Roxanne Christ January 27 2013 Video Game Law University of British Columbia Law School Law 450A001 DOJ switched its view of the Wire Act now says the Wire Act applies only to sportsrelated gambling activities ID: 449273 Download Presentation


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Roxanne ChristJanuary 27, 2013

Video Game Law

University of British

Columbia Law School



DOJ switched its view of the Wire Act– now says the

Wire Act applies only to sports-related gambling activities (Dec. 2011)Nevada legalized interactive gambling --

online poker to start (Dec. 2011)

New York Federal Judge Weinstein ruled that poker is predominantly a game of skill, not chance under the Illegal Gambling Business Act (US v. Dicristinia, Aug. 2012)

Recent Legal Developments in Online Gambling


What “Online Gaming” Means to Casino Companies




Globally, $21.4 billion in 2010

$30.5 billion by 2015

In US, potentially $10 billion (including $1.4 billion in poker)

What “Online Gaming” Means to Casino Companies


Social games Social casino games

Real money social games

Social Video Gaming Social Casino Gaming


Played on web-based social networks (e.g., Facebook) and mobile social networks (e.g., Gree)

$8.2 billion in 2012 (ThinkEquity)

$14.6 billion by 2015

Social games played with real money that cannot be redeemed

$1.6 billion in 2012 (SuperData)

$2.5 billion by 2015Slide5


Gaming and Gamers: The Coming Convergence

Community-based, on-going engagement with massive numbers of concurrent users

Game content is immersive; content and game play merge

Economics focused on “owning” the player, micro-transaction revenue, data generation and advertising

Write their own constitutions

Competing without government-granted licenses

Location-based, periodic engagement with limited numbers of players

Game content is about the game, not the story

Economics focused on maximizing machine and real property assets

Live with government regulation

Casino companies have large player databases through loyalty programs


Social Game Plays


February 2011


takes control of Riot Games

July 2011

EA buys PopCap for about $750



Social Game Plays

March 2012


buys OMGPOP for about $180 million

May 2012

GREE buys Funzio

for $210 millionSlide9

Online Gambling Meets Online Video Games


December 2011

Caesars buys Playtika

October 2011

MGM, Boyd and Bwin join Bwin to offer internet pokerSlide10

Online Gambling Meets Online Video Games


January 2012

IGT buys Double

Down for up to $500 million

May 2012

WMS buys JadestoneSlide11

Principal Federal Laws Affecting Online Gaming

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

Illegal Gambling Businesses Act

Travel Act The Wire Act


Unlawful Internet Gambling enforcement Act (UIGEA)

Prohibits accepting credits, fund transfers, or other payments from anyone “engaged in the business of betting or wagering, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling”

Defines “unlawful Internet gambling” as “to place, receive, or otherwise knowingly transmit a bet or wager by any means which involves the use, at least in part, of the Internet where such bet or wager

is unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law in the State or Tribal lands in which the bet or wager is initiated, received or otherwise made”


Makes it a crime to conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct or own all or part of an “illegal gambling business.”

An “illegal gambling business” is a business that meets the following conditions:

(i) violates the law of the state where it takes place;

(ii) involves at least five people who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, or own all or part of the illegal gambling business; and

(iii) operates continuously for at least 30 days or has a gross revenue of $2,000 on any single day

“Gambling “includes” slot machines, conducting lotteries, numbers games, or selling chances therein.

Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA)


US v. Dicristina, Judge Weinstein, E.D.N.Y. Aug. 2012)

Texas Hold’em is a predominantly a game of skill, not chance

The IGBA does not criminalize all activities that constitute gambling under state law.

There is no reason to think Congress intended for gambling to include pokerUnlike live poker, video poker is predominantly a game of chanceHouse-banked games are more likely, but not necessarily, to be predominated by chance The IGBA was passed to close the gap in state enforcement of intra-state mob-backed gambling activities


Prohibits, in relevant part, a person or entity from using “any facility in interstate or foreign commerce” with the intent to “(1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or... (3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on of any unlawful activity,” and thereafter performing or attempting to perform such conduct

“Unlawful activity” is defined to include “any business enterprise involving gambling

in violation of state or federal laws”

Travel Act


The Wire Act

“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers

on any sporting event or contest

, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”


DOJ Wire Act Opinion (Dec. 23, 2011)

DOJ reversed its long-held interpretation of the Wire Act that all online gambling is prohibited by Wire Act

DOJ now says the Wire Act only applies to

sports-related gambling activitiesThe DOJ says the “ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘sports event or contest’ does not encompass lotteries”Per Judge Weinstein, “the [Wire] Act applies only to wagering on sporting events.”

