Moe’s Downtown Summerlin Franchisee’s Yelp Account Slamming Competitors

I don’t use Yelp much.  For the most part, I leave positive reviews for establishments that deserve it.  I’ve left a handful of negative reviews when the situation was truly awful and a place rightfully deserved to be avoided.  I understand the hardships of owning a small business and try to focus on the positive.

Moe’s Southwest Grill opened up in Downtown Summerlin near my house about one year ago.

I liked Moe’s when I lived in Atlanta.  The one in Downtown Summerlin is not good.  I left a comment about it on Yelp and received a private message from the franchisee and we got to talking about it.  I deleted my Yelp post because I felt that it was great that a store owner was involved and the issue would be corrected.

I went back to contact this person today on Yelp.  I just happened to click on his list of Yelp reviews.

Shill Yelp Reviews

He left a glowing review of his Moe’s. It was his third attempt.  Yelp deleted the previous two for violating the site’s T&Cs.

A  “Joe K.” Moe’s review was also in the deleted review section for violating Yelp’s T&Cs.  Joe K. has a one-star review of Zaba’s, a similar restaurant to Moe’s in Downtown Summerlin. Those are the only two Yelp reviews from this Joe K.

The “not recommended” section of this Moe’s Yelp page is full of five-star reviews from one-and-done posters.  There are almost as many filtered reviews (32) for the Downtown Summerlin Moe’s location than ones Yelp found to be legitimate (38).

Compare this to Zaba’s, a nearly identical restaurant in the same mall.  There are 26 legitimate Yelp reviews.  The only review in the filtered section is the one from Joe K. mentioned earlier.

Downtown Summerlin Moe’s Yelp account leaving negative reviews about competitors

The Moe’s franchisee’s Yelp account also had three other reviews.  One was about Moe’s neighbor Pieology.  There was another about Shake Shack.  The other was about a new Mexican restaurant called Pancho’s.  All three are in the same mall parking lot as this Moe’s.  The reviews for all three are negative.

The Pancho’s review specifically plugs Moe’s.  The Pieology review mentions wanting a burrito instead of pizza.

The pattern shows a blatant abuse of the Yelp system to me.  I felt that it needed to be called out.

I let the three businesses that received negative reviews know about the situation.  I also contacted Moe’s headquarters and Downtown Summerlin.  Moe’s responded quickly that this was not acceptable.

This is a sleazy way to do business.  I will not be giving that location or any other in Las Vegas any of my money in the future.  This Moe’s is almost always empty.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see it become the first casualty in Downtown Summerlin.

Trashing competitors on Yelp from a shill account is not a legitimate way of promoting your business.  Businesses that choose this route deserve to fail.

Rep. Joe Heck Response to RAWA Inquiry

Rep. Joe Heck will run for Sen. Harry Reid’s seat in November 2016.  Reid is retiring after this term.  Heck is currently my representative in the House.  This was his response to me in December 2014 in reference to RAWA.

Dear John,

Thank you for contacting me with your opposition to H.R. 4301, the Restoration of America’s WIRE Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I certainly understand the importance and sensitivity of this issue as it pertains to our economy and livelihood in Nevada. As you know, in 2013 Nevada became the first state to allow people physically in the state to play online poker. I would support the federal legalization of online poker, as long as it is well-regulated in the same manner as brick-and-mortar operations in the state of Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Control Board is the foremost regulator of the gaming industry in the world, and so I would support efforts to make this board the national regulator. I also believe that tough restrictions should be in place to prevent the unlawful gaming by minors, including requiring personal identifying and financial information. I agree that strong consumer protections and safeguards must be part of any attempt to legalize online gaming

As you know, Representative Jason Chaffetz (UT-3) introduced H.R. 4301, the Restoration of America’s WIRE Act on March 26, 2013. This bill would amend the WIRE Act to prohibit all types of gambling activities online. This bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. While I do not serve on this committee, please be assured that I understand your concerns and will keep your comments in mind should H.R. 4301 be considered by the full House of Representatives.

As this issue is extremely important to Nevada, please be assured that, as co-chair of the House Gaming Caucus, I will be actively involved in any legislation regarding this matter. Additionally, please know that I will remember your comments and I appreciate your input on this critical issue.

