Daily Fantasy Sports Are Back In Business In New York State

Contents
1 Who is back online?
2 What’s the catch for daily fantasy sports?
3 Daily fantasy sports out of legal limbo
4 About daily fantasy sports The New York State Gaming Commission has granted temporary permits to five daily fantasy sports companies, allowing them to once again operate in the state. These temporary permits come for the start of the National Football League season. These temporary licenses were granted just after a state law, allowing daily fantasy sports to take place legally within New York state, was enacted. That came after some consternation about whether the bill would pass. The announcement from the commission came last week. Who is back online? Daily fantasy sports operators wasted no time in resuming operations in New York. DraftKings was up and running mere hours after the announcement, with CEO Jason Robins thanking the state and saying DraftKings is thrilled to be providing contests again. FanDuel, Draft, FantasyDraft and Yahoo also received temporary licenses. What’s the catch for daily fantasy sports? Operators will now have to pay an annual licensing fee to take part, which can cost them up to $50,000 per year. In addition, they will be required to pay 15 percent in taxes on their revenue. As expected, players must be at least 18 years of age in order take part. Additionally, there are to be no daily fantasy contests on high school or college games. It is expected that further, long-term regulations will be worked out by the gaming commission later on. Daily fantasy sports out of legal limbo In November of last year, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared that daily fantasy sports games were illegal gambling according to state law. Then, he reached a settlement with DraftKings and FanDuel in March, in which the sites exited the state while the legislature considered daily fantasy sports regulation. Since then, lawmakers have passed a bill that defined daily fantasy sports as a game of skill and the law was signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this month. About daily fantasy sports Daily fantasy sports are a type of fantasy sport game, in which players compete against others by selecting a team of various athletes from a certain league or sport. They earn points based on the performances of their selected players over the course of the season or competition. The difference is that daily fantasy sports takes place over just one day of competition, rather than the many weeks or months that traditional fantasy sports competitions would encompass. These are usually done in the form of a contest in which players pay an entry fee and receive a pre-determined share of a prize pool according to their final standing, much like a poker tournament. Like online poker, daily fantasy sports has faced a lot of legal controversy in the United States, with many critics claiming that players are simply making wagers on sport. Defenders of daily fantasy sports argue that is a game of skill owing to the required knowledge of players, teams and other factors. Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com

New York Interests Start Fighting For, Against North Jersey Casino Referendum

Contents
1 Major union against North Jersey casinos
2 Racino comes out against new NJ casinos
3 Also NY support for North Jersey casinos The fight to have new casinos built in northern New Jersey isn’t just an internal battle anymore. The New York Daily News recently reported that interests in New York are getting involved in New Jersey politics, trying to push back against a November referendum on casinos outside of Atlantic City. Major union against North Jersey casinos So far, there are two groups coming out publicly against the referendum, according to the NYDN: a union and a racino. The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council is starting “a television and digital ad campaign against the referendum,” which would allow licenses for up to two casinos in the northern part of NJ, if approved by voters. The AFL-CIO affiliated union is also aligned with a union that is currently striking at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Interests in AC and South Jersey are generally against the referendum. More from the NYDN: Racino comes out against new NJ casinos Also against the ballot measure is Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack. NY casinos, understandably, are not excited about the prospect of more regional casino competition, which it already has from AC, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The Queens racino, which the closest gaming facility in the state to New Jersey, is behind a website/group called Trenton’s Bad Bet. Here is one of its commercials: Resorts World Casino would likely be the hardest hit of any of NY’s gaming facilities if NJ approves the gambling expansion. There is also the possibility that the New York legislature would lift a freeze on allowing a new commercial casino license in the New York City area if NJ enacts the referendum. Also NY support for North Jersey casinos New York interests are getting involved in support of the referendum, too. Jeff Gural, who operates Meadowlands Racetrack, is pushing for the new NJ casinos. Meadowlands, near New York, would be one of the logical places for such a gaming license to be approved. How will it all play out? Polls have put the referendum at anything from a dead heat to a majority being against the expansion. But it does appear New York will play a role in which side will win.

