Tag: State

Gambling Professionals In Nevada Can File For State Unemployment

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country. Every industry is affected by business closures and there are record numbers of people being furloughed or laid off. Due to these times, even professional gamblers in Nevada are now allowed to file for unemployment.

From Las Vegas to Reno and everywhere in between there are more than 200 casinos in the state of Nevada that will remain closed until April 30 or later to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The 206,000 casino employees aren’t the only people feeling the effect of the closures.

Professional gamblers are feeling the pinch as well. Poker players don’t have a venue to make a living. Sports bettors only have four sports betting apps with limited wagering options available. Blackjack and other advantage gamblers don’t have casinos in Nevada and around the country to use their skills.

Unemployment for Nevada gamblers

Gambling isn’t a traditional job but it’s a way for some Nevada residents to make a living. Normally professional gamblers wouldn’t be able to file for unemployment — but these aren’t normal times. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, professional gamblers may qualify as independent contractors or self-employed under the CARES Act for the time being.

Professional poker player Chris Konvalinka tells the newspaper “I’m going to give it a shot.” In true poker player lingo, he went on to say that “It seems like a freeroll to me. Worst case, they say no.”

Anecdotally, only about 1% of all gamblers consider themselves professionals. An even smaller portion of those gamblers are full-time professionals. A portion of professional gamblers keep a regular day job while using their gambling skills part-time.

Many full-time professional gamblers are truly self-employed and report income and file taxes just like many freelancers who work for themselves. As Konvalinka said, this is a freeroll to make up for revenue lost while the casinos are closed and sports betting options are limited.

Gambling in Nevada during the quarantine

Gambling options for professional and recreational gamblers in Nevada during the quarantine are limited. Governor Steve Sisolak has ordered all casinos and non-essential businesses to close until at least April 30. Additionally, all gaming machines have been turned off. This means that not even slot machines inside essential businesses like supermarkets are available.

There’s only one gambling option for table game players. World Series of Poker‘s web site is open for poker players throughout the Silver State. The games at WSOP include a pool of players beyond Nevada. The website allows players from New Jersey, Delaware, and, of course, Nevada.

Most professional sports leagues remain closed so the options for sports bettors are very limited. Placing wagers on future events is always popular but not everyone wants to tie their money up for months in something that may or may not take place.

There are still a few sports to wager on such as esports, table tennis, UFC, and small division international soccer, hockey, and basketball. Some sportsbook operators even offer in-play wagering for select events.

Sports bettors in Nevada still have access to a few sportsbooks that are active because of their mobile sports wagering apps:

  • BetMGM
  • Caesars
  • Circa Sports
  • William Hill

Only players with an existing account can wager. Three of the four apps accept mobile deposits for anyone looking to wager on current and future events. Circa Sports is the only Nevada sports wagering app that doesn’t accept deposits outside of the casino.

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Esports Interest Growing Among Players, But Less So For State Lawmakers

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If you were a sporting sort, now might seem like the time to place a wager on the broader acceptance of betting on esports, or organized multiplayer video games.

While esports are wildly popular and gaining even greater acceptance, it is not so with esports wagering. At least not yet — and likely not in the next few months. Maybe not this year, either, with politicians focused on the existential threat posed by the coronavirus and not on the lost revenue that has resulted from that threat.

The growing interest in esports

Interest in esports is way up, but not in statehouses, which is a puzzle.

The popularity and the viewership for esports are at a record high across delivery platforms such as Twitch, with individual participants topping 2 billion. Those hordes of gamers are watching consecutively for more than five hours at a stretch, MarketWatch reported just this week.

That’s the sort of audience engagement that marketers only dream about.

Few jurisdictions allow sports betting. But here’s the rub: Most esports currently do not include sanctioned wagering.

Esports’ massive and growing numbers of fans and players make sense for a world constantly craving entertainment and a sports void created by COVID-19. After all, precautions against the pandemic have benched nearly every sporting event dependent on physical competition.

And without most traditional sports, there is almost no sports betting — plus, no sports revenue and no tax revenue from betting. That’s significant.

Between June 2018 and late March 2020, aggregate sports revenue topped $20.5 billion and state tax revenue was more than $180.8 million. Those are some big holes to fill.

