Taking Wagers on Sports Betting & Online Gambling

– Joe Rosenbaum

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 prohibits most states from authorizing sports betting (the law grandfathered a few states, such as Nevada) and New Jersey has been fighting to convince the Federal government to allow the State to legalize and license sports betting.  The latest attempt to circumvent the Act was the repeal of New Jersey’s own sports betting prohibitions at racetracks and casinos.  That effort was derailed by a series of court decisions, culminating in a 9-3 en banc decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which then led to the State of New Jersey petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States.

Last month, the Supreme Court refused to deny New Jersey’s challenge to the Federal ban (see, Christopher J. Christie, Governor of New Jersey, et al, Petitioners v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al; and New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc., Petitioner v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al) and left the door open to grant certiorari in the case if the Office of the Solicitor General (which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice) argues the case raises serious issues and questions of Federal law. They could, if they so choose, seek to revisit the long-standing position of the DOJ holding sports betting illegal.  To some extent, with the new administration of President Trump in place, many see this as an opportunity to do just that, since many of you may remember that as owner of casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, then businessman Donald Trump was a proponent of the legalization of sports betting.

Clearly, as States look to generate other sources of tax revenue, many view this as an opportunity to increase revenues and regulate an activity that has long been associated with organized crime. Indeed, the American Gaming Association estimated well over $4 billion in bets were placed on the Super Bowl last Sunday, virtually all of it, illegally. President Trump has consistently said he is in favor of eliminating or reducing legislation and regulation that restricts what States may or may not do and that encumber businesses needlessly beyond necessary Federal oversight. This may well fit right into that category, although there have been no comments as yet from the Administration.

Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, just confirmed last night as Attorney General of the United States, has voiced opposition to any expansion of online gambling in the past, although when questioned during Senate hearings, did indicate he was willing to take another look at how and to what extent online gaming is being enforced by the Federal government.  There is also the possibility that in deciding to allow sports betting and an expansion of online gaming generally, the Federal government may choose to adopt some form of federally regulated or licensed betting and gambling scheme. While the path ahead is far from certain and opposition remains, some things do seem clear: attitudes are changing, the present administration is not averse to controversial new ideas, is favorably disposed to the elimination of any unnecessary Federal regulation that stands in the way of creating jobs and stimulating the economy and, notably, is likely to welcome finding an opportunity to enable States to find ways to increase tax revenue – and taxing so-called ‘sin’ industries may not be such an objectionable idea.

Stay tuned and, of course, if you have any questions, want further information or need help, don’t hesitate to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the attorneys you regularly work with at Rimon.

FCC Drops ‘App’ Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

–  Joe Rosenbaum

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under its new Chairman Ajit Pai, removed from its list of items for consideration, a proposal originally put forth by prior Chairman Tom Wheeler that would have allowed consumers to access pay-TV content on third-party devices.  Previous Chairman Wheeler’s original proposal took an “apps” based approach, but also included a licensing scheme that would require implementation of a standardized license for placing apps on such platforms or devices.

Critics, however, noted this particular proposal would actually have the opposite effect and more restrictively limit the choices available to consumers.  The original proposal also put the FCC in the position of acting as supervisory authority in order to ensure, in each case, that such a license wouldn’t harm competition.  Critics immediately raised concerns over the need for such intrusion by the FCC at all (some raised questions regarding the authority of the FCC to require or supervise such a licensing scheme), with many preferring to simply get rid of restrictions and limitations on access devices altogether.

While the FCC has removed the proposal from its list of items being considered for a vote, it remains on the Commission’s circulation list. Thus, the FCC’s action removes the proposal from immediate consideration, but doesn’t close the file officially – something over which industry groups remain concerned.   Their concerns continue to relate to the uncertainty of having a proposal still open for consideration, which, if resurrected, could pose problems for many in the industry, including distributors and content creators whose existing contracts might be in violation of such a new FCC requirement or policy.  Stay tuned.

Useless But Compelling Facts

Back by popular demand, our trivia contests are starting up again . .. for the uninitiated, here’s how it works.

At the beginning of each week, I will post question or conundrum – a puzzlement – generally based on some obscure tidbit of information.  In other words, a perfectly useless, but absolutely compelling (and hopefully fascinating) fact.