National Anti-Gambling Group Contemplating Lawsuit Against NY Fantasy Sports Law

Contents
1 Group on the hunt for plaintiffs
2 If a lawsuit happens, multiple groups could be in fight
3 Poll says New York residents didn’t want DFS
4 Bill advocate Bonacic says legislation protects consumers Daily fantasy sports have no place in New York, according to Washington, D.C.-based interest group Stop Predatory Gambling. The group, led by National Director Les Bernal, labeled New York’s gambling policies “predatory”. Group on the hunt for plaintiffs The Buffalo News tackled SPG’s criticism in an article earlier this week. The newspaper said the group’s main criticism is that the judicial process did not allow enough time for a thorough investigation of the impact of legalized DFS on the state’s gamblers. In other words, they say, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a little quick on the trigger when he signed DFS into law earlier this month. When asked if his organization would file a lawsuit against the bill, Bernal said SPG is searching for potential plaintiffs who are residents of the state. Bernal added a not-so-subtle threat to those interested in investing in the six companies who are vying for DFS licenses, including FanDuel and DraftKings. “Anyone investing in these businesses should really keep their hands in their pockets for the near future,” Bernal was quoted as saying. If a lawsuit happens, multiple groups could be in fight Opponents of gambling are only one part of the opposition to DFS in New York. The Buffalo News is saying that SPG’s lawsuit talk could stir up support from casinos who opposed the original bill, as well as Indian tribes who may consider the bill as an infringement on their gambling exclusivity agreements. The New York Gaming Association led the charge in lobbying against the DFS law, but The Buffalo News said it would not be a part of a lawsuit. While there are other parties who have a vested interest in an attack on New York’s DFS law, Bernal has said he will not partner with those organizations if a lawsuit materializes. Poll says New York residents didn’t want DFS In May, New York’s Siena College published a report that said DFS faced opposition in the state. “While Republicans, independents and downstate suburbanites are closely divided on the issue of legalizing daily fantasy sports operations in New York,” the report read, “a strong plurality of Democrats, upstaters and New York City voters oppose allowing companies such as FanDuel or DraftKings to operate in New York.” Bill advocate Bonacic says legislation protects consumers While there were definitely critics of the DFS bill, there were just as many outspoken advocates of the legislation. Sen. John Bonacic was a leading supporter of the bill, and was quite vocal about his opinion of casinos and racinos who opposed it, saying there was a full-court press against the bill by racinos who previously did not say a word about fantasy sports in the state. He also argued that the DFS regulations were necessary because illegal activities were already going on in the state, and that, “under this particular legislation, there will be more strict monitoring, and there will be more consumer protection.” Interestingly, the state is also considering drafting legislation that would challenge the federal ban on sports betting.

New York May Try To Pass Sports Betting Law To Challenge Federal Ban

New York may try to pass a sports betting law in 2017, a direct affront to a federal law that bans such wagering in the vast majority of states. The possibility of NY acting comes after New Jersey lost its latest appeal as it tries to legalize sports betting within its borders. What NY might do on sports betting The news of New York trying to pass sports betting legislation came via GamblingCompliance (paywall). In an interview with New York Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, GC learned that he was interested in crafting a sports betting bill. GC reported that Pretlow was “looking at challenging the feds.” New York is already poised to offer sports betting should Congress ever repeal PASPA — the federal law that bans the activity in most states other than Nevada and a handful of others. What would NY have to do to create a PASPA challenge? In order to create a challenge like New Jersey has in recent years, New York would have to do a partial repeal of its spots betting laws. That’s what New Jersey has attempted, unsuccessfully, as the professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the Department of Justice have challenged the state’s actions. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied the NJ appeal this week by a 9-3 margin in an “en banc” rehearing. That ruling is binding within the circuit — which includes Pennsylvania and Delaware, as well. But that decision is not binding in New York; it only serves as precedent in the Second Circuit, which oversees NY. The plan goes like this: New York does an NJ-style partial repeal, allowing sports betting, likely at NY casinos and racetracks. The state is sued by the leagues and the DOJ, like it was in New Jersey. The new variable: New York would hope the Second Circuit, when the case gets there, is more amenable to the PASPA challenge than the Third Circuit was. Can NY win where NJ didn’t? How likely is New York to win a PASPA challenge? Some legal experts believe that PASPA is ripe for challenge, especially in a state like New York, which has also enacted a law legalizing daily fantasy sports. The argument could be made that the leagues — the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and MLB — are selectively enforcing PASPA. The leagues are not suing to stop DFS laws from taking effect. However, given the Third Circuit ruling, there’s not a lot of reason to be optimistic about an NY challenge, should it happen. Of course, there’s a lot of ground to cover before such a challenge even develops. New York would have to introduce a bill and enact a law — no easy task in and of itself. And the state would have to do all that, knowing it’s in for a lengthy legal battle like New Jersey is going through. Is the NY government really ready for that? We may find out next year.