Nevada just approved esports wagering

Only two states, Nevada and New Jersey, have clearly prioritized esports wagering in 2020, though that does not entirely translate quickly.

Just last month, Nevada agreed to let sportsbooks to take wagers on Counter-Strike ESL Pro League. In both Nevada and New Jersey, NASCAR iRacing is approved, but no other esports.

Because of the virus, the regular season will take place entirely online to avoid international travel. The finals will take place in a studio in Europe but without spectators.

Esports events routinely are held before live audiences and staged at arenas. Matches began on March 16 and they run through April 9. This year’s season includes 24 teams, divided into four groups.

There are numerous possible wagers in esports, but Nevada began by allowing just three:

  • Head-to-head
  • Winner of each match
  • Overall season winner

What might come next in the Silver State is unclear.

New Jersey is working on approving esports

New Jersey did a brief test run on esports wagering last November. Several esports tourneys (without wagering) also took place in Atlantic City.

A state assemblyman moved a bill through committee in early March, but there’s been no forward motion since, legislatively. A regulatory framework must also get approved.

Anthony Gaud, president and co-founder of the Jersey-based G3 Gaming Group, is confident that full approval of wagering on esports will come, but he is not sure when.

Gaud testified on behalf of the passage of the enabling legislation.

David Rebuck, New Jersey’s director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, endorsed the bill during the committee meeting.

“New Jersey is the most aggressive state” in the country intent on approving esports gambling, said Gaud. He mentioned benefits such as attracting STEM students, IT and software professionals and building hotel room nights around tournaments.

“It is something happening overtime, seeing what works and what didn’t work” in other locations, added Gaud.

Esports has sticking points

One ongoing issue, in his view, is gambling executives in Atlantic City have been slow to incorporate mobile devices into their businesses.

Other sticking points that Gaud agreed with are:

  • An age gap. The esports industry is unfamiliar to older lawmakers and regulators.
  • There is no one universal definition of what is or isn’t esports.
  • Esports gamers do not fit the familiar demographics of casino gamblers, nor even mobile phone-leaning sportsbook fans.
  • Policing esports is a challenge and fixing of matches is a real concern.

Esports progress for Washington tribal casinos

Washington state tribal casinos approved to offer esports as part of a sports betting bill. Still, each tribe will negotiate individually with the state for precisely what is provided, according to Geek Wire.

But the news site also reported that esports is unlikely to be included initially. And even once approved, esports wagers would only be allowed at retail locations, not via mobile or internet.

Many murky situations

  • Indiana, which offers legal sports betting, has flatly banned esports. The situation in other states with sports betting is murky.
  • Colorado is set to add sports betting on May 1, except, of course, there are virtually no sports to bet on due to the pandemic. The Denver Post reported in mid-March that the app PointsBet is working to have esports available, but details are scant.
  • West Virginia has proposed esports legislation, which has not been enacted.
  • Rhode Island is hung up by a legal challenge to its sports betting law, according to Legal Sports Report.
  • Pennsylvania and additional jurisdictions have murky laws, Play Pennsylvania recently reported. Most neither allow nor expressly ban wagering on esports, so it doesn’t look like PA is moving toward approval.

With a robust sports betting market even online, you might think a jurisdiction with revenue shrunk by the virus might be the candidate to go next.

You’d be wrong.

PA Sen. Tom Killion said, “While the COVID-19 emergency is an unprecedented public health and economic emergency and esports wagering is a potential new revenue stream, I’m not aware of any discussion regarding esports wagering. … ”

Killion, a Republican, leads the committee that oversees most gambling legislation in PA.

His Democrat counterpart, Sen. Lindsey Willams, also said esports is not a legislative priority now, as did Jim Marshall, chair of the gaming committee in the legislature’s lower house.

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Esports Interest Growing Among Players, But Less So For State Lawmakers

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If you were a sporting sort, now might seem like the time to place a wager on the broader acceptance of betting on esports, or organized multiplayer video games.

While esports are wildly popular and gaining even greater acceptance, it is not so with esports wagering. At least not yet — and likely not in the next few months. Maybe not this year, either, with politicians focused on the existential threat posed by the coronavirus and not on the lost revenue that has resulted from that threat.

