious that the court did not need to address it. At oral arguments, Judge Shipp directly asked the state how it could reconcile its argument that the league lacked standing with the Third Circuit’s decision.
The Supreme Court has never addressed PASPA.
This decision is a minor setback for New Jersey, and the future of sports betting in America will be played out in the Third Circuit. It would have been a bold step for a federal district court judge to overturn a federal law that had been existence for two decades. Judge Shipp’s ruling shows that he was being conservative in deferring to Congress in this case, even noting that “judicial intervention is generally unwarranted no matter how unwise a court considers a policy decision of the legislative branch.”
Today, New Jersey became the third state in the country to legalize online gaming within its borders, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) signed into law a bill legalizing online gaming in the state.
Here is a video in which Jeff Ifrah, founding partner of Ifrah Law, discusses this exciting development.
Both houses of the state legislature had previously passed the bill by large margins and Gov. Christie had sent the bill back to the legislature requesting minor changes to the bill. The legislature made the changes requested by Gov. Christie, and on Tuesday the state General Assembly voted 68-5-1 to pass the bill with the Governor’s requested changes. The State Senate then voted to pass the bill by a margin of 35-1. Governor Christie signed the bill into law shortly thereafter.
The changes requested by the Governor included an enhanced level of funding for compulsive gambling treatment programs, a requirement that state employees and legislators disclose any representation past or present of entities seeking Internet gaming licenses, and an extension of a prohibition on any casino-related employment for state employees and legislators to include companies involved in Internet gaming.
New Jersey’s online gaming law would allow the state to participate in interstate gaming compacts with other states that have legalized online gaming within their borders, as long as this is consistent with federal law. Online gaming compacts would allow for the possibility of generating much larger player pools for the games as well as significant extra revenue for the state.
Under the law, casinos or their affiliates would be allowed to offer the same games that are currently offered on Atlantic City casino gaming floors. All players must be physically located in New Jersey, but do not need to be residents of New Jersey. There is no definitive word yet on when games will become operational, but it is quite possible that it could happen this year.
The law will help to stimulate the New Jersey economy and created needed jobs and revenue for the state.
“Internet gaming will provide a lifeline to New Jersey casinos by producing more jobs and additional revenue,” said bill sponsor New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D). “At the same time, it will contribute to the state’s economic recovery and generate more revenue for state programs for seniors and the disabled.”
Under the law, all equipment used in Internet gaming is required to be located in Atlantic City. This will create a significant number of jobs in the region.
We are very happy to see New Jersey enact an online gaming law. This will be an enormous boost for the state as well as great news for gamers, who will soon be able to play online again.
A Nevada man now has a criminal record – simply because he placed a bet in a casino in Las Vegas and a casino employee didn’t ask him enough questions.
Robert Walker recently pleaded guilty in federal court to one misdemeanor count involving a record-keeping violation and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. He was also ordered to pay a $250 fine and agreed to forfeit a $32,400 bet he made in March 2011.
Walker was a member of Acme Trading Group, a company whose members placed bets for several years at a number of casinos on Acme’s behalf. Acme is structured in a way that allows individuals to invest in the company, and bets are made on behalf of the company.
Messenger betting is a crime under Nevada law that occurs when wagers are placed at sports books by individuals on behalf of others. Thus far, Acme Trading Group has not been prosecuted for messenger betting, although Walker and others have clearly been subject to law enforcement scrutiny.
In November 2011, Walker was indicted on four felony counts under 31 U.S.C. 5313(a) for causing a domestic financial institution to fail to file an accurate currency transaction report. Walker faced a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted of all charges.
The indictment alleged that on four occasions, Walker went to the Golden Nugget Casino Race & Sports Book and placed a bet of more than $10,000, and that when he was asked by the employee taking the bet if he was gambling on behalf of anyone else, he said that he was not.
Under federal law, all financial institutions, which include casinos, must file reports of any currency transactions over $10,000. The casino must also verify the name and the address of the individual placing the bet and the taxpayer identification information of the person on whose behalf the bet is being placed.