Cuomo Announced $30 Million In Payments To Upstate NY For New Commercial Casinos

New commercial casino licenses issued by New York state resulted in more than $30 million being paid to a variety of counties and municipalities in upstate. Where did the new money come from? The payments were recently announced by the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as a result of three new casinos under construction in the state, including:
Montreign, located near Monticello in the Catskills Mountains.
Rivers Casino near Schenectady.
Lago Resort & Casino in the town of Tyre in the Finger Lakes region. All three casinos have plans to open next year. There are already nine racinos and five tribal casinos in the state, but late last year the state approved licenses for three commercial casinos that are not connected to race tracks or Native American tribes. Where does the money go? The money earmarked for upstate jurisdictions is $30.2 million, which is being paid to 22 counties and three municipalities. Cuomo said this in a press release: The total of the fees paid equals more than $150 million, with 80 percent “applied statewide for school aid/property tax relief.” New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario had this to say after the payments were announced: The full list of jurisdictions receiving payments can be seen here.

Online Poker Ties and Bribery Allegations Haunting Harry Reid

There are a number of storm clouds forming around Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with allegations of bribes being paid to/discussed in order to gain Reid’s support for online gambling legislation according to an excellent summary of the current situation by Jocelyn Wood of PokerFuse.com. Fortunately for Reid, the Department of Justice has decided to not investigate the matter, which was brought before them by Utah prosecutors in a report that also includes allegations against Utah Senator Mike Lee. This current wormhole all began with the Black Friday indictments, and in particular payment processor Jeremy Johnson, former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, and the bogus payment processing that was occurring between US-facing online poker sites and SunFirst Bank in Utah prior to Black Friday. However, there may have been a relationship stretching back even further based on one of the allegations. The bribery allegations There are two separate allegations that tenuously link Harry Reid to Johnson. The first, according to pokerfuse.com, is a purported $1 million allocation of funds to Reid via Full Tilt Poker in exchange for Reid’s support of online poker legislation that was brought to light by Jeremy Johnson back in January of 2013—it should be noted that Johnson’s accusations on the secretly recorded tape are second-hand to begin with, and it also fits in with the narrative he is trying to sell Swallow to make his FTC case go away; that Reid can be bought. Reid’s possible ties to Johnson and Swallow surfaced again in a the 200+ page report by the Utah legislature who relied on the private investigation company the Mintz Group to compile the evidence. Haley Hintze of FlushDraw.com (who also wrote the PokerFuse.com story mentioned above detailing the alleged $1 million bribe) is breaking down the report in an ongoing series. There is also an excellent write-up at DesertNews.com detailing what is specifically on those taped conversations. This second mention of Reid has to do with Johnson’s FTC case where he tries to enlist the help of Swallow to get a favorable outcome, and includes several references to Reid, as well as “Reid’s Guy” who is identified as Richard Rawle, who passed away in December of 2012. From page 13 of the report: From page 19 of the report: From page 20 of the report: What this means for iGaming With allegations circulating of seven-figure bribes circling around him it’s unlikely Harry Reid will want to touch anything to do with online gambling, either for (which would only ignite further scrutiny and headlines) or against (which would not only be a reversal of his previous stance but would lead to a lot of raised eyebrows as to why) which means you can reduce the possibility of a federal online gambling bill in 2014 from small to almost nonexistent in my opinion anyway. In addition to the likelihood of a bill being passed dwindling, these allegations also reflect extremely negatively on the online gambling industry as a whole, even though the bribery attempts seem to be isolated to just a few particular puzzle pieces that were operating illegally post-UIGEA. What this means for Reid in 2016 Whether these allegations have any legs to them is somewhat of a moot point, as the allegations themselves are usually enough to harm a politicians career. It wasn’t a given that Harry Reid would be running for reelection in 2016 to begin with (although all signs are currently pointing to yes) and I say this for two reasons: #1: Had the Republican Party fielded a candidate other than Tea Party darling Sharon Angle in 2010 there is not a doubt in my mind that Reid would have lost his reelection bid. While I can’t rule out another daffy Republican nominee, it’s quite unlikely that Reid will hit a two-outer on the River two times in a row. If he does run in 2016 he will almost certainly face a far more competent opponent. #2: The Democrats may not hang on to the Senate. If Republicans regain control of the senate in 2014, or it looks like they will in 2016, Reid may very well call it a career when his term is up in 2016, when he will be just a month shy of turning 77 years old. In the current climate, being the minority leader of the Senate is probably a role Reid would not like to have. On the other hand, if the Democrats are in firm control of the senate when the 2016 elections roll around Reid might very well run again.

