Over the last year we have listened to the rumours, speculation and hearsay that preceded the introduction of the new gambling act as we tried to predict how these changes would affect our pubs. For once most of the rumours turned out to be fairly close to the mark and there was not really anything in the act concerning pub poker that was unexpected. What is more interesting, and unknown at this point, is how stringently the new act is going to be enforced.Although on the surface the new act appears to have provided a more liberal setting for pubs wishing to host poker nights, the reality maybe slightly different. Illegal poker games in pubs have been going on for many years and poker could well have been the catalyst for the creation of that great British institution, otherwise known as the public house. Players used to sit outside in the rain and gradually the pubs were built around them to shelter them from the elements and provide refreshment to those players, who had been chasing their losses for days at a time. OK, maybe I am rewriting history here, but the point is that pub poker has been around for many years.Due to the law change many venues now seem to believe that their games have become semi-legitimate. In actual fact the opposite could well be the case. The new gambling act enables pubs to offer small stakes games with a limit of £5 per person for each game, with a premises based prize pool limit of £100 a day. This does indeed constitute a loosening of the laws for venues that up until September 1st, did not provide cash poker on their premises. However, the new law also means the Gambling Commission has become one of the most powerful organisations in the country with far reaching powers to punish publicans who flaunt the new regulations.Whether or not the change in legislation is going to affect pubs in any meaningful way remains to be seen. At the moment the Gambling Commission appears to be playing a waiting game and we can speculate that they are holding off taking any action until Gordon Brown has clarified his position, on the interpretation of the new gambling act. It will be very interesting to see what “the powers that be” decide. Will they turn a blind eye to venues that operate well run events, albeit outside the law or are they going to try and enforce the letter of the law by making examples of pubs that break the rules.Many public houses have now started advertising poker events that contravene the current legislation and this will make it harder for the authorities to ignore. It would seem that some publicans are unclear on what the law actually permits and this is understandable as having a law degree seems to be a requirement for understanding the terminology used in the Gambling Act 2005.In our view cash poker in pubs is not necessarily a good thing. We feel that playing poker for money is best kept in casinos or regulated poker clubs. We have seen first hand that there is a huge demand for small stakes poker in the UK and we feel that casinos and poker clubs should be the ones to step in to cover this gap in the market.The reason for this is because it is much easier to run a well regulated game of poker in a casino or card room, where there is a tournament host present and measures are in place to prevent foul play. The majority of publicans are not going to have experience in running poker games and in many establishments the players will be left to run themselves. This causes problems if there are any disagreements over money or the rules. It only takes a few nasty incidents and suddenly poker is all over the front pages for the wrong reasons. Poker players will not be swayed by sensationalist headlines such as “British Pubs or Gambling Dens?” but people who are not familiar with the poker community will be influenced by these kinds of stories. I have no idea how many politicians play poker, but I can hazard a guess that plenty of them will see the opportunity to score some points, if public opinion begins to turn against this great game.We are not saying that we completely oppose cash games in pubs, rather that it would be better if more facilities were provided in purpose run venues, to enable players to partake of the game of their choice in a safe environment. Casinos need to play their part in this by providing the kind of setting that poker players are going to appreciate. Poker players do not want casinos offering poor quality poker games just as a hook to get people onto the gaming floor. The venues which offer well thought out tournaments and cash games are the ones which are going to reap the most benefits of the current UK poker boom.Whatever happens we are going to continue to provide Poker in the Pub as a free to play league. We have always focused on the entertainment factor and steered well clear of gambling in pubs, which has paid dividends in the amount of new players we have seen taking up the game. The league is currently growing at an astonishing rate, which has seen venue numbers increase by 50 percent in the last few months.Once again the emphasis is on making sure that everyone has a good day out and I am confident the players will ensure we see some good quality poker. This statement is borne out by the excellent showing of our regional winners at the Golden Sands Poker Festival.Whatever Gordon Brown’s government decide in relation to the implementation of the new gambling act, it is going to be an interesting few months for those involved in pub poker or online casinos.
