Evander Kane Gambling Debt Illustrative

Evander Kane Gambling

A news story just broke about a hockey played named Evander Kane and the fact he apparently owes the Cosmopolitan casino in Las Vegas half a million dollars in unpaid markers. He reportedly ran up the debt when his team, the San Jose Sharks, were playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the NHL playoffs in April.

I’m sure there will be many people lamenting the fact that Las Vegas, a center for gambling, now has professional sports teams when for many years the various leagues actively prevented such from happening. They will talk about the situation Kane finds himself in as a dire warning as to why athletes should not be traveling to Las Vegas on a regular basis. We will soon have a Las Vegas NFL team and it’s likely an NBA team and MLB team will eventually join them.

The idea being that athletes who end up owing large amounts of money to gambling houses are potentially corruptible. Kane might be tempted to pay off the Cosmopolitan by playing a bad game on a night when the casino had a lot of money bet on his team to win.

To me, the situation quite starkly illustrates exactly the opposite. The difference is the Cosmopolitan has a legal recourse to get Kane to repay the money. That’s the entire point of the lawsuit they’ve filed. Illegal gambling operations have no such leverage and must look for other ways to get the money back. That’s essentially the entire argument against making things like gambling illegal in the first place.

Kane would have found an outlet to place his wagers even without being in Las Vegas. I readily admit being in the location makes it easier, but athletes have been going into gambling debt long before there was an NHL team based in Las Vegas. You can’t prevent someone from gambling, so the best way to stop an athlete from becoming beholden to criminal gambling enterprises is to allow them to gamble legally. Then the casino can sue her or him for the money rather than extort it some other way.

People certainly seem to think making immoral activities illegal is a good idea but generally such laws create a far worse situation than the actual unethical actions. People are going to gamble anyway, that’s reality. The fact Kane can legally be pursued for the money the casino claims he owes makes sports safer.

Tom Liberman

Online Poker in California and Crony Capitalism

online-pokerI watch an extremely entertaining fellow by the name of Jason Somerville play poker on Twitch and if there is any subject that can rile up the mild mannered, friendly fellow, it’s the people who are trying to stop online poker from becoming legal. It was during one of his rants on the subject that I became aware of legislation that is pending in California.

The problem with this bill is that it allows only existing card clubs and the California Native American tribes to host the websites. This means that the established online poker sites would not be able to compete. In addition, the vast majority of the money taken in from such online gambling sites must be given to the horse racing industry. This to cover for the expected losses to that industry from wider gambling options.

That’s the very definition of crony capitalism. Basically the tribes now host the majority of gambling in the state of California and they don’t want competition. There is a huge amount of money involved.

You may not realize how much bigger California is than the rest of the country but the numbers are mind-boggling. California has the sixth largest economy in the world, tied with France. They produce fully 13% of the total agricultural output of the United States. They purchase enormous amounts of products produced in the other states who are quite dependent on them as a consumer.

I tell you all this not to brag about California but to give you the reality of the amount of money that is at stake. Those Native American Tribes want that money and they don’t want to share it with existing online poker sites.

If we lived in a society that actually valued real capitalism we would not consider such factors as who is to benefit from legislation. We’d simply decide if we thought gambling was something the state should allow or not allow. I’d argue against, but understand, someone who thinks the government should prevent people from gambling because it’s potentially harmful. The legislators would decide who they agreed with and pass laws.

This situation is not that. It is a product of the way government has come to have undue influence on business. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in anti-trust laws. That being said, I absolutely think the more power government has over the success or failure of a business, the more a practical business person must be involved in influencing politicians.

The more business gets involved with politics the more corrupt it becomes. Business operators become less interested in providing a quality product. They simply want to have legislators pass laws that favor their business at the expense of competitors.

What should happen in this case is simple. If California decides to legalize online gambling the horse racing operators need to work harder to get people to visit. The Native American Tribes need to either partner with the existing Online Poker sites or develop their own alternatives. That’s business.