The growing interest in esports

Interest in esports is way up, but not in statehouses, which is a puzzle.

The popularity and the viewership for esports are at a record high across delivery platforms such as Twitch, with individual participants topping 2 billion. Those hordes of gamers are watching consecutively for more than five hours at a stretch, MarketWatch reported just this week.

That’s the sort of audience engagement that marketers only dream about.

Few jurisdictions allow sports betting. But here’s the rub: Most esports currently do not include sanctioned wagering.

Esports’ massive and growing numbers of fans and players make sense for a world constantly craving entertainment and a sports void created by COVID-19. After all, precautions against the pandemic have benched nearly every sporting event dependent on physical competition.

And without most traditional sports, there is almost no sports betting — plus, no sports revenue and no tax revenue from betting. That’s significant.

Between June 2018 and late March 2020, aggregate sports revenue topped $20.5 billion and state tax revenue was more than $180.8 million. Those are some big holes to fill.

Nevada just approved esports wagering

Only two states, Nevada and New Jersey, have clearly prioritized esports wagering in 2020, though that does not entirely translate quickly.

Just last month, Nevada agreed to let sportsbooks to take wagers on Counter-Strike ESL Pro League. In both Nevada and New Jersey, NASCAR iRacing is approved, but no other esports.

Because of the virus, the regular season will take place entirely online to avoid international travel. The finals will take place in a studio in Europe but without spectators.

Esports events routinely are held before live audiences and staged at arenas. Matches began on March 16 and they run through April 9. This year’s season includes 24 teams, divided into four groups.

There are numerous possible wagers in esports, but Nevada began by allowing just three:

  • Head-to-head
  • Winner of each match
  • Overall season winner

What might come next in the Silver State is unclear.

New Jersey is working on approving esports

New Jersey did a brief test run on esports wagering last November. Several esports tourneys (without wagering) also took place in Atlantic City.

A state assemblyman moved a bill through committee in early March, but there’s been no forward motion since, legislatively. A regulatory framework must also get approved.

Anthony Gaud, president and co-founder of the Jersey-based G3 Gaming Group, is confident that full approval of wagering on esports will come, but he is not sure when.

Gaud testified on behalf of the passage of the enabling legislation.

David Rebuck, New Jersey’s director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, endorsed the bill during the committee meeting.

“New Jersey is the most aggressive state” in the country intent on approving esports gambling, said Gaud. He mentioned benefits such as attracting STEM students, IT and software professionals and building hotel room nights around tournaments.

“It is something happening overtime, seeing what works and what didn’t work” in other locations, added Gaud.

Esports has sticking points

One ongoing issue, in his view, is gambling executives in Atlantic City have been slow to incorporate mobile devices into their businesses.

Other sticking points that Gaud agreed with are:

  • An age gap. The esports industry is unfamiliar to older lawmakers and regulators.
  • There is no one universal definition of what is or isn’t esports.
  • Esports gamers do not fit the familiar demographics of casino gamblers, nor even mobile phone-leaning sportsbook fans.
  • Policing esports is a challenge and fixing of matches is a real concern.

Esports progress for Washington tribal casinos

Washington state tribal casinos approved to offer esports as part of a sports betting bill. Still, each tribe will negotiate individually with the state for precisely what is provided, according to Geek Wire.

But the news site also reported that esports is unlikely to be included initially. And even once approved, esports wagers would only be allowed at retail locations, not via mobile or internet.

Many murky situations

  • Indiana, which offers legal sports betting, has flatly banned esports. The situation in other states with sports betting is murky.
  • Colorado is set to add sports betting on May 1, except, of course, there are virtually no sports to bet on due to the pandemic. The Denver Post reported in mid-March that the app PointsBet is working to have esports available, but details are scant.
  • West Virginia has proposed esports legislation, which has not been enacted.
  • Rhode Island is hung up by a legal challenge to its sports betting law, according to Legal Sports Report.
  • Pennsylvania and additional jurisdictions have murky laws, Play Pennsylvania recently reported. Most neither allow nor expressly ban wagering on esports, so it doesn’t look like PA is moving toward approval.

