Amaya Hires Former AP/UB COO Paul Leggett as Head of Online Gaming
Here’s a strange one. Gaming Intelligence broke the news this morning that Canada’s Amaya Gaming has hired on former Absolute Poker / UltimateBet / Cereus / Tokwiro Enterprises head Paul Leggett as its new head of online gaming.
Leggett, for our readers who relatively new to online poker, was one of the primary executives at Absolute Poker and several companies associated it with from about 2007 onward. He wasn’t a part of the actual cheating at AP and UB, but he took a very active role not only in covering up certain elements of that scandal, but also as serving as a frontman to help disguise the real nature of Absolute Poker’s true ownership.
That ownership was always — from Day 1 until the company’s 2011 Black Friday-induced collapse — the University of Montana SAE fraternity boys and family and friends, led by Scott Tom.
If you think that Leggett was just a pawn in all of the troubles at AP and UB, think again. He was promoted from a modest marketing role at AP by Scott Tom and Hilt Tatum III to head one of the top spots at AP, and I actually have Tatum himself on an audio recording talking about how he had hired Leggett. Leggett was one of Tom’s and Tatum’s party-hardy buddies on the Montreal scene, which is part of how he got into the company’s inner circle.
Leggett rose to prominence in the industry when he was installed as the Chief Operating Officer for Tokwiro Enterprises following the hasty sale of UltimateBet to Absolute Poker. Tokwiro was a sham entity with former Kahnawake chairman Joseph Tokwiro Norton as its supposed head. Norton received a nice annual stipend for lending his name to the deal, but never actually purchased anything. As for Leggett, he’s claimed plenty of prominent titles and roles with several companies associated with Absolute Poker. Here’s a good starter list, courtesy of Leggett’s online profile at ZoomInfo:
Chief Executive Officer, Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG
Chief Operating Officer, UB & Co LLC
Chief Executive Officer, UB & Co LLC
Owner and Operator, UB & Co LLC
Chief Operations Officer, Ultimate Bet
Chief Executive Officer, Ultimate Bet
Owner, Ultimate Bet
Chief Operating Officer, Absolute Poker
Chief Executive Officer, Absolute Poker
Owner, Absolute Poker
Leggett was intimately involved with one of the largest US-facing online poker operations of the post-UIGEA era. And that’s where we turn to today’s news, which has Amaya hiring Leggett to head up their online division. Not only has Amaya acquired the Ongame and Cryptologic networks, it’s signed a partnership with Bally Technologies and has already been approved as a service provider by the Nevada Gaming Commission for that state’s upcoming rollout of real-money online poker.
Here’s the proverbial fly in the ointment: Nevada has some notable bad-actor clauses built into its online poker regulations, which were instituted at the behest of the state’s land-based casino giants to keep firms such as PokerStars from ever even thinking about getting a license there. Some of those bad-actor regulations apply to individuals as well.
Which brings up this question: Will Paul Leggett be viewed as eligible to perform his new Amaya duties as they pertain to the company’s business in the state of Nevada?
The most recent portion of the “bad actor” provisions comes from the final text of Nevada Assembly Bill 114, which was merged with other consideration taken up in a parallel Senate Bill 9 and fast-tracked to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s eagerly signing hands a couple of months back. Here’s the relevant statute:
1. “Covered person” means any person who:
(a) Has at any time owned, in whole or in significant part, an interactive gaming facility or an entity operating an interactive gaming facility that:
(1) After December 31, 2006, operated interactive gaming involving patrons located in the United States; and
(2) Acted with knowledge of the fact that such operation of interactive gaming involved patrons located in the United States;
(b) After December 31, 2006, acted, or proposed to act, on behalf of a person described in paragraph (a) and provided, or proposed to provide, to such person any services as an interactive gaming service provider, with knowledge that the interactive gaming facility’s operation of interactive gaming involved patrons
located in the United States; or
(c) Purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly:
(1) In whole or in significant part, a person described in paragraph (a) or (b); or
(2) Any covered assets, in whole or in part, of such person.
2. As used in this section:
(a) “Interactive gaming service provider” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 463.677….
But wait, there’s more! The call to NRS 463.677 is actually the key part of it as it pertains to Leggett, something I missed when I first re-examined the statute early this afternoon. That statute explains that the phrase “interactive gaming service provider” applies to people as well as companies. Here’s that excerpt:
NRS 463.677 Legislative findings; regulations
5. As used in this section:
(a) “Interactive gaming service provider” means a person who acts on behalf of an establishment licensed to operate interactive gaming and:
(1) Manages, administers or controls wagers that are initiated, received or made on an interactive gaming system;
(2) Manages, administers or controls the games with which wagers that are initiated, received or made on an interactive gaming system are associated;
(3) Maintains or operates the software or hardware of an interactive gaming system;
(4) Provides the trademarks, trade names, service marks or similar intellectual property under which an establishment licensed to operate interactive gaming identifies its interactive gaming system to patrons;
(5) Provides information regarding persons to an establishment licensed to operate interactive gaming via a database or customer list; or
(6) Provides products, services, information or assets to an establishment licensed to operate interactive gaming and receives therefor a percentage of gaming revenue from the establishment’s interactive gaming system.
“Means a person” means just that: a person. The definition of “interactive gaming service provider” found in Nevada’s new Regulation 5A, “Operation of Interactive Gaming,” carries the exact same wording. Therefore, Leggett’s executive role with several post-UIGEA, US-facing online poker sites puts him directly in the crosshairs of the five-year “bad actor” lockout that was implemented when Nevada approved changes to allow the negotiating of interstate compacts.
Will Nevada enforce its own regulations? That remains to be seen. By any independent reading of the rules, however, Paul Leggett is not eligible to serve with any company licensed in connection with Nevada online poker.