Again, I appreciate your thoughts and it is an honor to serve you in Congress. Your suggestions are always welcome, and if ever I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

It Was a Great Experience Saving Nevada’s Strong Anti-SLAPP Law

A screenshot of my testimony before the Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 24, 2015 in opposition of SB444.

In April, I discovered that Nevada’s powerful anti-SLAPP law, passed during the previous legislative session, was under attack. I immediately went on the defensive.

The bill was SB444. The Nevada Senate passed it by a 21-0 margin.  It happened without any debate. Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom told political journalist Jon Ralston that Democrats were “asleep at the wheel.” This left the Nevada Assembly as the last line of defense.

Why Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP Law Matters

Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to protect citizens from abusive lawsuits aimed solely to silence critics. If you read my work, you know that I have covered some controversial topics.  This includes exposing online gambling scams and companies that steal my copyrighted work.  I’ve been threatened by attorneys over it. One example of that is here. That is not the only time.

After the 2013 version of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law went into effect, I was able to confidently tell an attorney that threatened me that I lived in Nevada. This lawyer was trying to use me as leverage in an attempt to intimidate a colleague. I provided a link to Nevada’s powerful anti-SLAPP law in my response to the legal threat and told the attorney to stop contacting me.  It was a polite middle finger. I never heard from him again.

Under the law I fought to save, I don’t have to worry about someone filing a frivolous lawsuit against me in an attempt to punish me for my opinion or stating facts.  If a Nevada resident’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, a court should toss cases filed by anyone that tries to sue for defamation. If a case is ruled to be a SLAPP, the plaintiff would be forced to pay court costs, as well as monetary damages up to $10,000. A successful anti-SLAPP defendant in Nevada can also file a separate action to recover additional compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs of bringing this separate action. That seems like quite a deterrent to me.

You may not think that these lawsuits are a big problem, but there are numerous people and companies out there that do such a thing on a regular basis. Most states have little or no protection from these types of vexatious lawsuits.

Yelp explained why anti-SLAPP laws are important to its business model. The company and its content contributors have been forced to defend lawsuits based on reviews posted on Yelp. This scenario could happen to any website that allows comments, regardless of whether the Communications Decency Act applies. Most states have no laws that punish plaintiffs in frivolous defamation lawsuits. Nevada is one of the few that does.  This type of protection is imperative to media companies and individuals that wish to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Phone Calls and Emails Went Out Immediately

When I heard that Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law was in trouble, I started contacting Nevadans that I knew would be interested.  I received a response from most of those that I contacted. It helped generate support for the cause.  Several of the people that I contacted testified against SB444 in person.  Others submitted public comment.

Road Trip to Carson City

I decided to go to Carson City and speak in person to lawmakers.  I testified in front of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on my second day in Carson City. While the camera view suggests otherwise, the room was packed.

Admittedly, I was incredibly nervous before going up to the podium. That disappeared when my turn came to speak. I nailed it.

I spoke about why the anti-SLAPP law is important to my business and to the gaming industry.  I used examples of my journalism to show why my work should be protected from frivolous lawsuits.

I told the committee that a change in Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law could force me to relocate my business to Texas, my first choice among other states with a real anti-SLAPP law. I also explained that tech businesses would no longer consider Nevada to be a friendly environment, even with its tax advantages, as the lack of legal protections would offset it.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee did not act on the bill at the time.  On the last day of business before the bill would have died, it passed a watered-down version to the full Assembly.  I was not happy about it, but it seemed like a reasonable compromise.

Washington State Supreme Court Struck Down Similar Law

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The Washington State Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical law two weeks later.  The court took issue with the “clear and convincing” evidence standard in the Washington law.  Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law had the same language. If the bill had died in committee, the potentially faulty language could have been impossible to correct during the session, leaving the law vulnerable to a court challenge.

The Nevada Legislature was able to change the language before the session expired on June 1.  It took a conference on the last day to pull it off.

What I Learned From the Experience

I learned that if there is a bad bill out there that affects your freedom or business, you can do something about it.  It does not matter how powerful your opposition is.  Everyone has a chance to speak their mind and state lawmakers will listen, especially when there is massive opposition among the citizenry.