Nevada Online Poker Review March 19, 2014 – iGNA, Slow Traffic, and Tourney Results

The big news in Nevada this week is without doubt the iGaming North America Conference that will run from Wednesday to Friday at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. The iGNA Conference is considered to be the meeting of the minds in the iGaming world and should produce a lot of content, ideas, and visions for the future of the industry. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Week in Review I’ll detail the most important panels at the conference; from an online poker player’s perspective of course. I’ll also take a look at the latest results from this past week’s Sunday Majors at WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker; go over the latest traffic numbers in Nevada; and fill you in on the latest gossip in our “Word on the Street” segment. What to watch at the 2014 iGNA Conference iGNA (the iGaming North America Conference) is the online gambling world’s Comic-Con or Star Trek Convention—it’s a big deal. The 2014 version of iGNA will be taking place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will run from Wednesday March 19th through Friday March 21st. Each day of the conference will be jam-packed with panel discussions, guest speakers, and of course vendor tables as far as the eye can see. Here are a few of the panels and speakers on the 2014 iGNA schedule that should garner the most headlines and be of particular importance to online poker players. Day 1: The Great Debate One of the first panels of the conference also happens to be one of the most talked about, as Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber is slated to debate Las Vegas Sands VP of Government Relations Andy Abboud. These two men are polar opposites when it comes to iGaming, as Caesars is leading the charge into the US iGaming era while Abboud, with the backing of his LVS boss Sheldon Adelson is not only trying to stop iGaming expansion, but trying to rewind what is already in place in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. The debate will be moderated by World Poker Tour founder Steve Lipscomb and is likely to be one of the most contentious, and therefore one of the best attended. Day 2: Payment Processing During the afternoon session of Day 2 of iGNA Sue Schneider, the founder of eGamingBrokerage.com will moderate a distinguished panel dealing with the current payment processing issues confronting legal online gaming providers in the US. The panel will include a good mix of iGaming vendors like CAMS CEO Matthew Katz, as well as representatives from banking institutions:
Matthew Katz, CEO, CAMS, LLC
Steve Kenneally, Vice President, American Bankers Association
Joe Pappano, Managing Director, Vantiv
Kenneth Mayeux, Product Specialist, iGaming and Alternative Market, First Data Day 2: Regulated Online Poker A little later in the afternoon OnlinePokerReport.com’s Chris Grove will moderate a panel that will talk about the regulated online poker market in the US, from its start in Nevada, to the current environment, and even a peek into the future.