Walker’s attorneys contended in court filings that the burden is on the casinos, and not the individual bettor, to determine whether the individual is placing the bet on behalf of himself or a third party. Walker’s attorneys stated that Golden Nugget personnel never asked him if he was placing bets on behalf of someone else, and if they had asked him, he would have informed them that he was wagering on behalf of Acme. He had been instructed by his employer, he said, that if asked, he should reply to casino personnel that he was placing the bet on behalf of Acme.
Attorneys for Walker also stated in court papers that they hired an investigator who went to the Golden Nugget and engaged in at least seven transactions that required reporting under federal law. In none of those transactions did casino personnel ever ask the investigator if he was placing the wager for himself or on behalf of someone else.
This is a case that simply did not need to be prosecuted. Factually, there were very serious questions raised regarding the role that the casino played in trying to obtain the information necessary to file the reports and regarding the issue of who is responsible for making sure that information is reported.
Walker accepted a plea that would grant him a year of unsupervised probation; the indictment he was originally facing had a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Walker now has a criminal record as the result of very aggressive and unnecessary prosecution. Is this the type of case that the government’s limited prosecutorial resources should be focused on?
Federal Criminal (Other)
New Jersey will likely learn within two weeks if it will be able to move forward with its plan to implement sports betting in the state’s casinos and racetracks.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp heard oral arguments in Trenton on February 14, 2013, on the constitutionality of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and will decide the initial fate of the bill passed last year by the state legislature to legalize sports betting in the state.
The implications of this ruling will be far-reaching, since a decision in favor of the state would remove the biggest hurdle for New Jersey and other states that wish to implement sports betting plans. A favorable ruling could bring live sports betting to New Jersey within a few months.
In December, the court heard oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the suit and found that they did have standing. Next, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its intention to intervene and join the four major sports leagues and the NCAA as plaintiffs in the case. The DOJ filed a brief on February 1 defending the constitutionality of PASPA.
Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, argued on behalf of the DOJ at the hearing and emphasized that PASPA was intended to stop the spread of state-sponsored gambling. Fishman’s arguments focused on the constitutional soundness of the statute, emphasizing that as long as there was a rational basis to pass the law, it was a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause.
Ted Olson, the former United States Solicitor General who was arguing on behalf of the state, opened his arguments by making reference to the jobs and revenue that legalized sports betting would create for New Jersey. Olson also emphasized how state voters, the legislature, and the governor had all backed a law last year that would permit sports wagering but are prevented from implementing the law because of PASPA.
Fishman ended his initial arguments by discussing a 1991 memo written by the DOJ when PASPA was under consideration in Congress – a memo that the DOJ did not address in its brief on the constitutionality of PASPA. This memo noted that determinations of how to raise revenue are typically left to the states and since PASPA was seeking to regulate how states generate revenue, “it raises federalism issues.” Fishman tried to downplay the significance of the letter and argued that the “federalism issues” that the letter refers to were taken out of context.
The arguments covering the anti-commandeering principle, which prohibits the federal government from imposing duties on state legislators or executive officials to carry out a federal initiative, seemed to be of particular interest to Judge Shipp. Both sides argued at length about any costs or burden that New Jersey has been forced to take on in order to be in compliance with PASPA. Jeffrey Mishkin, representing the sports leagues, argued that for anti-commandeering issues to arise, the law must require some affirmative conduct from the state and that PASPA does not compel New Jersey to do anything. Olson also pointed out that there are costs and burdens imposed on New Jersey for complying with PASPA. Olson emphasized that the federal government should not be allowed to impose its will on the state, especially since Nevada has essentially been given a monopoly on single sports game betting under the statute.
The decision in this case will likely be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. That court has heard prior appeals involving PASPA, but none of those cases addressed the issue of the constitutionality of the statute. The Supreme Court has never addressed PASPA.