If you have allies out there, get them aligned.  Several of the people I talked to were unaware of the bill’s existence at the time.  Once they knew about it, they were happy to get involved.

The numbers mattered. Public comment was 213-3 against. There were 17 voices heard in opposition before the committee, with only outside counsel for Wynn Resorts supporting it.  I feel these numbers were a contributing factor as to why we prevailed in getting the bad language in SB444 removed.  With that said, attacking the other side on a personal level was not an appropriate action. I tried to distance myself from that tactic.

I also learned that the Nevada lawmakers that I interacted with were genuinely interested in the bill and my opinion.  Many asked great questions at the committee hearing that showed their familiarity and concerns with the bill.

First Amendment supporters were able to take on a large gaming corporation in Nevada and win.  It was not just press agencies and members. The Motion Picture Association, the Sierra Club, First Amendment attorneys, and about a half-dozen concerned citizens spoke out in opposition to SB444.

We Won’t Be Asleep at the Wheel Next Time

The Nevada Legislature only meets every two years.  I will be scouring the bills in 2017 to make sure nothing like this has been filed.  If it is there, I will once again go to Carson City and testify as to why Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law is so important to the people of our state, my company, and our ability to attract tech companies.   Hopefully we have a federal anti-SLAPP law by then.

The SPEAK FREE Act was recently introduced in Congress. For now, the only effective state anti-SLAPP laws on the books are in Texas, Nevada, California, and Oregon.  Hopefully the Washington Legislature fixes that law that was struck down.

Residents of other states have little recourse if someone attempts to stifle their free speech through litigation other than spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves or cave in to the threats.  That is unfortunate for those active in politics or on consumer review sites.

Some states have anti-SLAPP laws that only cover political speech or cases filed in state court, but not federal court. That is better than nothing, but still leaves room for improvement.  I am willing to go to Washington D.C. to testify in favor of a federal anti-SLAPP law.  Contact me at johnmehaffeylv@gmail.com if you are interested in making that happen.

Pokertube and 180Vita Continue to Use Content Without Permission, Including Mine

Those of us in poker media know about 180Vita, founded by Jamie Nevin, all too well.  The company is the previous owner of Pokerupdate.com, a site that once had a reputation for copying content word-for-word from other sources without permission or attribution while under 180Vita’s umbrella.  The PokerUpdate site was sold last year and is no longer associated with 180Vita.

Companies that produce poker videos have voiced displeasure towards Pokertube, owned by 180Vita, for hosting its content without permission.  Its “unrivalled” live coverage of poker events drew some ire last summer.

On Sunday, I published an article about a Las Vegas poker room closing.  Two days later, Pokertube did the same.  They attributed a rumor to me and then went on to copy my article almost word-for-word without using quotes or further attribution.  A Copyscape search confirms this.

Pokertube also copy/pasted a chart listing the last 12 poker rooms in Las Vegas to close, again presenting my work as its own.

I have included screenshots of the Pokertube article at the bottom of this post with a link to my article that was used.

My past criticism not welcomed by 180Vita

180Vita did not take my criticism well in the past.  In 2013, I got sick of its content theft and wrote an article about it.  Instead of deleting the content and apologizing, 180Vita sent a lawyer after me, claiming that I had some personal vendetta against the company.  180Vita only deleted the copied content after I posted at 2+2 that it was still live five days after the date on the cease-and-desist letter.

They continued to threaten legal action when I refused to cooperate.  They even demanded that I sign an apology and publicly recant the articles, as well as agreeing not to write about them anymore. I refused.

I did not have time for their behavior.  I agreed that if they changed their ways I would remove the content.  I regret that decision, and apologize to the poker community for it, but if 180Vita filed its promised lawsuit, it would have been a massive waste of my time to defend.  I had better things to do.

I felt like the behavior of copying content would cease and something good could come out of it if I gave them a chance.  They seemed very sincere about fixing the problem and I believed them.  I don’t feel like my goal was accomplished since here I am again writing about the same topic 18 months later.