It’s not up to government to decide who succeeds and who fails. When they do so we all lose.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

They Never Learn – Slaphouses, Police, Gambling

slaphouse-boxI just read a story about something called Slaphouses in an area of California just outside what is called Little Saigon. It is an area where a number of Vietnamese live having come there during and just after the Vietnam War. Gambling is common in the Vietnamese culture, as it is in almost all cultures.

Gambling is largely illegal in California but, as we all know, making something illegal doesn’t prevent it from happening. In order to serve customers who liked to gamble, a number of Vietnamese coffee shops in the region had video gambling games on the premises. These were setup so that at the flick of a switch the bartender could make them appear to be regular games which didn’t involve gambling.

For some reason the authorities decided to swoop in and shut them all down. Yay! Gambling stopped! Society saved! Right?

Of course not. It doesn’t take much to figure out what happened. People still wanted to gamble. The public places where they could do so were shut down. So people started hosting gambling parties at residential sites. What people? Well, criminals of course. So now we’ve got large gatherings of noisy people in the middle of residential neighborhoods. Of course the neighbors complain. So would I. Of course the criminals running the houses introduce drugs and are happy to charge up stolen credit cards. They have no problem intimidating neighbors or even paying them off. That’s the nature of crime.

So now the police are raiding these gambling houses with guns and dogs. The last line of the article says it all. Westminster police Sgt. Darin Upstill – You shut them down enough times, they’ll be out.

No, sergeant Uphill. No they won’t. They’ll just find another way to do business which will likely, if it doesn’t already, involve corrupting the local police force.

The end result is that instead of allowing people to gamble in a public place in a way that profits legal businesses, we drive the entire thing underground funneling money to criminals. Such laws don’t crack down on crime, they encourage it, they fund it! They alienate the police force from the community they are trying to serve. We see the horrific results of that alienation daily. That alienation results in tragedy for both the community and the fine men and women doing the policing.

Will we never learn? Ever?

It’s just discouraging. The solution is so obvious. Let people gamble!

Yes, people will gamble away their lives. It’s the price of freedom. Freedom is free, it’s just not safe.

The United States just doesn’t stand for freedom anymore, it doesn’t. It stands for passing as many laws to restrict its citizens as possible with the illusion of safety as the excuse. That’s the opposite of freedom.

I’ve quoted Mr. Benjamin Franklin before and I’ll do it again. Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Gamblers Lose Willingly and Kentucky Wins Legally

Kentucky-pokerstars-online-gamblingAn astonishing case just reached its first stop when Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the state of Kentucky can claim triple $290 million dollars in gambling losses of residents between 2006 and 2011.

For a period  of time a company called Poker Stars offered internet gambling across the United States. In 2006 a law was passed called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. In 2011 the government acted on this law and stopped all such gambling. The state of Kentucky claims that all losses made in the interim were illegal and thus they can collect said money.

There are so many things wrong with this case it makes my mind boggle and my blood boil.

I suppose I’ll list them by what I perceive as the most egregious.

  1. Kentucky is collecting the gambling losses made by its citizens, not for the citizens, but for its own treasury.
  2. Not a single one of the 14,000+ gamblers who incurred losses has made a single claim.
  3. The figure arrived at includes all losses in the time frame, not winnings and services minus losses. Just add up all the losses and go.
  4. The statute that allows Kentucky to do this was re-codified in 1942 and was apparently originally written sometime in the 1800’s although I can’t find a date.

Here’s the wording of the statute and here is a PDF of it.

372.040 Suit by third person where loser or creditor does not sue.

If the loser or his creditor does not, within six (6) months after its payment or delivery to the winner, sue for the money or thing lost, and prosecute the suit to recovery with due diligence, any other person may sue the winner, and recover treble the value of the money or thing lost, if suit is brought within five (5) years from the delivery or payment.

I mean, you have to be kidding me, right? This is some insane joke? Nope, sadly not.

This is an example of the power that government can wield. If the state of Kentucky can not only pass a law claiming any third party has the right to collect the gambling losses of another individual but actually enforce it … what law cannot they pass?

The only laws they can’t pass are those which the Constitution forbids. Kentucky is not allowed to abridge my freedom to speak, to assemble with like-minded people, to be immune from unwarranted search and seizure, to house soldiers in my home, establish a religion, and more.