With a robust sports betting market even online, you might think a jurisdiction with revenue shrunk by the virus might be the candidate to go next.

You’d be wrong.

PA Sen. Tom Killion said, “While the COVID-19 emergency is an unprecedented public health and economic emergency and esports wagering is a potential new revenue stream, I’m not aware of any discussion regarding esports wagering. … ”

Killion, a Republican, leads the committee that oversees most gambling legislation in PA.

His Democrat counterpart, Sen. Lindsey Willams, also said esports is not a legislative priority now, as did Jim Marshall, chair of the gaming committee in the legislature’s lower house.

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Why Is Oregon The Only State Losing Money On Sports Betting?

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Few expected Oregon sports betting to wow the world with its lone online sportsbook.

The Scoreboard app, produced by Oregon Lottery and powered by SBTech, enjoys a mobile monopoly in the state. It launched in fall 2019 following months of delays. Plus, it prohibits wagering on college sports — not just in-state college sports but all college sports.

Yet the lottery maintained a rosy outlook, one that included a revenue projection of $6.3 million from sports betting in its first year.

That optimism has since taken quite a hit. According to a memo from lottery director Barry Pack to the Oregon Lottery Commissioners, after “examining contracts and reviewing expenses” since Scoreboard launched “and establishing revenue run-rates and based on actual results,” the lottery expects to suffer a loss of $5.3 million for the first nine months of the 2020 fiscal year.

Oregon Lottery analyzes sources of setbacks

During the lottery’s Board of Commissioners meeting near the end of February, Pack cited several reasons as to why Scoreboard has vastly underperformed.

For one, Pack noted that “a new sales channel and a new product” needs ample time to reach profitability. “So, there is no big surprise here that we aren’t at profitability at four months. We did a three-year forecast (in summer 2019) because we weren’t sure exactly where in that first three years we’d hit profitability.”

That forecast estimated a $6.3 million net profit in the first year of Scoreboard’s existence, a total that would increase to $13.9 million and $23.4 million over the next two years.

However, costs apparently became insurmountable for the Oregon Lottery: some $16 million in direct and indirect expenses. A bulk of that, Pack explained, could be attributed to start-up costs that “were higher than we anticipated.” Add in legal fees, “fairly significant” testing costs and higher-than-anticipated geolocation fees. Not to mention increased labor costs because of issues relating to the app’s launch.

Because of these costs, in essence, Scoreboard has operated out of a hole from the start.

The Scoreboard hold percentage

This is all without mentioning Scoreboard’s less-than-ideal take on bets placed. That margin, as Pack described, has drastically fallen short of expectations.

“We built that original forecast on an 8% margin and actuals for the first four months are more around 7 percent,” Pack said. “And that 1% actually makes a fairly significant difference in terms of profitability.”

Of the $66.2 million wagered via Scoreboard through January, the lottery netted $4.5 million in revenue, reflecting a less-than 7% hold. Further, the state has lost $2.3 million during that time.

Pack closed by emphasizing his dissatisfaction with the deficit and how he and his team are committed to keeping costs down and “finding creative ways to boost the margin” to help reverse the app’s fate.

Oregon sports betting has issues to address

Certainly, the Oregon Lottery faces myriad obstacles in its attempt to turn things around with the Scoreboard app.

Chief among them, however, are two issues that seem insurmountable but would assuredly get Scoreboard on the right track.

Monopoly sportsbook does not pay off

Of the 15 states with legalized sports betting, 10 offer mobile wagering in some form. Of those 14 states, only four are monopolized aka lottery-run: Oregon, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (all three of which have authorized online betting) and Delaware.

And of those 14 states, only one would end its first fiscal year in the red: Oregon.

While complete control of the market allows for Scoreboard to capture 100% of all legal online wagers made in Oregon, the positives essentially stop there.

Without competition, Scoreboard does not truly need to worry itself with friendly prices or even frequent bonuses or promotions. Arguably the lottery is not pressured to fix any technical issues users face — at least not as quickly. On a larger scale, fewer operators equates to fewer platforms that can potentially lure bettors away from offshore sites, or attract new bettors.