Nevada Anti-SLAPP law enacted

Nevada’s powerful Anti-SLAPP law went into effect in October 2013, about 10 weeks after the date on 180Vita’s cease-and-desist letter.  This article I wrote at the time should explain why that matters.  The cliffs are that people that file frivolous defamation lawsuits against Nevadans after October 1, 2013 are severely punished before the case is ever heard.

Any legal threats pertaining to this post will be ignored, but I will happily post it here for the industry to critique, should I receive one.

Even after all this, I still tried to handle situation privately

Since 180Vita threatened me, I have gone to them twice privately about issues surrounding that company’s unauthorized use of work involving me to avoid having to write an article like this.  I simply wanted to keep the peace.

The company removed the offending work both times.  I suppose it is good that they were quick to remove the content, but all that does is give them a freeroll.  I have grown tired of it.

Their actions lead me to believe that their previous legal threat was nothing more than a way to continue using work like mine, while at the same time discouraging people from exposing them.

The fact the behavior has not stopped certainly backs up my theory.  To the best of my knowledge, 180Vita has never shown any remorse over threatening me or using my work without permission, more evidence that backs up my opinion.

Check out this Twitter exchange

This Twitter exchange is an example of how Pokertube/180Vita handles a public demand of content removal:

In my opinion, the responses to the content removal demand accurately reflect the values and attitude of 180Vita, parent company of Pokertube.com and Pokervip.com.

I always try to work out issues privately first

Sometimes writers publish something while tired and don’t do enough to differentiate their work.  Other times, a bad article from a rogue freelancer may get past an editor.

I feel like everyone deserves a free pass on this at some point.  We all make mistakes.  The friendly email I send when I discover my work being used without permission is almost always met with some level of remorse and an apology.

180Vita is well past this being a one-time mistake and I have let this go on for too long.

What is the big deal?

Some people that are not writers may not understand why this is such a big deal.  Writers make money by providing content to sites.  This can be news, editorials, poker room reviews, or anything else that gets published.  If another site steals it, the original work’s value is diminished.

This is why copyright laws exist.  Without the ability to protect one’s work from unauthorized use, there would be little incentive to create, which would substantially lower the quality of published work out there.  If my work loses half of its value because I allow it to be used by other sites, I will be forced to find other work.

Comparing the articles

Here is the link to the original article.  Compare it to these screenshots of the body of the Pokertube article below.  Note that the differences between the two articles mostly pertain to grammatical errors inserted into the Pokertube version.

 

Response from Senator Harry Reid to My RAWA Inquiry

I wrote Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller, and Rep. Joe Heck about my opposition to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).  Sen. Reid’s response is discouraging, especially considering that Nevada has already regulated online poker and jobs like mine depend on the industry.  I have yet to receive a reply from Sen. Heller or Rep. Heck.

Response from Senator Harry Reid:

——————————————————-

Dear Mr. Mehaffey:

Thank you for contacting me regarding online gaming. I appreciate hearing from you.

As a former gaming regulator, I believe that maintaining the integrity and fairness of the gaming industry – both in brick and mortar casinos and on the Internet – requires strong and effective regulation. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs is the worst possible situation for consumers, regulators, and law enforcement officials. For more than a decade, illegal online websites offering Internet poker and other types of gambling have grown into a multi-billion dollar market. Yet, none of these sites are regulated by responsible U.S. regulators, and none of them have an incentive to comply with basic consumer protections and gambling regulations.

Whether one supports or opposes regulated online gambling, the current U.S. laws on this topic are outdated. The 2011 Department of Justice’s (DOJ) reinterpretation of the Wire Act has opened the door to permitting states to conduct all types of non-sporting, online gambling. Without strong regulations in place to govern this gambling, consumers inevitably will end up being hurt.

On March 26, 2014, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (S. 2159). This legislation would prohibit online gaming. S. 2159 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Should this or related legislation reach the full Senate for consideration, I will remain mindful of your concerns regarding the impact of online gaming on our nation’s vulnerable populations.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

My best wishes to you.

