Tag Archives: chris soriano

Sold: Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort, for $1.3 Billion

On May 29, 2019, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a Change of Control petition for the sale of Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort.  Two days later, on May 31, 2019, Wind Creek Hospitality officially acquired the casino from Las Vegas Sands Corporation for $1.3 billion, as the transaction closed on Friday. The casino resort facility, which is located in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, will operate as Wind Creek Bethlehem, and will include amenities such as a 282-room AAA Four Diamond hotel, a 183,000 square foot casino floor featuring slots, table games, and electronic table games, numerous food and beverage outlets, a retail mail, and a multi-purpose event center.

The closing of the transaction comes after approximately fourteen months of regulatory review and, most recently, the PGCB’s approval of the transaction. Duane Morris represented Las Vegas Sands in the transaction, providing gaming regulatory and real estate guidance and assistance in other areas, including serving as co-counsel before the Board for Wind Creek Hospitality. Duane Morris attorneys who assisted on this matter include J. Scott Kramer, Greg Duffy, Frank DiGiacomo, Chris Soriano, and Adam Berger.

Pennsylvania Welcomes Second Tribal Operator and Approves Sands Bethlehem License Transfer to Wind Creek Hospitality

On May 29, 2019, at a special hearing convened for this purpose, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a Change of Control Petition authorizing the transfer of the entirety of Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s interest in Sands Bethworks Gaming LLC’s to Wind Creek Hospitality, an instrumentality of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The Board’s Order, beyond approving the change in control, allows the casino facility to change its name to Wind Creek Bethlehem, reflecting the casino’s new ownership.

Subject to the Board’s conditions, Wind Creek Hospitality is able to acquire all of the interest in Sands, including its licenses, which include a Category 2 License, a Table Games Certificate, and Interactive Gaming Certificates. The Board’s decision comes after over a year of regulatory review.

Scott Kramer, Duane Morris, appeared for joint petitioner, Sands Bethworks Gaming LLC. Also, Duane Morris served as co-counsel before the Board for Wind Creek Hospitality.

Game On! Chris Soriano Featured on Good Law | Bad Law Podcast on Sports Betting

Duane Morris partner Chris Soriano was a guest on the Good Law | Bad Law podcast, “Game on! After a historic Supreme Court decision, sports betting is a go.”

Chris joined podcast host, Aaron Freiwald, to discuss the recent Supreme Court decision that in effect legalized sports betting across the country and the implications this decision may have for the future of gambling, as well as professional sports. Chris also talks about how his interest in the gaming area introduced him to gaming law.

Listen to Chris’ segment on the Good Law | Bad Law podcast.

Duane Morris Hosts “High-Stakes Games: Betting on Sports” Roundtable

Duane Morris, the Sports Business and Leadership Association and the Sports Lawyers Association will be hosting the roundtable discussion, “High-Stakes Games: Betting on Sports,” on Thursday, January 26, 2017 in Miami, Florida. This in-depth roundtable discussion will focus on the key issues and high stakes of sports betting and will feature sports and gaming industry executives, lawyers and pro-team executives. Duane Morris partner Christopher L. Soriano, of the firm’s Cherry Hill office, will moderate the discussion.

Featured Speakers:

  • Eric Frank, Director, Legal Affairs, Amaya
  • Myles Pistorius, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Miami Dolphins

Topics to be discussed include:

  • The current state of sports betting in the United States
  • New developments in gaming law
  • The pro team’s view on expanding sports betting
  • Online and offshore wagering on games

Duane Morris Sports Practice AdvantageSM
Duane Morris attorneys have extensive experience representing clients doing business in sports. Whether pursuing new opportunities or investments, enforcing contracts or agreements or protecting clients’ rights, the firm’s lawyers understand the unique issues presented by operating in the industry, including the importance of establishing and maintaining relationships, controlling sensitive information, maintaining privacy and confidentiality and achieving goals in tight time frames.

About the Sports Business and Leadership Association

The Sports Business and Leadership Association (“SBLA”) is a non-profit charitable organization whose members are professionals working in the sports business industry. The SBLA’s core mission is to organize an affinity group of legal professionals working in the sports business industry and to educate them on trending sports business issues and concerns. The SBLA’s goal is to raise money to provide underprivileged children with the financial means to attend a summer sports camp at a university (the “SBLA Scholarship Program”).