Dan Stewart, Founder, PokerScout
John Mehaffey, Independent Gaming Analyst
Chris Danek, Poker Product Manager, Ultimate Poker
Bill Rini, Head of Online Poker, Caesars Interactive Day 2: The Player Perspective What do the players think of the current iGaming industry? You’ll get your answers when PokerFuse.com’s editor Mike Gentile talks to four of them on Thursday afternoon:
Shaun Deeb, Professional Poker Player
Jason Somerville, Team Pro, Ultimate Poker
Dominic L. Ricciardi, MD, Chief of Staff, St. Rose San Martin Hospital
Danielle Andersen, Team Pro, Ultimate Poker Day 3: Interstate and International One of the first panel’s on the final day of the conference will deal with interstate and international compacts. Interstate compacts may be the only hope for small to medium sized US states as it does not appear that the federal government is likely to pass on online gaming bill in the near future. Marco Valerio will moderate a panel that will consist of:
Helene Keeley, State Representative – 3rd District, Delaware General Assembly
Mark Lipparelli, Founder, Gioco Ventures
Violet Anne Golden, Chairman, Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed How’s this for a double dip; VPIHokie1970 didn’t just win the $15k Guaranteed tournament at WSOP.com this past Sunday, he also took down the WSOP Main Event satellite! In the $15k Guaranteed VPIHokie1970 bested the 80 player field to take home the $4,500 first place payday:
VPIHokie1970 $4,560
ColHanzLanda $2,640
newhippy $1,600
heater6366 $1,280
BrianSlick21 $1,104
rhin0 $944
turnemloose $784
Fabio57 $544
PoonLagoon $432 In the $215 Qualifier to the 2014 WSOP $10,000 Main Event VPIHokie1970 came out on top of the 46 player field to win a $10,000 seat to the WSOP Main Event.
VPIHokie1970: $10,000 2014 WSOP Main Event seat The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker There was a pretty sizable overlay this week in Ultimate Poker’s flagship tournament, the $10k Guaranteed, as just 86 players registered for the tournament, which left UP on the hook for a $2,100 overlay.
BrownPride $2,900
SLOPHOUSE $2,000
RunninGoodMC $1,500
PokerPro $1,000
ZOMG $800
MrIncredible $600
Ranney $500
Shipit $400
corrinajoe $300 Traffic trends in Nevada Nevada experienced a pretty severe downturn in online poker traffic this week, as WSOP.com dipped to just 100 average cash game players, while Ultimate Poker stayed relatively static at 75 average cash game players. New Jersey is experiencing a similar downtick, so this could very well be just a seasonal slow period. All traffic data courtesy of www.pokerscout.com. The word on the street Episode 2 of Strip Magic Antonio Esfandiari and Ultimate poker are back with their second episode of Strip Magic. The web series is being released by Ultimate Poker and features brand ambassador Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari performing unscripted magic tricks on the Las Vegas strip. The episodes are just 2:30 long, and feature Antonio doing voice-overs detailing his passion for both Magic and performing. Here is the second part of the six-part series:

Nevada Online Poker Review March 13, 2014: Potential for 6 Poker Sites

As we patiently await the first batch of iGaming revenue numbers from the state of Nevada (which should be coming in the very near future) let’s see what else is going in the Nevada online poker market. This week we’ve got several interesting stories to cover including some perspective from 888 CEO Brian Mattingley on the interstate online poker deal between Nevada and Delaware. We’ll also discuss how Locaid will play an integral part in the interstate compact with the addition of its player verification and geolocation services to the two states. We’ll also take a look at the potential overcrowding on the horizon for Nevada, bring you the results of the latest weekly tournaments, take a look at traffic trends, and see what story is making the rounds at the Nevada rumor mill. 888’s Mattingley discusses interstate deal 888 CEO Brian Mattingley has been a very busy man when it comes to the emerging US poker market, and his company will likely be the biggest beneficiary of the new deal that will see Delaware and Nevada combine their player pools. 888 is the only operator in Delaware, where they have a monopoly, and already boasts one product in Nevada (WSOP.com) and are likely to launch several others this year. 888 is also very active in New Jersey as well—as I said, a very busy man. Mattingley spoke about the new interstate compact with NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan and made some interesting comments; perhaps the most notable being that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that different companies (such as Ultimate Poker in Nevada and 888 in Delaware) could pool players. While this is unlikely to be the case as software compatibility issues would surely arise, it shows how forward thinking many people are being in the burgeoning US industry. Locaid teaming up with NV and DE In other interstate online poker news, iGamingBusiness.com is reporting that Locaid has been selected to handle the geolocation duties for the new interstate online agreement between Nevada and Delaware. The President and CEO of Locaid, Rip Gerber issued the following statement on his company being selected to handle the landmark duty, saying, Potential for 6 online operators in 2014 Nevada’s online poker market could become a wee bit crowded this year, as there is potentially three more operators looking to launch, which would bring the total number of online poker sites in the state up to six. This was first reported by Chris Grove at OnlinePokerReport.com and was somewhat corroborated at Tuesday’s Massachusetts Internet Gambling Panel when Jim Barbee of the Nevada Gaming Control Board explained that 888’s WSOP.com online poker room is nearly finished with its field trial, which is expected to conclude at the end of March, and when they are officially approved they will be permitted to start launching some of the other poker sites along with their Nevada partners—most notably TI and Wynn. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed 91 players registered for this week’s tournament, creating a prize-pool of $18,200. While it’s unconfirmed, it looks like Kathy Liebert may have finished 3rd in the tournament.
BShriever5 $5,187.00
Gatsby $3,003.00
pokerkat $1,820.00
IBEENGrindN $1,456.00
COOKIEBEAR $1,255.80
nevada $1,073.80
TimTebow $891.80
Sir1_Sack_U $618.80
MSAHM4 $491.40 In addition to the Sunday $15k Guaranteed, “AstroBoy” won the $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat in this weekend’s satellite tournament. The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker Attendance was way down this week at Ultimate Poker as just 88 players took part in the tournament, creating an overlay of over $1,800 in the $10k Guaranteed tournament. Tournament pro Brent Hanks made the final table, finishing 5th place, while one of Nevada’s top online tournament players “Butters” finished in 4th place.
The Agnostic $2,900
PokerPro $2,000
needs_a_boat $1,500
Butters $1,000
BHanks11 $800
JaminOnFaces $600
luckisreal $500
platinum $400
bulldog53 $300 Traffic trends in Nevada Traffic ticked up ever so slightly over the past week in Nevada, with the three (one of which, Real Gaming, has average traffic of ZERO players) online poker sites in the state totaling average cash-game traffic of 200 players, about a 5% increase over last week’s tally. It was Ultimate Poker that accounted for the gaining, as the site’s average traffic rose from 70 to 80 players. WSOP.com still has the lion’s share of the traffic with 120 players on average, while Real Gaming is struggling to gain any traction with average traffic of 0, and peak traffic of 2 players. All traffic data courtesy of www.pokerscout.com. The word on the street UP making headlines Earlier this week we shined the spotlight on Ultimate Poker, bringing you three separate stories related to their Nevada product. If you missed this article you can read it here, as we discussed the sites new freeplay promotion, the recently launch Strip Magic web series featuring UP Ambassador Antonio Esfandiari, as well as the company’s deal with Peppermill Casino.