Sincerely,
HARRY REID
United States Senator

 

Some Thoughts on the New Jersey Poker Affiliate Crackdown

Several regulated online gambling industry members have expressed to me that the affiliate arrangement in New Jersey was not working. The main complaint is that some affiliates that are promoting New Jersey sites are also advertising offshore sites on the same pages and websites. Some in the regulated New Jersey online gaming market believe that this is unfair competition from illegal sites and want to put an end to it.

Gambling911 first reported what had been rumored for weeks. The New Jersey Attorney General’s office would start to enforce the promotion of offshore sites and affiliates could become targets of state law enforcement, according to this report. Online Poker Report obtained the letter sent to one large online poker affiliate.

New Jersey’s online gaming revenue numbers have fallen below estimates. One reason often cited for this is the existence of offshore sites still operating in the market.

Last week, the Winning Poker Network left New Jersey, as well as Delaware and Nevada. These three states are the only ones with regulated online gaming.

In emails to players, Winning Poker cited the existence of regulated online poker as the reason for leaving the market. A few players in these states quickly reported that they were advised by the network to change their state in the system. This would allow them to continue playing. There are still several unlicensed U.S.-facing sites that are happy to accept action from players in regulated states.

What Should Affiliates Do?

Promoting offshore sites in regulated states is becoming more and more risky. It is probably time to stop promoting offshore sites entirely. Affiliates with a New Jersey vendor’s license should seriously consider this action. The license application tells New Jersey law enforcement exactly who you are and where to find you. While you are at it, do the same for Delaware and Nevada.

Another idea is to create a New Jersey mini-site. Many successful affiliates have done this. These may not be giant moneymakers today but the investment will pay for itself in the long run.

What Should Affiliates Not Do?

Affiliates should not be optimizing sites for terms like “New Jersey Poker Sites” and then advertising offshore ones on it. Offshore sites should not be described as “100% fully legal” and pages optimized for legal poker site terms should only include sites that are licensed and regulated. To state otherwise is false advertising. It could also make you the target of comments from executives of regulated sites made at industry events, which actually happened in recent months. This could put an unnecessary and unwanted spotlight on your business.

There is another reputation issue to consider. If a site fails to pay players down the road and you advertised them as “100% safe and legal” then it reflects poorly on your business.

It is time to realize that regulated states and those operators feel that they have the right to those players without unlicensed competitors and are serious about defending this opinion. It appears that offshore sites are starting to recognize this and the shift in attitude will only continue.  Affiliates in this for the long term need to give serious consideration to how their strategy going forward may affect their future in the regulated online gaming industry.

Opinion on New Jersey Affiliate Action

I applaud the DGE for acknowledging this problem and taking action to correct it. I agree with the state’s stance that offshore sites should not be promoted alongside regulated ones. It is not in the best interest of the industry as it hopes to grow online gaming to other states. It is easy to see how a player could get confused about what poker rooms are licensed and legal when they are presented with offshore sites in similar context.

The affiliate licensing process left a lot of questions as to what was allowed and what was not. This clears up some of those questions. I feel that it would be a great idea for the DGE to create a fact sheet about what exactly is expected from affiliates and operators in the marketing of New Jersey sites to clear up any confusion that may remain.

There is one concern that I have. Some major affiliates may decide to dump New Jersey sites entirely as the offshore business is far more lucrative. This would be counterproductive as it would get fewer eyes on advertising by New Jersey sites. While not a perfect solution, geotargeting by state may be the best compromise here.

Disclaimer

None of the above is meant to be legal advice. It is simply the actions I would be taking if I were in the position of some of the affiliates that appear to be in violation of the order from the DGE. If you are unsure about how online poker regulations affect your business you should consult an attorney that specializes in gaming.

— John Mehaffey

Rediscovered Online Poker Fun with Ultimate Poker PLO8 SNGs

I was among the thousands of players that were affected by Black Friday.  I used to play Fixed Limit Omaha High/Low and Seven Card Stud High/Low sit and gos and multi table tournaments at PokerStars before Black Friday.  I played online poker professionally off and on for years before Black Friday, which affected both my ability to play and my profession writing content and handling support for Poker Affiliate Solutions.

While I disagree with what happened on Black Friday, it had to occur to bring regulation to the industry.

