Online Betting News Roundup: 11-18-2016

Developments in Ohio and New Jersey; New Skill Games App

Welcome to another US Online Betting news roundup. This weekend, we have news out of New Jersey and Ohio that point towards a looming showdown between the federal government and states’ rights. This case could have implications that extend way beyond the Garden State.

In other news, GSN Games has released a new real money skill games app that is now available in 38 states. The app is brand-spanking-new, but it already looks promising. The developers have designed the app in such a way that it should avoid too much legal scrutiny moving forward.

Read on for the full scoop on each story.

New Jersey Gains Allies in Bid for Legal Sports Betting

Pro-sports betting lawmakers in New Jersey are not going down without a fight. Last month, Governor Chris Christie and the Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association petitioned the United States Supreme Court to take up their sports betting legalization case. This came after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals smacked down New Jersey’s attempt to skirt the federal law that prohibits individual states from authorizing or regulating sports betting.

The federal law in question is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibits all states from authorizing or regulating sports betting. New Jersey’s ongoing effort to this point has been to pass a law that effectively tells casinos and racetracks that while New Jersey will not authorize or regulate sports betting, neither will it prosecute casinos or racetracks that choose to offer real money sports betting to customers.

The Third Circuit said “no” and New Jersey is now waiting to see if the Supreme Court will take the case. As New Jersey waits for the Supreme Court to make a decision, the Attorneys General of five other states have filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s appeal. West Virginia AG Patrick Morrissey filed the brief while the AGs of Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin added their support.

It appears the attorneys general who have filed the brief are not concerned so much about sports betting, but rather how the Third Circuit ruling alters the relationship between the states and the federal government. Legal Sports report offers a nice synopsis of the issue at hand here.

As that case winds its way through the process, two other New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that is now being called “the nuclear option.” This bill seeks to completely repeal all New Jersey laws related to sports betting. If passed, this bill would make sports betting totally unregulated to the point where anyone could act as a bookie and accept sports bets from anyone else. This would include casinos, racetracks and even your neighbors.

The goal here would be to render PASPA moot. New Jersey would not be regulating or authorizing sports betting in any way, shape or form. Although the bill has little chance of making it into law, it serves to draw attention to the reasoning behind the Third Circuit’s refusal to accept the appeal.

In its decision, the Third Circuit stated that it “does not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.” Now, extrapolate a dozen other states introducing similar legislation and you can imagine the pressure it would place on Congress to finally take action. Every year, it seems as though legal sports betting in the US shifts from a matter of “if” to a matter of “when.”

Ohio Bill Seeks to Increased Regulatory over Fantasy Sports

A bill first introduced in the Ohio legislature two months ago is seeking to give the state increased authority to regulate betting pools and daily fantasy sports games. Earlier this week, the Senate finally got around to holding hearings to discuss the bill. Senator Bill Coley introduced Senate Bill 356 in order to clarify the state’s laws regarding certain games and grant the Casino Control Commission additional authority to regulate those games.

In Ohio, betting pools are legal but only if operators return 100% of the entry fees back to players in the forms of prizes. If an operator takes a commission to turn a profit, the game is illegal. Senator Coley contends that under this law, fantasy sports qualify as pools and operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings are breaking the law by offering for-pay contests with commissions.

SB 356 specifically addresses fantasy sports and will place them under the purview of the Casino Control Commission. It remains unclear if this bill would actually ban fantasy sports in Ohio or simply ensure the state keeps a close eye on the activities of operators.

Back in September, representatives for daily fantasy sports sites claimed this bill was an attempt to ban their business models in Ohio. However, Senator Foley claims his bill is not an attempt at prohibition. He simply wants to “put operators on notice.”

However, the bill in its current form appears to prohibit daily fantasy contests played via electronic means. In last week’s hearing, Senator Bill Seitz suggested instead introducing legislation that would allow the operators of betting pools to keep a small profit. Bill Coley responded that he has already produced alternative legislation that would allow operators to keep a profit.

GSN Games Introduces Real Money Scrabble, Tetris, Pac-Man App

GSN Games has introduced a new iOS app featuring classic gaming titles such as Scrabble, Tetris and Pac-Man that you can play for free or for real money against your friends and foes. It’s called Sparcade and it is available in the App Store now.

Sparcade Screenshots

Sparcade was developed by the same people who run WorldWinner.com, so this isn’t a big departure for GSN. In fact, the app feels significantly more polished than WorldWinner and it seems likely to grow a larger user base. Sparcade is free to download and free to play, but it also offers real money games that pit you against other people in $1, $3 and $5 contests.

Real money online gaming is a bit of a tricky issue these days, but the people behind Sparcade have developed the games in such a way to avoid running afoul of most states’ anti-gambling laws.

It is perfectly legal to play games of skill for real money in most states, but nearly every arcade-style game includes random elements by default – think Tetris and the random blocks that fall from the top of the screen and Pac-Man that includes randomly-generated mazes.

Sparcade manages to avoid the issue by ensuring all players receive the same random events so that players’ wins and losses are determined entirely by skill. For example, two competitors in a Tetris match receive the exact same shapes over the course of the game. Victory is therefore determined entirely by the player who demonstrates the most skill in placing those shapes as the game progresses.

Real money games on Sparcade are now available in all but twelve states. The only states in which Sparcade does not offer real money contests are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.