A while ago, my mother received a letter from the IRS stating she owed tax (plus penalties and interest) on her jackpot winnings at a Delaware casino in a prior year. They included a copy of the W2G form that she (according to them) had neglected to claim on her Federal tax return. Mom had not been to that Delaware casino in that year because there are now more than enough casinos in our state where you can play and lose your money.My mother did not know where to begin to get this resolved, so she called for my help. As an accountant, my first thought was to see a copy of the receipt the winner had signed when she collected her jackpot. Mom called and asked the accounting department to fax a copy of the receipt to me.It clearly was not my mother’s signature on the receipt. After a second call to the casino, we learned several things about how the accounting is handled at casinos.Turns out there is another person with the same name as my mother, but a different address and Social Security number. This person and my mother had both signed up for the casino’s ‘club’ card, and I suppose they each had to supply their Social Security number. This is the card you put into the slot machine you’re playing that is supposed to track your winnings and provide points for free meals, etc.However, it looks like the casino had not bothered to verify the correct SSN when they filled out the paperwork for the winner, and therefore filed an incorrect W2G to the Internal Revenue Service for that jackpot. Meanwhile, my mother was being billed for the tax on the winnings, plus penalties and interest, while the real winner was not, and the clock kept ticking on the interest until this was resolved.Another call to the casino was a little frustrating, as the accounting department had no idea how to solve the problem. (As an accountant, I knew they would have to send in a corrected W2G under my mother’s SSN stating no income, along with a new W2G stating the earnings for the winner under the correct SSN.) We called the IRS and they confirmed the need for the casino to file these two forms, and then we had to call the casino to explain how they needed to do their job to correct this.Weeks later, Mom received a corrected W2G from the casino and I wrote a letter to IRS explaining the situation and asked for the penalties and interest be reversed. Eventually the case with the IRS was resolved, but not without a lot of frustration and time. The casino did not seem too fazed with the error – they did apologize, but we will never go there again. I had Mom call them to cancel her ‘club’ card so this wouldn’t happen again-to her, at least.The lesson learned here is… if you do enjoy playing the slots or table games at a casino, do be sure to keep track of your winnings. If it’s available to you, ask the casino for a list of your year-to-date winnings at the end of December to make sure it agrees with your actual figures, and question anything that looks wrong. I am sure there are jackpot winners who wind up paying tax on money they didn’t win.Don’t let the casinos gamble with your taxes!Copyright © 2014 Kay Swann
Casinos… Think of Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, bright lights, ritz, glamour, people winning money, but mostly people losing money! You may be intrigued by the idea of going to a casino but don’t really know too much about them – please read on to learn more about the fun of a night out to a casino…According to Princeton University’s ‘Wordnet’, a casino is ‘a public building for gambling and entertainment’. Don’t be overawed if you do go, relax and enjoy. You will most likely have the chance to play slot machines or one-armed bandits as they are commonly known and perhaps other games of chance and some skill. One major thing that you do need to be aware of, is the way that a casino will look to tilt the odds in its favour, which is more commonly known as the casino’s “edge”. However, some games such as poker are played with players versus players and in this case, the casino cannot get an advantage as it is not effectively playing. In these circumstances, the casino will take a “rake” on the bets that players make against each other.If you have ever been to Las Vegas and gone to one of the casinos there, the first thing that you will notice is the fact that they more often or not have the slot machines (otherwise known as ‘one-armed-bandits’ or ‘fruit machines’) right as you go in. This is because they really don’t require too much understanding to play and it’s not uncommon to see people playing these machines for hours on end. The slot machine will typically involve a lever on the side (the one arm!) and three reels with patterns of symbols on, located in the centre of the machine. The reels revolve as you pull the lever and the idea is to generate rows of matching symbols to win, having paid your required stake via the slot usually on the front of the machine.There may be times when you will play on a machine which will have extra options available for you to use, often giving the illusion that you will have more control over the reels and a better chance of winning. This may be the case over the short-term, but always remember that playing in casinos is fun, but the house always has the long-term advantage. To give you a quick example…if you were to play a game where you had to bet on what number would lie face up after the roll of a die, then you would expect to see the casino pay six times the amount bet for a win, but in fact the casino would pay five times to maintain its advantage.This system is often found in famous casino gambling games like Poker, Craps, Roulette or Blackjack.Blackjack has always been played in casinos because players will play their chips against the House dealer with the successful gambler being paid against pre-determined odds (ie by getting a true ‘Blackjack’ which in other words is a two card combination adding up to 21, the House will pay you 