I live in Nevada where I have two regulated online poker choices; Ultimate Poker and WSOP.  I have tried both equally in terms of rake paid.  I started at Ultimate Poker, but left it for WSOP when it launched because I am not a Texas Hold’em player.  I enjoyed the Omaha High/Low and Seven Card Stud High/Low cash games offered by WSOP, but eventually went back to Ultimate Poker.

The main reason I went back to Ultimate Poker is because of its support.  It is located in Las Vegas and response times rival what I grew accustomed to when I played at PokerStars.  The quality also equals PokerStars.

While I never played Pot Limit Omaha High/Low on a regular basis, I have grown to enjoy the sit and gos offered by Ultimate Poker.  I am a far better tournament player than cash game player. The amount of rake paid is much lower at tournaments as well.

The Ultimate Poker PLO8 sit and gos that run on a regular basis have seven seats with a $2.50 and $7.77 buyin.

The $7.77 sit and gos have a promotion where a player that wins three between November 21st and December 31st will gain entry to a $7,777 freeroll that will be held on January 5th.  I am certain that I am dead money since it is No Limit Texas Hold’em, a game I do not enjoy and have never perfected. I am not playing at Ultimate Poker because of this promotion, but who knows, maybe I can luckbox a cash in it.

The Ultimate Poker PLO8 sit and gos are the most fun that I have had since I lost access to PokerStars and there is ample action, even late at night.  The only thing that would be more fun to me would be having Fixed Limit Omaha High/Low and Seven Card Stud High/Low sit and gos and tournaments.  I feel certain that will never happen with Nevada’s limited liquidity.

I do not give much action at the Ultimate Poker PLO8 cash games because I feel the buyin range is not ideal.  I am not a big fan of 20-50 big blind buyin cash games.  I am sure that Ultimate Poker has its reasons for this, which likely includes keeping players from busting in deep games, but it keeps me from being a regular cash game player there.  If I put myself in Ultimate Poker’s shoes, I feel they are making the correct business decision.

As I watch the success in New Jersey, I wish that I had access to those games.  Hopefully a liquidity agreement will be signed between the states in the near future.  In the meantime, I will probably spend my spare time grinding a few dollars a week out of the low limit PLO8 sit and gos spread by Ultimate Poker until Nevadans have access to serious action.

New Jersey Regulated Online Poker Launching in November

I have not posted much in the way of content on my blog recently.  That is because I have been busy writing news for a number of other sites.  The online poker industry is getting off the ground and it has been creating a lot of work.

It all started in Nevada with Ultimate Poker, which launched on April 30th of this year.  WSOP launched in September.  Both are only available to players located in Nevada when logging onto the site.  That is all about to change.

New Jersey will open online poker and casino games for real money to players located in the state next month.  The official launch date for New Jersey online poker is November 26, 2013.  There will be a 5-day soft launch that will be available only to invited players.  The goal here is to identify any bugs before the sites are live to the general public.

New Jersey is taking a different route in Nevada in two ways.  The first is that it will launch multiple real money gaming sites on the same day.  The exact number is not known, but industry analysts believe the number will be around three.  The other is that casino games banked by the house will be available.  This will include slots, video poker and table games that are available in Atlantic City casinos.

Borgata, Golden Nugget, Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza, Tropicana and Optimal Payments have all been approved for licenses.  As many as 30 other companies are still waiting for approval.  Noticeably absent from the process are Atlantic Club and Revel.  These are the only two Atlantic City casinos that will not opt into regulated online gaming.  Atlantic Club entered into a failed acquisition agreement with PokerStars.  Revel entered bankruptcy just one year after its grand opening.  Its gaming revenue numbers are not showing much improvement.

New Jersey will not be the first state to launch online casino games.  Delaware, through its state lottery and three racinos, will launch online casino games on October 31st.  Online poker will also be available, although Delaware’s small population is not expected to be able to support much action.  Delaware hopes to network with other states to improve its online poker liquidity.

The next question is what states will discuss online gaming during the 2014 legislative sessions.  California, Pennsylvania and Illinois have all been mentioned as possible states that may may join one of the newest industries in the United States.  Most states will start their next legislative session in January.