I confess it’s getting harder to find anything obscure with anything and everything available through the World Wide Web (thanks a lot Sir Timothy Berners-Lee) but I’ll try.  Besides, some of the questions requiring multi-part or fully complete answers are going to be tricky.

Your objective is to get the correct, complete and precise full answer and get it to me by email (@ Joe Rosenbaum) first.  At the end of the week, I will post the answer, along with the name and affiliation of the person who got me the complete correct answer first.  Now there are some basic rules I will follow:

  • First, if you prefer not to have your name or affiliation posted, let me know in your submission and I’ll leave it out if you win;
  • Second, you MUST put UBCF as the very first item in the SUBJECT line of your email to me when answering.  I reserve the right (and a table at my favorite restaurant) to disqualify any person, entry, submission and their successors and assigns from winning if you don’t have UBCF first in the subject of the email;
  • Third, if I am unavailable at the beginning or end of the week for some reason, I’ll post the questions or the answers or both on a different day; and
  • Fourth, if you or your answer are void, restricted, prohibited by law, avoid any contact with skin and eyes and consult a physician right away – oh, and don’t enter because it won’t count;
  • Last, but not least, if there are any rules I’ve forgotten, I am likely to make them up along the way.  Sorry. My trivia contest, my rules.  Besides, the only prize you can hope for is recognition. Then again, if nothing is obscure on the World Wide Web  anymore, you may just become famous or, based on this last rule, I may decide to award you a prize. You just never know!

Enjoy the fun and thanks for playing along,

The Editor

California Employment Agreements – Choice of Law? Venue: Think Again!

by Thomas M. White

California’s Labor Code was amended effective January 1, 2017, to require that employment disputes regarding California resident employees be subject to the substantive law of California and that the arbitration or litigation of such matters be held in California.  These requirements will have a significant effect on how out-of-state employers negotiate and draft employment, separation and confidentiality agreements. Moreover, some of the statutory language is subject to interpretation and may result in violations of law by unsuspecting employers.

By way of background, in drafting employment agreements, employers typically identify one state whose substantive laws apply and require all disputes be litigated or arbitrated in a venue where the business operations are centered.  First, employers with employees spread across several states want the certainty and uniformity in their business arrangements. Second, the substantive law of a particular state may be more amenable to employer concerns. Third, employers may wish to inhibit litigation or arbitration by requiring employees to travel to another state to assert or defend contractual rights. These factors, already under assault in California, are expressly given no weight in the new statute.

The new statute, effective January 1, 2017, with respect to employees who primarily reside and work in California, will apply to all new employment agreements and also covers agreements that are extended or modified after that date.  Under the new law, injunctive relief is available and reasonable attorneys’ fees may be awarded.  However, the new law does not apply to contracts where the employee was represented by an attorney during the negotiation of the agreement.

Several of the above statutory features require additional consideration:

  • On its face, the new law does not apply to independent contractors. However, if such a contractor were to be deemed an ‘employee’ in the context of disputes involving other matters (e.g., tax, employee benefits, etc.), they may well also be held covered under the new law as well;
  • The law does not specify what is meant by an employee that lives and performs services “primarily” within California. You might want to keep records of employees in case a dispute arises. The answer may well mean the difference between the application of this new law and not;
  • It is not clear whether a contract is “extended” or “modified” if there is an automatic rollover or extension provision? What if there is a finite term and then the contract continues month to month, subject to termination at-will? Is that an ‘extension’ for purposes of the new statute?  Similarly, if the employee is entitled to a set of fringe benefits available to similarly situated employees and a new benefit is added January 1st –  is that a “modification”?

Although there is an exception for agreements negotiated by counsel, most employees don’t typically have the funds necessary to engage counsel. Consider this: it may be worthwhile for an employer to reimburse an employee for attorney’s fees in certain situations where the benefit of employment limitations outweighs the additional cost. Note, where this exception is intended to be relied upon, it is wise for the agreement to specify it has been negotiated by counsel, including the name of the attorney and the firm. Given the many choice of law considerations that arise in litigation, it should not be assumed non-California choice of law and venue provisions will be upheld simply because the employee retained counsel during negotiations.