The goal of state-sanctioned wagering, lawmakers across the country have agreed, is to take business away from and ultimately shut down illegal sports betting. In a monopoly, Oregon cannot do enough to acquire customers and accomplish that feat.

For the record, the state could have other online sportsbooks active via partnerships with tribal casinos. It’s likely, though, those apps would only be accessible while on site.

It could also just open up a more open model of competition, something the lottery is tasked with in Tennessee.

Adding college sports betting would help

In the call with the Board of Commissioners, Pack noted how Scoreboard could gain more traction.

The availability of collegiate wagering,” he said, “is still up in the air … which would bring that margin up fairly substantially because of the interest in college sports and the fact that we could turn it on with really no costs.”

Oregon launched Scoreboard with the stipulation of only accepting wagers on professional sports. Some states, such as New Jersey, have prohibited betting on college events staged within respective state lines or on colleges located within the borders. Oregon outlawed college betting altogether.

That means taking away college football (up there with the NFL for most popular sport to wager on) and betting on March Madness, among others. That’s quite a lot of money left on the table.

An Oregon Lottery spokesman has indicated that lottery officials are working toward integrating collegiate betting.

“The ability to offer collegiate wagering would speed our progress towards profitability — increasing revenue with very little additional expense,” the spokesman told Willamette Week. “But there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for that in the Legislature.”

Some legislators in the state have backed House Bill 4057, which would ban gambling on college sports for good.

Indeed, much is to be desired with Oregon’s lone online sportsbook. And much work remains to fulfill the lottery’s desire to make Scoreboard profitable.

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Michigan Governor Signs Bill Legalizing State Sports Betting, Online Gaming

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Santa came early in Michigan.

Early FridayGov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act that legalizes Michigan sports betting. She also put pen to paper on bills to green-light online casinos, online poker and daily fantasy sports.

Whitmer’s signatures pushed across the finish line this collection of bills that modernize the state’s gambling industry.

After governor approval, Michigan sports betting is en route

To be fair, Whitmer has long believed legalized sports betting should enter Michigan. As noted, however, she stood beside a higher tax rate from which stakeholders and lawmakers frequently tried to talk her down.

After months of rebuffing proposals to regulate wagering, and a year after the previous governor vetoed a similar bill, Whitmer finally came around with this latest package of bills.

As a result, Michigan becomes the ninth state in 2019 to legalize sports betting and the 20th state overall. It also becomes the fifth state to legalize online casinos and the sixth state to legalize online poker.

All told, this package of bills stands as the largest expansion of gambling ever seen in the state of Michigan.

A breakdown of Michigan sports betting

Earlier this month, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. predicted to Legal Sports Report that the governor would sign off on these bills before Christmas. While Whitmer cut it close, she did, in fact, prove the senator correct.

As Hertel told LSR, the state aims to launch its retail sports betting industry in time for March Madness.

Under the newly signed bill, Michigan’s three commercial and 23 tribal casinos will be allowed to apply for brick-and-mortar and online wagering. Fees to do so include: $50,000 for application; $100,000 for licensing; and $50,000 annual renewal.

Operators will be limited to just one online sportsbook in the state, and all in-play wagers offered must use official league data.

As a perk for operators, Whitmer conceded to a lower tax rate. After advocating for upward of 15% in taxes, the governor signed off Friday on an 8.4% rate on adjusted gross sports betting receipts. Commercial casinos will pay an additional 1.25% city tax to Detroit.

More iGaming on the way in Michigan

As indicated, Whitmer also signed off on bills to legalize online casinos, online poker and daily fantasy sports.

Representing something of a compromise from lawmakers in order to establish lower sports betting taxes, iGaming will incur higher tax rates than initially proposed.

That tiered structure will range from 20% to 28%.

Regardless, each casino in the state will be permitted to pursue licenses for both online casinos and online poker, with each property afforded one brand in each vertical.

Cost for licensing mirrors the sports betting model: $50,000 for application; $100,000 for licensing; $50,000 for annual renewal.

Also similar to sports betting, daily fantasy sports will be taxed at an 8.4% rate. Operators, though, will only have to shell out $20,000 for initial licensing and $5,000 for annual renewals.

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