3:2, or 1-1/2 times your initial wager). If you play fair, the chances are that you may end up with a profit, but more often than not, the casino will win, unless you count the cards. Card counting is a black art as far as casinos are concerned and if you are caught, you will be blacklisted worldwide! Effectively, because the playing cards are only used once and then discarded, anyone with a good memory and a highly analytical mind can determine their own odds that a certain card will or will not appear again, tilting the odds in his favour.Poker is one of the most played games in the world. Its popularity has grown massively over the past couple of years and many casinos would not offer a poker game due to the fact that they were limited to taking a rake (as discussed previously). You may be aware that poker is essentially a playing card game were players are dealt poker cards face down, and then take it in turns to place bets (represented by poker chips with a specific value) based on the strength of the cards that they hold, combined with other community cards placed face up in the middle of the poker table. The player with the strongest combination should win what’s known as the pot (the combined bets of all the players for that hand), however one of the reasons that poker is so popular is the element of ‘bluffing’ where a player may actually have a poor hand, but believes that he can make his opponents believe that he has the strongest combination by means of subtle psychology! This can be as subtle as staring one’s opponent into ‘folding’ his cards, or by moving his entire stack of poker chips into the middle of the table – what’s known as ‘going all in’.Roulette is a classic casino game, whereby a croupier gently spins a perfectly balanced, wooden roulette wheel with either 37 or 38 recessed ‘pockets’ along the bottom edge of the roulette wheel. As the wheel begins to spin, the croupier will roll a small white ball the opposite way with the intention being for the ball to bounce of raised points on the wall and to finally come to rest in one of the numbered pockets. In European casinos, the wheel’s layout features pockets numbered 1 – 36 and alternate between red and black with the number one, coloured red and zero being coloured green. However in American casinos, you are more likely to see a second double-zero 00 pocket also coloured green.Again the House pays out against set odds displayed on the cloth covering the roulette table. Typically this will offer 35:1 for single number bets where you bet on one number to win, 2:1 for any column of numbers, and evens for any red, any black, odds or evens.Craps can be the most fun to play and certainly watch. It’s also the fastest game in the casino with often more than 60 bets per hour. Players will wager bets against the casino on the result of a roll of a die, or the series of rolls of two dice. The great thing about craps is that you don’t have to be rolling the dice to bet, you can bet on how lucky you (hope) the guy rolling is going to be, which is why it can be so entertaining. Essentially, the guy with the dice is called the ‘shooter’ and the basic bet in craps is called the ‘Pass Line’ bet, and by rolling a 7 or 11, the shooter will roll a pass line winner, and can play again. If he rolls 2, 3 or 12, these are known as craps and this is a pass line loss. Any other number becomes the shooter’s point and he continues. It really is a fascinating game with many more rules and options.At the end of the day, a night out to a casino can be wonderfully entertaining, but casinos have learnt over hundreds of years how to make their games very, very addictive. They are quite happy to let you win a little here and there, but they know that in the long run, it’s you that’s going to be making them happy – do take care!
So you’ve watched the movie, played the games with your friends at home, passed the big flashy neon signs in your town and now you feel it is finally time to take the plunge and go to a casino. But no amount of playing online games or watching films can prepare you for the real deal. Casino gambling is fast and tough with the house guaranteed to win every time, unless you learn when to stop gambling and cash out. Everything about casinos has been designed to keep you in the building, keep you gambling, lower your inhibitions and give you every possible opportunity to part with your cash. So you need to be prepared.Learn the GamesIf you don’t have the luxury of a casino guide to walk you from game to game, you may not be 100% clear on the way to play each and every game. Games like poker and blackjack may be fairly familiar to you but roulette and craps are often less accessible outside an actual casino. What you should do is just stand and watch people playing for a while. You will learn what each square on the table represents and what you are really staking your cash on each time. You can of course buy books in advance or watch YouTube videos to show you how to play too or some large casinos even hold free classes.Stay SoberYou may find that the booze in casinos flows really rather fast and loose. This is of course a tactic of the house to get people to forget how much they are betting and loose heavily to the house. This is the place where staying sober is a must, especially if you are a beginner. You don’t want to start thinking you’re in a movie and you’re going to have some miraculous luck on the craps table.The only truly safe way of gambling really, is away from the casino using a matched betting system and the many free bets that online bookmakers currently offer on a daily basis. This system, when you learn how to do it, allows you to slowly but surely build up small wins and eventually bigger wins into some significant cash.Casinos can be a lot of fun but never forget that no one is on your side. Start with a budget that you stick to and above all, never risk betting more than you can afford to lose.