It remains to be seen how Judge Shipp will rule in this case. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who has spearheaded New Jersey’s efforts to bring sports gambling to the state, has stated that sports betting could be live within 60 days if New Jersey receives a favorable ruling in the case. We support New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports wagering in the state in the interests of helping its economy and citizens.
We have previously reported in this space about the use of domain name seizures by American law enforcement – for example, here and here. Recent media reports show that domain name seizure has become the go-to tactic for law enforcement for other countries as well.
Canadian police made a series of arrests during an invitation-only Super Bowl party attended by 2300 people as part of Project Amethyst. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson says this was connected with the arrest of 21 individuals related to a separate online credit betting operation in November. The more recent arrests were connected with an online sports betting operation that used the website located at www.platinumsb.com. In addition to arresting six individuals, officers also seized $2.5 million in cash as a result of the execution of nine search warrants in and around Toronto.
Police also seized the domain name associated with a Costa Rica-based website, which is registered with Washington State-based Enom, Inc. Police obtained a Canadian court order for that purpose, and then submitted a request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between Canada and the United States. The domain name was then transferred to the control of Canadian law enforcement authorities who, in turn, redirected it to a new landing page. Visitors to the platinumsb.com website are now greeted by a notice stating that the web site has been “restrained by court order granted to the Attorney General of Ontario.”
Media reports indicate that the website was back online as www.platinumsb.tk within hours of the shutdown. The .tk top level domain belongs to Tokelau, a non-self-governing territory off the coast of New Zealand. The .tk version of the domain name was reportedly registered in 2004, suggesting that the group operating the sports book had set up contingency plans for a seizure of its .com website.
Whatever the merits of the Canadian prosecution against individuals affiliated with PlatinumSB, the seizure of the platinumsb.com domain name certainly shows that domain name seizure is by no means a tactic used only by U.S. law enforcement. As more and more businesses move largely or exclusively to the Internet, the global use of this law enforcement tactic is sure to grow.
Facebook is quickly expanding its real money gaming platform. Net Entertainments has signed a license agreement with Bonza Gaming, which is a joint venture between gaming publisher Plumbee and online gaming operator Sportingbet. Under the agreement Net Entertainment will offer a range of casino games to Bonza Gaming, which will create an app, Bonza Slots, that will be available on Facebook to users that want to participate in real money gaming.
Facebook is now the world’s largest social media outlet, with over a billion active users. Last summer, Facebook announced that it would expand its social gaming to real money gaming, beginning initially with users in the United Kingdom. Bonza Slots becomes the third real money gaming app on Facebook, joining Gamesys and 888 Holdings; all three companies have recently reached deals with Facebook to launch their real money gaming apps. With Facebook’s massive user base, it can accomplish what other online gaming sites could likely only achieve on a much smaller scale — the ability to reach a large and constantly growing base of players.
Facebook is no stranger to online gaming. For some time now, it has offered its users the option of playing online games for Facebook credits as an alternative to real money. In 2011, Facebook changed its advertising policies, allowing online gambling companies to advertise in jurisdictions where such services are permitted. In the past, Facebook has been extremely strict when it comes to advertising online gambling business on its website. Now, Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines web page has a specific online gambling clause under the Gambling and Lotteries subsection of the Ad Content section, which reads: “Ads that promote or facilitate online gambling, games of skill or lotteries, including online casino, sports books, bingo, or poker, are only allowed in specific countries with prior authorization from Facebook.”
It is not clear how much Facebook will charge real money gaming companies to operate on its platform. In general, Facebook charges other apps 30 percent of their revenue, and there is no indication that gaming will work any differently. After reviewing Facebook’s public filings, we still have some questions about this and we will report back as we find answers.
In any case, Facebook’s new online real gaming platform will immediately give it a strong position in the real money market in the United Kingdom and a great opportunity to monetize its very large user base. With legislative efforts for real money online gaming gaining momentum across the United States, Facebook could be well positioned to be a power in the U.S. market in the future if it chooses to do so.