New and Improved Nevada Anti-SLAPP Law Now in Effect

First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza and Governor Sandoval celebrate the signing of Nevada’s new anti-SLAPP law. Credit: Randazza Legal Group

First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza championed a groundbreaking law in Nevada that went into effect on October 1, 2013.  Journalists, bloggers, and anyone that believes in the U.S. Constitution should rejoice.  Any Nevadan that publishes a truthful article based on any topic of public interest is now immune from frivolous and vexatious lawsuits due to Nevada’s new anti-SLAPP law.  If a lawsuit is ruled by a judge to be a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) it is immediately tossed without ever going to trial, according to numerous articles published on the topic, including one from the Randazza Legal Group.

Marc Randazza published an article about his legal group’s road to victory in the Nevada Legislature. Others followed his lead to celebrate the news (examples are here and here).

The previous version of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law may have only applied to political speech and the right to petition.  This meant that someone that successfully defended protected First Amendment speech might have to go through the hardship of a trial before being able to recover attorney’s fees and costs.  That has now changed since the scope of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP was expanded to include anything pertaining to “free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern”, according to the points made in the above linked articles and other legal advice.

The new law now includes this language:

A person who engages in a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to petition or the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern is immune from any civil action for claims based upon communication.

Speech related to the gaming industry should fall under a topic of public interest due to NRS 463.0129, which begins:

NRS 463.0129  Public policy of state concerning gaming; license or approval revocable privilege.

1.  The Legislature hereby finds, and declares to be the public policy of this state, that:

(a) The gaming industry is vitally important to the economy of the State and the general welfare of the inhabitants.

(b) The continued growth and success of gaming is dependent upon public confidence and trust that licensed gaming and the manufacture, sale and distribution of gaming devices and associated equipment are conducted honestly and competitively, that establishments which hold restricted and nonrestricted licenses where gaming is conducted and where gambling devices are operated do not unduly impact the quality of life enjoyed by residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, that the rights of the creditors of licensees are protected and that gaming is free from criminal and corruptive elements.

(c) Public confidence and trust can only be maintained by strict regulation of all persons, locations, practices, associations and activities related to the operation of licensed gaming establishments, the manufacture, sale or distribution of gaming devices and associated equipment and the operation of inter-casino linked systems.

(d) All establishments where gaming is conducted and where gaming devices are operated, and manufacturers, sellers and distributors of certain gaming devices and equipment, and operators of inter-casino linked systems must therefore be licensed, controlled and assisted to protect the public health, safety, morals, good order and general welfare of the inhabitants of the State, to foster the stability and success of gaming and to preserve the competitive economy and policies of free competition of the State of Nevada.

 

The immunity described in the new anti-SLAPP law means that if a judge determines that a defamation lawsuit is unlikely to prevail due to it being protected free speech, it immediately gets tossed.  There is no trial.  The entire process is over and the aggressor will pay the accused all attorney’s fees and costs related to the case.

The anti-SLAPP statute does not stop at just immunity and attorney’s fees.  Defendants that prove that they were a victim of a SLAPP suit can be awarded up to $10,000 in damages immediately, in addition to reasonable attorney’s fees.

The court may award, in addition to reasonable costs and attorney’s fees awarded awarded to paragraph (a), an amount up to $10,000 to the person whom the action was brought.

Government attorneys can get involved too.

The Attorney General or the chief legal officer may or attorney of a political subdivision of this State may defend or otherwise support the person whom this action is brought.

They may not choose to do so, but if they do:

The court shall award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees to the person whom the action was brought, except that the court shall award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees to this State or to the appropriate political subdivision of this State if the  Attorney General, the chief legal officer or attorney of the political subdivision or special counsel provided the defense for the person pursuant to  NRS 41.660

Once a SLAPP is dismissed:

The person against whom the action is brought may bring a separate action to recover:

– Compensatory damages
– Punitive damages; and
– Attorney’s fees and costs of bringing the separate action

The law exists to discourage frivolous lawsuits and I cannot put into words how important this is.

It appears to apply to some federal cases.  Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law was applied in a New York Federal Court ruling earlier this week.  That case involved a Nevada party.