We take many of these rights for granted but I hope this case makes you appreciate them all the more. Do you imagine a legislature that can write things like 372.040 wouldn’t be happy to take away your right to speak? To assemble? To vote? To own a weapon?

The sad part in all of this? The judge is probably correct in interpreting the statute. The statute is, quite obviously, madness. It is overreaching, money-seeking government at its worst, exposed to the light of day. It is sickening. It is a dark shadow upon the thoughts of any liberty loving individual. It is the raw power of a government not checked by the people.

There is one group who can remove this stain of a statute from the books.

Kentuckians, what say you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

If you Know the Outcome it’s not Gambling – Atlantic City Casino Case

Baccarat_tableI just read an incredibly interesting legal story from the Associated Press about a case that happened in Atlantic City a little over two years ago.

A group of gamblers was playing the game of Baccarat at a table in Atlantic City when they noticed that the cards were coming out of the deck in original order. The decks themselves came from the manufacturer to the casino with the stipulation that they be shuffled beforehand. In this case the freshly opened cards were not so shuffled and emerging from the deck sequentially. The gamblers immediately noticed this and began making maximum bets winning over $1.5 million in short order.

The casino figured out what was happening and detained the gamblers and that’s when legal proceedings began. The gamblers filed a case against the casino for what they consider an illegal detention and that case is still being reviewed. Meanwhile the casino argued that they shouldn’t have to pay the money to the gamblers who still have the chips from the event but not the actual money.

Originally a judge ruled against the casino and a settlement was attempted but the gamblers refused to drop the illegal detention case so the other case went forward as well. Now the Superior Court of the region has agreed with the casino. Judge James Isman ruled that because the cards had not been shuffled, the game of mini-baccarat was illegal under state casino rules.

When I first read the case I was definitely on the side of the gamblers but I started to think about why the judge would thus rule and I’m no longer certain of my original opinion. I haven’t read the details of the case and I’m certainly not up on New Jersey gaming laws so my opinion here is largely speculation but that won’t stop me!

I think the judge ruled the way he did because the situation as described was no longer gambling. Let’s reverse the sides and say the casino had the deck setup in a way that the dealer knew about and used this to win hand after hand. This would clearly be a violation of the law even if the casino didn’t intentionally stack the deck in this manner. In order for it to be gambling I think there has to be an uncertain outcome.

An example would be the events in the movie The Sting where the antagonist hoped to cheat the house by laying down bets on races that had already finished. Would this case not fall under the same laws? Is it even possible that the gamblers themselves are guilty of a crime? The judge ordered that the casino doesn’t have to pay out the “winnings” although no charges have been filed against the gamblers.

Then there is the ethical aspect of the entire story. If you were presented with a way to win at a gambling game in which you knew the outcome; would you do so? For example, you know that a certain ticket will be pulled from a jar during a raffle and you are offered the ability to go through the ticket roll and purchase what will be the winning number. Would you do so? Is not doing so stealing in every sense of the word?

Judging by the comments below the original story I think most people are sympathetic with the gamblers and angry with the judge and the casino with the ruling. As I said, it’s an interesting case.

What do you think?

Any lawyers? Any lawyers from New Jersey familiar with gaming laws? I’d love to hear from people.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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PokerStars vs the US Casino Trade Group

GamblingThere is an interesting situation developing in regards to gambling in the United States that in some ways epitomizes one of the things that Crony Capitalism does to destroy true capitalism. It’s a complex situation and I’m certain that I don’t fully understand all the legal technicalities but I thought it was a story worth exploring.

What is happening is that the state of New Jersey, and several other states, have legalized online gambling. A company called PokerStars is hoping to leap back into that market. Yes, back into that market. For a number of years online gambling was legal and then in 2006 Congress passed a law making it illegal. PokerStars was one of two companies that were market leaders in the industry. Congress passed that law largely not to keep American citizens safe from the awful scourge of making a bet of their own free will but because the gambling industry wanted Americans to only be allowed to make such wagers in their casinos. Crony Capitalism at its finest.