About the Sports Lawyers Association

The Sports Lawyers Association (SLA) is a nonprofit, international, professional organization whose common goal is the understanding, advancement and ethical practice of sports law. There are more than 1,000 current members: practicing lawyers, law educators, law students and other professionals with an interest in law relating to professional and amateur sports.

Duane Morris Attorneys Christopher Soriano and Adam Berger to present at NJ State Bar Webinar

Duane Morris attorneys Christopher Soriano and  Adam Berger of the firm’s Cherry Hill office will present a webinar, “2016: A Year to Hold’em or Fold’em,” hosted by the NJ State Bar on December 9, 2016. The webinar will offer retrospective on this year’s key legal issues in the gaming industry.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • The recent decision shooting down sports betting in casinos
  • Impact of the North Jersey gaming referendum on the future of the racing industry and on the Atlantic City casino market
  • Online gaming developments
  • Fantasy sports legislation/regulation
  • Issues surrounding the potential closing of Monmouth Racetrack

To register for the webinar, please visit the NJSBA website.

No NJ Sports Betting – Again

Dealing another setback to New Jersey’s long running battle to implement sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has again ruled that the state’s latest effort to implement sports betting runs afoul of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Briefly, PASPA prohibits a state from “authorizing by law” sports betting.   New Jersey previously challenged the constitutionality of the statute, arguing that PASPA impermissibly commandeers a state to implement a federal regulatory scheme because the state legislature has no choice but to keep sports betting illegal in the state.  The Third Circuit concluded that states had options, even considering that a state may repeal its prohibitions in whole or in part.

New Jersey then repealed its criminal prohibitions on sports betting to the extent those apply to casinos and racetracks.  New Jersey took the position that this partial repeal did not amount to a prohibited “authorization” because there is a distinction between authorizing and repealing.  The Third Circuit disagreed, but later agreed to review the case en banc.

Today, the en banc court, in a 10-2 vote, reaffirmed its prior position that New Jersey’s partial repeal amounts to an authorization prohibited by PASPA.  The court backpedaled from its earlier opinion:  “To the extent that in Christie I we took the position that a repeal cannot constitute an authorization, we now reject that reasoning.”  The court also continued to hold that states have more options under PASPA other than a total repeal of prohibitions on sports betting and maintaining those prohibitions as they currently exist.  “To be clear, a state’s decision to selectively remove a prohibition on sports wagering in a manner that permissively channels wagering activity to particular locations or operators is, in essence, “authorization” under PASPA. However, our determination that such a selective repeal of certain prohibitions amounts to authorization under PASPA does not mean that states are not afforded sufficient room under PASPA to craft their own policies.”

But the Court did not illustrate any meaningful options that a state has, other than to repeal its prohibitions on sports betting to the extent that they prohibit small bets between family and friends.  This is not an economically meaningful option, nor is stopping small bets among friends and family members a law enforcement priority.  “We need not, however, articulate a line whereby a partial repeal of a sports wagering ban amounts to an authorization under PASPA, if indeed such a line could be drawn. It is sufficient to conclude that the 2014 Law overstepped it.”

In dissent, Judge Julio Fuentes, the author of Christie I, concludes that the state’s repeal comports with the Court’s direction in Christie I and is therefore not a violation of PASPA.  He opined that there is a meaningful legal difference between authorizing and repealing and that New Jersey’s law does not grant any permission to anyone to do anything; instead it is a “self-executing deregulatory measure.”

Judge Thomas Vanaskie authored a separate dissent, arguing that PASPA is unconstitutional.  In probably the most powerful language anywhere in the majority or dissent, Judge Vanaskie states:

This shifting line approach to a State’s exercise of its sovereign authority is untenable. The bedrock principle of federalism that Congress may not compel the States to require or prohibit certain activities cannot be evaded by the false assertion that PASPA affords the States some undefined options when it comes to sports wagering.

Judge Vanaskie concludes that PASPA was intended to have the states implement a federal legislative program, and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

It remains to be seen whether New Jersey will seek certiorari from the US Supreme Court or try another means of repealing, or whether these decisions lead to a federal dialogue on a solution to sports betting.  With a multi-billion dollar unregulated and untaxed sports betting market in the United States, and a federal statute that dates back to before the prevalence of internet wagering, it is probably time to consider whether the status quo remains the best option.