What should you do now?  Any business that has current employment agreements with employees (and independent contractors) living and working in California, should carefully review those agreements in light of the need to comply with the new law. Where concerns may arise – in the language or the interpretation, counsel should be engaged to assure that relevant consideration is given to applicable factors.

For more information, contact Thomas M. White, a Partner specializing in the full scope of human resources management and employment law, including employee benefits, executive compensation and healthcare.  Of course, you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, the Editor, or the attorney you normally work with at Rimon.

FCC Opens Radio and Television Broadcasting to Foreign Entities

by Stephen Díaz Gavin

For more than 80 years, Section 310(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 has been interpreted as prohibiting direct foreign ownership of more than 20% and indirect ownership of 25% or more of US radio and television broadcast stations.  Effective January 31, 2017, this will change as the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has removed longstanding prohibitions against these limitations on foreign ownership, although it has preserved the right, on a case-by-case basis, to block a foreign acquisition of a broadcast license in excess of 25% (e.g., for reasons of national security).

Foreign entities, for quite some time, have already been permitted to acquire control over non-broadcast licenses (e.g., nationwide cell carrier T-Mobile is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom). But the FCC has steadfastly enforced its longstanding foreign ownership control policies over broadcast station licenses.  Most famously, Rupert Murdoch had to become a U.S. citizen before being able to acquire control over what we know today as Fox Broadcasting.

Changes adopted to the rules of the FCC will enable approval of up to and including 100% aggregate foreign beneficial ownership (voting and/or equity) by foreign investors in the controlling U.S. parent of a broadcast licensee, subject to certain conditions.  The revised rules, which newly define and in certain respects create different rules for “named” and “un-named” investors, they will allow a named foreign investor that acquires less than 100% to increase its controlling interest to 100% at some time in the future.  If a named foreign investor acquires a “noncontrolling” interest, that investor will now be permitted to increase its voting and/or equity interest up to and including a “noncontrolling” interest of 49.99% in the future, if it chooses to do so.

Although the FCC’s expansive “public interest standard” in approving sales and investments in broadcast licenses, coupled with input from other Executive government agencies, could significantly delay or block investments from some countries, the strong support of this initiative by the remaining Republican members of the FCC would tend to indicate the FCC will be disposed to allow most transactions to proceed to closing.  Indeed, the FCC has already signaled its willingness to do so, by approving just such a foreign ownership acquisition in a recent declaratory ruling issued even before the new rules take effect, ending a decades long back-and-forth haggling over Mexican ownership of Univision.

For more information regarding the new FCC rules or assistance in handling the regulatory and transactional aspects of such an investment, contact the author, Stephen Díaz Gavin, or Phil Quatrini or Sandy Sterrett, all partners at Rimon, P.C.

Of course, you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, the Editor!

Legal Bytes – A New Beginning

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away……  oops, wrong beginning.

Welcome to the new Legal Bytes blog.  As many of you know, my Legal Bytes blog has been dormant after my recent transition to Rimon, P.C..  Getting set up, ensuring smooth transitions for clients, enhancing the look and feel of the blog has taken a longer than I hoped, but hopefully the bugs are out of the system and it’s now up to me to try my best to make the new Legal Bytes blog worth the wait.  For newcomers, buckle your seatbelts – this isn’t your ordinary legal blog!

What happened? Why does it matter? How does or could it affect you?  Inquiring minds always want to know and in the process of trying to answer those questions for you, I will always try to illuminate and perhaps also entertain you.   In the coming months I’ll entice you into regular readership, enlighten you with timely content, addict you with my trivia contests, entice you to keep in touch and most of all, try to help you better understand how developments in the law and regulation may affect you.

I intend to continue Light Bytes, with interesting quotes and sayings that pique my interest and hopefully yours.  Of course, there was never a question about my trivia contests. After all, who else but a lawyer could call it “Useless But Compelling Facts”?  We have once again made arrangements with the International Law Office (ILO) based in London. I am privileged to have been re-appointed as Editor and exclusive content coordinator for their U.S. Media, Marketing, Sports & Entertainment Newsletter.  Although there will be content you will see exclusively in the ILO newsletter, you may also see many of our Legal Bytes articles re-purposed and ‘internationalized’ in collaboration with much appreciated work of the ILO editorial staff.  I am again excited to be working with such a valued organization and truly great people – shout out to Carolyn Boyle, my Editorial contact.