If, horror or horrors, someone comes up with a business model that beats my business model, I can always bribe Congress to pass a law putting my rival out of business. Hooray for the American entrepreneurial spirit. In this case PokerStars created out of country sites and continued to take bets from U.S. citizens. This of course led the gaming industry to convince Congress in 2011 to seize the assets of these companies (essentially stealing money from gamblers who had made wagers but not yet collected their winnings).

This drove PokerStars main rival out of business and PokerStars stayed around by agreeing to pay a $771 million bribe … er settlement to the U.S. government so as to avoid further prosecution. Capitalism as it is now practiced in the United States in full bloom.

So, back to now. With New Jersey and other states legalizing what the U.S. government made illegal in 2006; companies like PokerStars are now ready to resume their former operations. The gambling industry is represented by the American Gaming Association. This group wants to institute their own online gambling business in New Jersey and the other states. They have now asked the state governments to ban PokerStars from being allowed to participate because of their supposed past crimes; continuing to take bets offshore after it was made illegal to bet in the U.S.

Basically it comes down to the idea that a company bribes government officials into passing laws that make it difficult, impossible, or illegal for their rivals to do business. This is what capitalism has come to mean in the United States. This is not an isolated case. Large businesses routinely bribe, I mean contribute to elections hoping to get laws passed that favor them. This sort of crony capitalism is destroying small business, it has essentially eliminated what used to be called the family farm. It is skewing the wealth of this country towards an increasingly unfavorable distribution with a steadily declining middle class.

This sort of unfair business field in which people with good ideas, energy, and drive are prevented from succeeding not only destroys true capitalism but it deprives the citizens of this country great products at a reasonable price.

Anyone remember Tanya Harding hiring a thug to kneecap Nancy Kerrigan? Was that right? That is a microcosm of new capitalism in the United States. We are becoming Tanya Harding. So afraid of losing that we beat up our opponents rather than working hard to make a better product. Nice.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (It’s awesome! Buy it now!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Youth Football and Gambling

Youth FootballThere’s an interesting case breaking right now in Southern Florida involving youth football and gambling rings. It’s a poorly written article with an obvious bias but the story itself evokes several interesting questions.

In this case a group of coaches set gambling lines for youth football games in South Florida. This area of the country is one of the most football crazy regions in the nation. But, let’s not kid ourselves. There is plenty of gambling going on over Texas high school football. We all know about sports betting for professional and college football. It is a huge industry.

What happened in this case is that an entrepreneur found an avenue for profit. People wanted to gamble on the youth football games and someone provided an outlet. The story indicates, and it could be wrong, that whoever was controlling the gambling exerted influence to make certain that no point shaving occurred. That means they were trying to put up an honest game. An honest game is generally in the best interest of the house. It sounds strange but the house prefers an honest game. It is only the gambler that wants to cheat the house.

The problem with gambling is the ancillary harm and illegal activity it can engender. Dishonest games. Players paid to throw the game or change the final score. Referees bribed. Then of course there are those who gamble too much and must suffer for their mistakes. There are the families of those who lose all their money and must accept the consequences through no fault of their own.

It might be difficult to bribe a professional football player but not nearly as hard to corrupt someone making no money at all, a ten-year old quarterback. A coach, a player, a referee, even the ball boy could deflate a ball at a key moment. All these things are possible. I certainly understand why a state would want to make gambling illegal and they certainly have the right to do so.

I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. Generally making things illegal feeds criminals money, lots of money. This money then leads to violence as fights over who gets it occur. Do we think that once people know how much money can be made from youth football gambling that the problem will go away because of a few arrests? Or do we suspect that the underground nature of the gambling will lead to increased criminal activity?

It’s a difficult question to answer. With that much money involved there are bound to be unshady types attracted to it. I guarantee that right now, in your office, on your block, or even in your house, there is someone making an illegal bet and someone else taking it. Do we extend legal sports gambling down to youth football so that people have an outlet to make their wagers? With a legal outlet available many will choose it.

I’m of the opinion this is the only practical solution but I can see where people would disagree.

It’s a fascinating case and I’d love to see what you think! Please comment and don’t be shy about disagreeing with me!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water