Tag Archives: sports betting

FinCEN Director Addresses Gaming Industry

On August 13, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) Director Kenneth Blanco addressed the 12th Annual Las Vegas Anti-Money Laundering Conference and provided insights on his agency’s expectations for the ever-evolving gaming industry.

The following are some key takeaways:

Cost Cutting Poses National Security Threat. Director Blanco stressed that reports of compliance budget cuts by casinos looking to trim costs and retain gamblers is seen by FinCEN as a national security issue and not something the agency takes lightly. Further, despite FinCEN not publicizing any enforcement actions against a casino during the last year, it is continually looking at compliance across all financial institutions and will not hesitate to act if it identifies violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). It is also important to note that not all enforcement actions are public—FinCEN often closes cases with warning letters sent to financial institutions or refers cases to our delegated examiners for additional review.

Casino Industry Trends. In terms of suspicious activity being reported in 2019, Minimal Gaming with Large Transactions is the highest reported activity with more than 5,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (“SAR”) reflecting this activity. Reports of Chip Walking have dramatically increased since this was added to the SAR form in the summer of 2018. Chip Walking is now the second most selected suspicious activity on the SAR form, with more than 4,400 reports being cited this year to date.

The other frequently cited suspicious activities include:

  • Transactions below CTR Threshold
  • Unknown Source of Chips
  • Two or More Individuals Working Together
  • Alteration or Cancelation of Transactions to Avoid CTR Requirement
  • Suspicion Concerns on the Source of Funds

Additional analysis of trends reported by casinos checking the “other” box on the SAR form includes reports of suspicious activity involving sports betting, abandoned jackpot, and bill stuffing.

Sports Betting and Mobile Gaming. Casinos and card clubs must integrate sports betting and mobile gaming products into their existing AML programs. FinCEN expects casinos and card clubs to collect cyber-related indicators through their mobile gaming or betting applications in order to monitor and report potentially suspicious activity. Examples of such cyber-indicators include: source and destination information, file information, subject user names, system modifications, and account information.

Relevance of Convertible Virtual Currency (CVC) Advisory to Casinos. There are generally two areas where CVC will intersect with casinos and card clubs: so-called CVC casinos on the internet, and physical casinos and card clubs that accept CVC for gaming.

As FinCEN’s CVC guidance points out, internet gaming sites that operate online without licensure from a state or tribal gaming regulator are not “casinos” for purposes of regulations implementing the BSA. However, they are likely operating as money transmitters. Money transmitters have their own obligations under the BSA and its implementing regulations, which includes a formal registration with FinCEN.

Casinos and card clubs that accept CVC from customers either on location or through mobile applications, need to ensure that CVCs are accounted for in policies, procedures, internal controls and risk assessments. This includes developing processes for reviewing and conducting due diligence on transactions in CVC, for conducting blockchain analytics to determine the source of the CVC, and incorporating CVC-related indicators into SAR filings.

Culture of Compliance. Critical to fostering a culture of compliance is utilizing enterprise-wide information and ensuring such information gets into the hands of compliance personnel. For example, information developed by casinos for business and marketing, as wells as information developed by casino security departments for combating and preventing fraud should be used by casino compliance personnel to monitor customers for suspicious activity. Similarly, a casino’s legal department should alert compliance personnel when a subpoena is received as it could trigger reviews of customer risk ratings and account activity. Moreover, larger casinos may have multiple affiliated casinos that could benefit from the sharing of information across the organization.

Innovation and BSA Value. In January 2019, FinCEN began an ambitious project to catalogue the value of BSA reporting across the entire value chain of its creation and use. The project will result in a comprehensive and quantitative understanding of the broad value of BSA reporting and other BSA information to all types of consumers of that information.

As an example, given the current state of the opioid epidemic, something a minor as the mobile phone number of a suspect from a casino SAR could be vitally important to a DEA agent since the suspect would provide a real phone number to ensure he is called when his winnings are wired out to a bank account. Using that mobile number, the agent can build out a communication tree and identify new individuals, entities, addresses or accounts. A DEA agent can also use this information to seek legal approval to wiretap or track the movement of the phone, identify potential informants, and build out a network of associates.