It is not that I want someone to be punished with these damages, I want these lawsuits to cease to exist.  Everyone deserves First Amendment protection without fear. I hope the potential damages and costs associated with lawsuits attempting to silence critics discourages this type of action forever.

Every person and company makes mistakes.  A simple apology goes a long way and countless companies have come out looking great by taking the proper route when their issues are made public.  In my opinion, this is what sets a great company apart from its competitors.  A company that chooses to threaten its critics will not go far.  I feel this is especially true in my industry where transparency is imperative.

The current US interactive gaming environment requires the licensing of all officers and companies.  This includes affiliates.  Groups that have operated unethically in the unregulated industry may have issues getting licensed.  Any company that manages to sneak in the back door could suffer a massive backlash.   We already saw this with iovation.

Nevada is a great state that believes in the First Amendment and all freedom associated with the US Constitution.  I am proud to be a resident.

Not a Lawyer Disclaimer

I am not a lawyer and this should not be taken as legal advice.  It is simply a celebration of free speech.  This article is based on other articles and discussions with an attorney about the law.  Always get legal advice from qualified legal experts.

Why did I write this? (Updated)

A month or so before the Anti-SLAPP went into effect, I busted a company known as 180Vita of publishing plagiarized content on its PokerUpdate site.  They decided that instead of removing the content they published word for word from other sources without attribution or permission, they would send a lawyer after me.  They didn’t delete the copied content until I called them out at Two Plus Two for it.

It is absurd to think someone would rather send a lawyer after someone than do the right thing, but that is how some people in my industry operate.  They have never apologized for their behavior, but tried to bully me into publicly apologizing to them for the articles I published about their company.  They even tried to get me to put in writing that I would never write about them again.

While I regrettably backed down because I did not have time for their behavior and the Anti-SLAPP was not live yet, I wasn’t going to sign my rights away.

Had they filed their lawsuit, it would have been a waste of time and money to defend.  Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP law should discourage them from using any such tactic in the future.

You can read more about the nonsense involving Jamie Nevin and 180Vita.

(Edited 10/4)

The End of Ultimate Texas Hold’em Machines in Las Vegas

A contact I had at Tropicana asked me several months ago what unique game the casino could offer to try and attract players.  I suggested a video version of Ultimate Texas Hold’em.  There used to be several in town.  When I moved to Las Vegas I found them at Riviera, Sahara, Binions and Las Vegas Club.  Sahara closed, while Riviera, Binions and Las Vegas Club removed all Shuffle Master multi player games from their casinos.

After these casinos removed the Ultimate Texas Hold’em machines there were no more in the Las Vegas Valley.  I found one in Indian Springs, which is out by Creech Air Force Base.  It does not have a players club for anyone but locals though so the game was -ev.

Weeks or maybe months passed and my contact at Tropicana sent me a text saying the machine had actually arrived.  My wife and I went down there and discovered the game had a $3 minimum, which is a bit steep for a game that requires a blind match and at least a 1x raise to play.  This meant that anyone that played would need at least $9 to play one hand and would actually need $18 if a 4x bet was required.  The machine was also in the back of the casino far away from the tables and where the poker room was once located.  The game also had no sign at first so nobody knew what it was by looking at it.

I mentioned all of these issues and eventually a sign was placed on the machine but its and poor location and high minimum bet were still an issue.

My wife and I continued to play it and racked up some nice comps.  We ate at Biscayne for free several times.  I also received several promotional mailers.

While I could grind the game out, passersby would never join in after stopping once they found out how much of a bankroll was required to play.  The game was then moved to an even worse location, if that was even possible.

I was at Tropicana last week and was told the machine would be converted to a video blackjack machine in the coming weeks.  On Wednesday, I was told it would be replaced the next day at 6am.  I gave it one last play on Wednesday night and a couple joined for hours.  Unfortunately, that play was too little too late.

The game can be +ev with the right comps, mailers and cash back.  It is just too much of a niche game to be placed in a poor location.

I think the game as a whole is dead in video version.  There were several during my last visit to Deadwood, SD.  That seems to be a place where unwanted slot machines go to die.  If you know of any in Las Vegas please leave a comment here.