Open issue: what are “sports-related gambling activities” and “sporting events”?



Virtual Sports and Game Play Betting for Real Money

The Wire Act does not define a “sporting event” or “sports-related” gambling

The DOJ did not opine on what kind of games or contests other than state lotteries are not, in its view, sporting

eventsBased on Dicristina, the reach of federal gambling laws may depend on:Need for tools to curb mob influenceAbsence of robust state enforcementInability of RICO to reach the objectionable conduct


The Bottom Line for Federal Regulation



gambling activities are still illegal under federal lawOnline betting that violates state law also remains illegal under federal lawNo new safe harborsFederal legislation to legalize online gambling looks doubtful



A Taste of Tribal Gaming Issues

Does state-by-state approach leave Indian tribes unable to participate?

Impact of online gaming on states and tribes with “exclusivity” clauses in their compact

Wording of exclusivity clauses may be key (“gaming devices”)Is a home computer or mobile phone a “Gaming Device”? Where will the gaming be deemed located – i.e. in the home or on the server?


State Regulation of Online Gaming

Every state and the District of Columbia have some form of applicable gaming or lottery statutes, whether gaming is conducted in person or over the internet

Some states, such as Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin, explicitly prohibit online gaming

Nevada and Delaware have legalized online pokerCalifornia has re-introduced legislation to legalize online pokerNevada has introduced legislation to allow cross-state compacts


State Regulation of Online Gaming

States that define gambling to include poker:

Arizona Arkansas Connecticut

Florida Idaho Illinois Iowa Kansas MichiganOhio Oklahoma TennesseeWisconsin


Nevada’s Online Gambling Regulations– the Model of What is to Come?

Limited to online poker to start

Operator, service provider and manufacturer licenses offered

Requires in-state presence or affiliation with entity that has in-state presenceImposes geolocation and “patron identification” technological hurdles on operator


Nevada Interactive Gaming License Applicants (green= granted)

3G Studios

888 Holdings

(SP,M)ACEP (Stratosphere) (SP, M)

Aristocrat (SP, M)

Bally Technologies, Inc. (SP, M)Boyd (O, SP)BP Gaming (bwin sub) (SP, M)

CAMS (SP-Geolocation, Patron ID)

Caesars (O)

Canter (SP)

Fertitta Interactive

Global Cash Access, Inc. (SP-Cash Access and Wagering Instrument)Golden Nugget (O)Hard Rock



Lottomatic Group (Italy Based) - includes SPIELO, Boss Media, and St. Minver (SP, M)

MGM Resorts (O)

Monarch Casino (O)

NetEffect Networks (Class 2 SP-IT Service Provider)

Paddy Power (UK)

Pokertrip Enterprises (SP-Marketing Affiliate)

SG Gaming

Shuffle Master (SP, M)

South Point Poker (O, M)

William Hill PLC (Europe)

WMS Industries (M)


2012 M&A deal value $4 billion (up 18%)

2012 M&A deal volume over 83 transactions (down 27%)2012 average transaction value of $48.6 million


2012 Games Industry M&A Activity

Source: Digi-Capital Global Games Investment ReviewSlide26


Trend: Rising M&A Exits

% M&A Activity

% IPO ActivitySlide27

The convergence of social games and casino games will increase M&A activity and deal sizeCross-state interactive gambling compacts

Addiction claims and self-exclusion programs


What to ExpectSlide28

Roxanne E. Christ

Roxanne Christ

is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins and is a member of the Corporate Department. Ms. Christ’s practice focuses on intellectual property, technology and media transactions, including both US-based and China-based cross-border acquisitions and dispositions of intellectual property portfolios; commercial loans secured by copyrights, patents and trademarks; securitizations of receivables arising from copyrighted works; licensing and strategic alliance agreements; and purchases, sales and restructurings of technology and media assets in bankruptcy.

For several consecutive years, Ms. Christ has been recognized by

Legal 500 US

guides as a leading attorney in Technology, video and online gaming corporate advice and the

Legal 500 US: Volume II - Intellectual Property, Media, Technology & Telecoms

. As noted in the

Chambers USA

guide, Ms. Christ is considered by clients to be "one of the leaders in the burgeoning video game industry.” In 2010, she was selected by

Los Angeles Business Journal

as one of the “Top 40 Lawyers” in Los Angeles for work in interactive media. Ms. Christ previously served as Co-chair of the Publications Subcommittee of the American Bar Association’s Special Committee on Computer Gaming and Virtual Worlds.

Ms. Christ handles video game industry matters for both publishers and developers as well as investment banks, commercial banks and private equity funds.




JD, Loyola Law School

BA, University of California, Los Angeles


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