Want to know what’s on my radar for the year ahead – I won’t spoil all the surprises, drone on about drones, nor will I keep my head in the clouds or the crowds.  I am fascinated by the legal implications of the Internet with Things (yes, I replaced ‘Of’ with “With”).  I’m also concerned about cybersecurity and data protection.   I am intrigued by the growing robustness of augmented reality, which means I don’t have to walk around with those funny goggles or a digital scuba mask to experience the virtual world.  Mobile technology is transforming our world – making digital content, e-commerce and communication available to billions of people that had previously never seen a television, had a bank account or used a telephone.  I would be remiss not to mention social media – maturing and increasingly commercialized – further blurring the distinctions between information, entertainment and advertising; between me as an individual and an employee; between me at play and at work; and between my trademarks and my reputation; and between my insatiable desire to tell the world and my seemingly paradoxical concern over my privacy!

It is a brave new world – so much to know and so much to keep up with.

So stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading.

The Paradox of Illumination

I first heard about the paradox of illumination from Lee Loevinger, an extraordinary gentleman I was privileged to know professionally.  Lee was a multi-faceted, multi-talented, thought-provoking lawyer whose sage advice and stimulating ideas continue to resonate with those honored to have known him, and everyone else wise enough to read his work and the words he left behind.

In a nutshell, the paradox of illumination is extraordinarily complex, but simple to describe.  Much like Albert Einstein who, when asked about his theory of relativity and the notion that time is not constant, described it in personal terms: if a man is at dinner for 10 minutes with a beautiful woman, it seems like a fleeting instant; but sit on a burning hot stove for 10 minutes and it seems like an eternity :).

The paradox of illumination can similarly be described on a personal level.  Sit in completely dark room.  Really.  Completely dark.  What can you see?  Nothing.  You know little about your surroundings and can only sense your own body – in fact, you don’t even know how far your surroundings extend beyond your immediate sensations.

Now light a match.  The circle of illumination allows you to see a little of what is around you – but the perimeter and beyond are still dark.  Now light a candle.  The circle of what you can see illuminated by the light is larger than before, but the size of the perimeter beyond which you cannot see is also a lot larger than before.  The larger the light, the larger the area of illumination, but larger by far is the perimeter beyond which we know nothing.

The more we can see and the more we know and understand about the world around us, the larger the amount becomes that we don’t know.  In other words, as the circle of our knowledge grows, so does the amount of knowledge we cannot see and don’t know.  The paradox of illumination is the paradox of knowledge.  Perhaps that is why Michelangelo, when he was more than 87 years old, still said, “Ancora Imparo” (I am still learning).

Curiosity

Curiosity requires a sense of inquisitiveness.

Not all inquiries reflect curiosity, curiosity is inquisitive by nature.

Curiosity is the desire to learn by asking questions, dissecting, examining, exploring and investigating.

Curiosity is at the heart of most experimentation, and to be truly satisfying requires the ability to avoid preconceived ideas or foregone conclusions, but not necessarily ignoring them.

Stephen Hawking once said that “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Curiosity is a recognition of what we don’t know and the hope that by exploring the unknown, we may learn and discover new questions to ask.

It is the paradox of illumination – but more on that next time.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is a state of being in which one or more individuals articulate innovative ideas – ideas that stimulate thought and are futuristic or leading-edge.

Thought leadership requires confidence and a willingness to share ideas in the form of insights and principles that inform and guide future considerations.

Thought leadership is often controversial. New or different ideas, like innovative technology, can cause evolutionary change, but can also create disruptive or revolutionary change.

Although not all thought leadership must be actionable, it is often the basis for a re-evaluation of existing pathways, and a guidepost for new roads ahead.

2016 Metamorphosis *

Legal Bytes will soon morph** and undergo a transformation***

Watch For It

*    Metamorphosis: A noticeable change in character, appearance, function or condition.

**    Morph: To undergo dramatic change in a seamless and barely noticeable fashion.

*** Transformation: A marked change in appearance or character, especially for the better.