 

 

 

NJ Gets Another Chance In Sports Betting Litigation

Three sentences set the sports betting world afire this morning when the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an order granting New Jersey’s petition for rehearing en banc in the most recent round of sports betting litigation.  In simple terms, this means that the case will be heard anew by the active judges of the Third Circuit plus the two senior judges who participated in the case – the final count will be an oral argument in front of a total of about 11 judges at once – more than the Supreme Court.

As we’ve covered here, this case centered around what it means to “authorize.”  Previously, New Jersey challenged the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”) on the grounds that it commandeered the states to maintain a federal prohibition.  As has been written before, PASPA does not prohibit sports betting – it prohibits a state from authorizing sports betting by law.  But the courts found PASPA constitutional because it gave the states a choice:  keep sports betting prohibitions in place, or repeal them.  That choice saved the constitutionality of PASPA.  New Jersey, seizing on this language, partially repealed its prohibitions on sports betting.  The sports leagues argued that  partial repeal amounts to an “authorization,” which violates PASPA.   The court agreed.

Judge Julio Fuentes wrote the court’s 2013 opinion on constitutionality – finding the statute to be constitutional.  He was again on the panel in 2015.  This time, he dissented, writing that a partial repeal was permissible under PASPA because there is a difference between authorizing and repealing.

The Court of Appeals grants rehearing en banc when either a question of exceptional importance is involved or is there is a need to reconcile precedents of the court.  Needless to say, Judge Fuentes’ view that the 2015 opinion was not consistent with the 2013 opinion probably triggered some of the judges on the court to want to take a close look at the consistency of the two cases.  It is also the case that a prior precedential opinion of the Court can only be overruled en banc – so it is possible that the Court wants to take a closer look at the constitutionality of PASPA as addressed in Christie I.  There is no guarantee, however, that the Court will reach a different result this time around.  Because rehearing en banc has been granted, however, the court’s August 2015 opinion is vacated.

The fact that the court granted en banc review does mean that some of the judges may be inclined to reach a different result.  The logic there is that if the judges were satisfied with the result, they would have simply let the underlying decision stand.  That too is no guarantee of a different result – they may, after examination, reach the same result but based on different reasoning.  Of course, the en banc review could lead to a different result or to a modification of Christie I.

Thus far it is not known when the en banc hearing will be scheduled.  No new briefs will be filed.  Typically the Court schedules a number of en banc cases on the same day for convenience.  The case will be orally argued and voted on by the judges who hear it; one will be assigned to write an opinion, which will have to receive a vote of a majority of the judges who hear the case in order to become the opinion of the court.

One thing is clear – unless rehearing was granted, New Jersey’s only remaining shot under the partial repeal legislation was the extremely unlikely chance that the Supreme Court would take the case after once declining to do so.  New Jersey’s chances of success have increased significantly as a result of this order.

 

 

Third Circuit Continues NJ Sports Betting Prohibition

In a much anticipated, closely watched decision, today the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that New Jersey’s 2014 efforts to implement sports betting at casinos and racetracks violates federal law.  The 2-1 majority decision was authored by Judge Marjorie O. Rendell joined by Judge Maryann Trump Barry; Judge Julio Fuentes dissented.

How did we get here?   The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), enacted in 1991, prohibits states from authorizing sports betting.  In 2012, New Jersey challenged the constitutionality of PASPA, but the Third Circuit held that the statute was constitutional.   The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.  Sports betting is a crime in New Jersey.  Seizing on language in the Third Circuit’s opinion, however, New Jersey enacted a statute in 2014 that simply stated that any state law that would prohibit sports betting at a casino or racetrack was repealed – i.e., that activity was no longer a crime.  It did not explicitly say that casinos or racetracks could offer sports betting.

The sports leagues, however, took the position that this limited repeal amounted to an “authorization” by another name.  And, “authorizations” are prohibited by federal law.  This dispute – what does it mean “to authorize” – is at the base of the decision that was issued this morning.