New Hampshire Federal Judge Rules Wire Act Only Applies to Sports Betting – Now What?

On June 3, 2019, Judge Paul Barbadoro for the District of New Hampshire concluded in a 63-page Memorandum Opinion that the purview of the Wire Act is limited to sports wagering.  The effect of the Court’s opinion, however, may be limited in states other than New Hampshire.

After determining that the plaintiffs in the case, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and NeoPollard Interactive LLC, new Hampshire’s iLottery vendor, have standing to challenge the DOJ’s 2018 Wire Act Opinion because they have established a threat of imminent injury, the Court addresses whether the Wire Act applies beyond sports wagering.

Continue reading New Hampshire Federal Judge Rules Wire Act Only Applies to Sports Betting – Now What?

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.

Christopher Soriano Speaking at Seton Hall Law School’s Gambling Law Symposium

Duane Morris’ Christopher Soriano will be presenting at a gambling law symposium hosted by the Seton Hall Law School’s Continuing Legal Education at Seton Hall University on March 1, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.

The symposium will discuss New Jersey’s gambling laws while focusing on the following topics:

  • The New Jersey Constitution, Statutes, Rules, and Regulations Governing Gambling
  • The Definition of Gambling Under New Jersey Law: The Chance Versus Skill Debate Involving Fantasy Platforms and Poker
  • The Impact Of Technological Advances Upon Laws Governing The Placement of Wagers On Horse races
  • Overview Of Supreme Court’s Sports Betting Case and
  • On-Line Casino and Other Forms of Gambling Under Federal and New Jersey Law

For more information and to register, please visit the event website.

Real Sports Experts and Fantasy Sports

John Brennan, a staff writer for The Record, was a panelist for Duane Morris’ event “The Future of Sports Betting” on April 27, moderated by partner Christopher Soriano. Mr. Brennan’s column today, about the notorious poor luck of professional sportswriters and sports executives at fantasy leagues in their own sports, mentioned the event, sharing a story told by panelist Andrew Brandt of ESPN. The firm thanks Mr. Brennan and Mr. Brandt for their participation in the event.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Can You Get Busted for Your Bracket? Duane Morris Partner Christopher Soriano on Office Pools, Fantasy Sports and All Things Gaming Law

Duane Morris partner Christopher Soriano of the firm’s Cherry Hill office appeared on a recent broadcast of the “Wagner & Winick on the Law” radio program, during which he joined co-hosts Dean Mitchel Winick and Professor Stephen Wagner, both of Monterey College of Law, to discuss the interplay of federal and state laws in the United States related to regulating gambling and how many of these laws are outdated. A sampling of the topics discussed include Internet gaming, office brackets, fantasy sports, casinos and the lottery.

Within the context of the NCAA March Madness Tournament, Mr. Soriano provided insights on the gaming law implications of office bracket tournaments, which, as in most instances where people put in money on the results of a sporting event, are illegal for the most part. Mr. Soriano also commented on the developing area of fantasy sports and the important distinction to be drawn between games of skill and games of chance. For example, the traditional season-long fantasy sports contests are considered legal because skill is involved; while daily fantasy contests have been viewed as being illegal games of chance. Therefore, where is the line between when something is a contest of skill and when it is a contest of chance?

To listen to the radio program in its entirety, please visit the Recent Podcasts, Webcasts and Audio section on the Duane Morris website.

Duane Morris Partner Christopher Soriano Quoted in Law360

Duane Morris partner Christopher Soriano in the firm’s Cherry Hill office was quoted in a February 18, 2016 Law360 article (“3rd Circ. Puts Gambling Ban Constitutionality Back On Table“) detailing the 12-judge Third Circuit panel hearing discussing New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting. This is the third time the appeals court has looked at the issue. Mr. Soriano discussed three possible outcomes: 1) the court could hold that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is constitutional and N.J.’s partial repeal violates it, resulting in no sports betting; 2) the court could find PASPA constitutional but that the state has complied with the act in its partial repeal, resulting in unregulated sports betting in N.J. casinos and racetracks; or 3) the court could determine that PASPA is unconstitutional and therefore regulated sports betting would be allowed in the state.

Mr. Soriano’s blog post on the hearing can also be found here.