This is Part 4 of our five-part series recapping (in no particular order) the biggest stories of the year from the world of poker.

In this installment we’ll take a look at:

  • The numerous controversies that arose at the 2015 WSOP
  • Payment processing improvements in the U.S. online poker market
  • Jason Somerville signs with PokerStars
  • PokerStars (finally) receives their New Jersey online gaming license
  • Was 2015 the year that RAWA died?

#10 – Controversies at the 2015 WSOP

The 2015 World Series of Poker had a number of highlight moments (many of which have been, or will be covered in this series), from Daniel Negreanu’s Main Event run, to Joe McKeehen’s final table dominance, to the record-setting numbers of the Colossus tournament. However, there were just as many lowlights, and while the WSOP is never controversy-free, 2015 seemed to take it to a new level.

It was during the 2015 WSOP that the multi-accounting accusations leveled against Brian Hastings first came to light. It was also at the 2015 WSOP that concerns over the quality of the new Modiano cards the WSOP was using were raised.

On top of that there was a dealer blatantly flashing a card to the table, and accusations that a player was somehow marking cards and “superusing” his opponents in the $10k Heads-Up tournament.

Brian Hastings thriving amid controversy

Fifth-Place Finisher Denies Cheating Allegations in WSOP $10,000 Heads-Up Championship or, check out the 2+2 thread if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

How Modiano Messed Up Their Spades

David Baker on Card Wear and Accidental Marking

Another Scandal for the WSOP

#9 – New MCC codes and the return of PayPal

The legal U.S. online gaming industry got a major boost in 2015 thanks to the addition of new MCC Codes for Visa and MasterCard transactions, which for the first time separated licensed online gaming payments from unlicensed online gaming payments.

Additionally, eBay spun off PayPal in 2015, which opened the door and allowed the largest online payment wallet to once again accept gambling transactions.

With only three states, and about 3% of the U.S. population having access to legal online poker, the payment processing improvements haven’t moved the needle all that much, as a number of banks are still content to sit on the sidelines and not accept any gambling transactions, but the new codes and the addition of PayPal set the industry up for success when more states come online.

New Online Gambling Credit Card Codes Bring About Payment Processing Improvements Nevada Now Accepting PayPal

#8 – Jason Somerville signs with PokerStars and everyone else

Jason Somerville has earned the “Hardest Working Man in Poker” title, and in 2015 he was rewarded with several sponsorships, including signing a sponsorship with Twitch, the online streaming service that turned Somerville into a superstar; with DraftKings; and the granddaddy of all sponsorship deals, a spot on the Team PokerStars Pro roster.

Somerville was front and center when PokerStars launched their California Pro Poker Tour, an outreach program where some of the site’s biggest stars hosted and played in small buy-in tournaments at several California card rooms, and touted the benefits of legal online poker.

PokerStars Adds Jason Somerville as Pro, Looks to Twitch as Future of Online Poker

Exclusive: Poker Streaming Phenom Jason Somerville Signs Partnership Deal With DraftKings

Jason Somerville Signs Two-Year Agreement with Twitch

#7- PokerStars receives a New Jersey license

On September 30, PokerStars announced they had received a transactional waiver from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, paving the way for PokerStars to reenter the U.S. online poker market, this time with a license in hand.

The license (transactional waiver) was the culmination of a two-year process that began when PokerStars applied for a license in late 2013. Several weeks later the NJ DGE suspended the company’s licensing application for a period of up to two years, but later reopened their suitability investigation when PokerStars was sold to Amaya Gaming in the summer of 2014.

After several rumored approval dates came and went, the DGE finally gave PokerStars the green light. However, PokerStars must still go through the lab testing and other processes before they can launch, which they now expect to do sometime in H1 of 2016.

Amaya Gaming’s PokerStars, Full Tilt Brands Approved To Operate In New Jersey

#6 – RAWA comes and RAWA goes

RAWA has become the online gaming industry’s bogeyman, but as scary as a federal prohibition of online gaming would be, the measure seems to have lost what little stream it had built up.

The final straw for RAWA was a hearing in December that couldn’t have gone worse for RAWA champion Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz, and the RAWA supporters he called as witnesses found themselves under fire from all sides. Small government Republicans challenged the notion that the bill was a protection of state’s rights and the 10th Amendment, while Democrat Elijah Cummings hinted at the bill’s well known connections to a certain casino magnate, at one point saying, “This is about money.”

The defeat was so thorough RAWA supporters went radio silent after the hearing, and a halfhearted attempt to attach it to a spending bill went nowhere.

Did We Just Witness The Death Of RAWA In A Congressional Hearing?

Online Poker’s Biggest Victory in Years (RAWA Bill Sponsor Gets Disemboweled Before His Own Subcommittee)