The court held:  “We conclude that the 2014 Law violates PASPA because it authorizes by law sports gambling.”  The court cited three reasons for its holding.  First, the court stated that absent the 2014 law, sports gambling prohibitions would apply to casinos and racetracks; therefore, repealing those prohibitions must amount to an authorization.  “The 2014 law provides the authorization for conduct that is otherwise clearly and completely legally prohibited.”

Second, the court stated that the selectiveness of the repeal – limited to racetracks and casinos – “constitutes specific permission and empowerment.”  The court distinguished its holding in the 2013 decision that saved the constitutionality of PASPA.  The court notes that “had the 2014 Law repealed all prohibitions on sports gambling, we would hard pressed…to find an ‘authorizing by law’ in violation of PASPA.”  In other words, the Court has essentially held that the only repeal that would pass  muster under PASPA is a complete repeal – i.e., allowing anyone in the state to offer sports betting.

Third, the court held that because Congress gave New Jersey one year to opt out of PASPA initially, Congress must have concluded at the time that sports betting in New Jersey casinos would violate PASPA.  “If sports gambling in New Jersey’s casinos does not violate PASPA, then PASPA’s one year exception for New Jersey would have been superfluous.”

Judge Fuentes – who wrote the Court’s 2013 opinion finding PASPA to be constitutional – dissented.  He notes that “the 2014 Law renders previous prohibitions on sports betting non-existent” and then criticizes the majority for taking issue with the “selective” nature of the repeal.  “As I see it, the issue is whether a partial repeal amounts to authorization.  Because this logic rests on the same false equivalence we rejected in Christie I, I respectfully dissent.”

Judge Fuentes notes that to repeal a statute is to make it as though the statute never existed.  “A partially repealed statute is treated as if only the remaining part exists…after the repeal, it is as if New Jersey never prohibited sports gambling in casinos, gambling houses, and sports racetracks.”    How, therefore, Judge Fuentes asks, can a repeal be an authorization?

Judge Fuentes says that there is no explicit grant of permission under the statute for anyone to engage in sports betting.  Second, Judge Fuentes argues that there is a logical flaw in the argument:  if withdrawing some prohibitions amounts to an authorization, then withdrawing all prohibitions must also amount to an authorization, which means that New Jersey has no choice at all, which means that PASPA is unconstitutional.  This is particularly striking reasoning from the author of the 2013 decision holding PASPA to be constitutional.

It remains to be seen whether New Jersey will seek review in the Supreme Court, or whether some other legislative solution – either on the state or federal level – may be forthcoming.  For now, though, New Jersey will still not be able to offer sports betting in its casinos and racetracks.

Court Issues TRO Against California Tribe’s Online Bingo Efforts

Following up on our coverage here, on December 12 the US District Court for the Southern District of California issued a temporary restraining order against the IIpay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s internet bingo system.  The Tribe’s system sought to offer online bingo to customers located off of tribal lands.  Both the State of California and the DOJ have sued.  California has moved for an injunction, and it was only California’s request that the Court has acted on. California argued that the Tribe’s online bingo platform violates both the tribal-state compact and UIGEA.

The Court found that California has a likelihood of success on the merits of both of these claims.  As to the tribal-state compact claim, the Court analyzed whether the online bingo was considered Class II or Class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  IGRA defines bingo as a Class II game, and Class II games are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission and can be operated by a tribe without a tribal-state compact.  However, other gaming is Class III gaming and is allowed only under compact. The Tribe argued that its online bingo was a Class II game – bingo – using a technological aid.  The court noted that there is an analytical distinction between a technological aid for a Class II game or an “electronic facsimile” of a game – which would make the game a Class III game.  The Court rejected the tribe’s argument that online bingo constitutes a technological aid for a Class II game, instead concluding that the game being offered by the Tribe is a Class III game, which is not permitted by compact.

The Court concluded that although the breach of compact claim was enough to demonstrate that the state had a likelihood of success on the merits, it would still analyze UIGEA.  The Court noted that UIGEA requires consideration of the law both where a bet is made and where it was received.   The Court concluded that Indian gaming is permitted only on Indian lands, and therefore, reaching outside Indian lands would violate UIGEA.

The Court therefore enjoined the Tribe from offering any gambling game to anyone over the internet who is not present on the Tribe’s lands.  The Court further ordered the parties to confer as to expedited briefing as to whether a full preliminary injunction should be granted.