UP Signs Deal with Peppermill, Launches “Strip Magic” Web Series, and More

Ultimate Poker has been very busy in Nevada over the past week, as the nation’s first licensed online poker room inked a deal that will bring five new casinos under the Ultimate Poker umbrella; announced a new $25 freeplay offer available to all new players at the site; and launched a new web series starring UP Pro and brand ambassador Antonio “The Magician’ Esfandiari. So, if you haven’t been keeping up with the latest goings on at Ultimate Poker here is what you’ve missed. UP’s deal with Peppermill At the tail end of last week Ultimate Poker announced it had added Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno, Nevada to the UP brand, along with the company’s four other casino properties in northern Nevada, the Western Village Inn and Casino in Sparks, Nevada and the Rainbow Hotel Casino, Peppermill Hotel Casino and Montego Bay Casino all located in Wendover, Nevada. While the deal isn’t exactly in the earth shattering category—Peppermill and it’s four other casino properties will be something more akin to affiliate sites of Ultimate Poker and not skins for the online poker room—it should be quite beneficial to Ultimate Poker on two separate fronts. First, Ultimate Poker can now use Peppermill’s extensive player list databases to market directly to a whole new group of players. Secondly, with all of the payment processing issues US players are currently facing the addition of the five Peppermill properties gives Ultimate Poker five new locations throughout Nevada where players can deposit and withdraw funds from their UP accounts. This is especially helpful considering the Peppermill properties are in Reno, Sparks, and Wendover, as Station Casinos (the owners of Ultimate Poker) already have the Las Vegas area covered. The deal still needs the approval of Nevada regulators, but there is nothing out of the ordinary or controversial that is likely to prevent it from being finalized. For more information on the deal you can read Howard Stutz’s excellent column. Ultimate Poker’s new $25 Freeplay offer Ultimate Poker is looking for new players and they are rewarding prospective customers with a free $25 to get them started. This offer is available to all first-time players at the online poker site, and does not require the player to make a deposit of any kind. As the Ultimate Poker website states: Strip Magic with Antonio Ultimate Poker’s chief spokesmen and best known sponsored pro is Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, and if you’re wondering how Antonio got his nickname it wasn’t because he could make his opponent’s chips disappear and reappear in his own stack (although he is pretty proficient at that as well). No, Antonio got his nickname because in his pre-poker days he was a budding magician and judging by the first installment of the Strip Magic web series released by Ultimate Poker he has been keeping up with his sleight of hand tricks. The videos not only show Antonio performing impromptu street magic on the Las Vegas Strip, but also delve into his background, including his time as a magician and how he worked his way up through the poker ranks. All in all, it’s a very well done video. At two and a half minutes it’s not so long as to be unwatchable and just long enough to leave you thirsting for more episodes. “Filming street magic takes me back to a special time in my life,” remarked Ultimate Poker Brand Ambassador and magician Antonio Esfandiari. “I was a kid with a dream to be the next David Copperfield. That is all I cared about until I discovered poker. To succeed at poker and go back to magic as a hobby on the streets of Las Vegas was very fun for me.” For more episodes of Strip Magic and to see UP’s other YouTube clips you can visit their YouTube page at youtube.com/ultimatepoker.

Caesars Entertainment looking like the Roman Empire

Earlier this week Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a column indicating that Caesars Entertainment had sold four of its casino properties to one of its subsidiary companies, Caesars Growth Partners. The move has many people wondering if the restructuring is Caesars way of preparing for a bankruptcy filing down the road or if it’s just creative accounting to keep the company afloat and far away from bankruptcy court. While a bankruptcy filing, and even the talk of bankruptcy for a company with an estimated value of over $20 billion that is the owner of the most recognizable brand in poker, the World Series of Poker, may come as a shock to the average person—considering that if you live in the United States there is a good chance you are within driving distance of a Caesars property—for followers of the industry it has been a matter of “when” not “if” Caesars will undergo a restructuring with a possible Chapter 11 filing. The sale According to Howard Stutz, “Caesars Entertainment will transfer ownership of Bally’s Las Vegas, The Quad, the under-construction Cromwell, and Harrah’s New Orleans to Caesars Growth Partners for $2.2 billion.” Caesars Growth Partners will also take on over $400 million in debt and obligations. The sale of the four properties saw Caesars stock prices dip slightly, $.39 a share, but shares are still selling at over $25 a piece. Investors and analysts were skeptical that the sale would help either company in the long-run, and the move seems to be more of a short-term band aid by infusing Caesars Entertainment with some operating capital. In the LVRJ article Moody’s felt the sale “is likely the first in a series of steps to address (the company’s) unsustainable capital structure.” Needless to say the company’s financial sheets don’t exactly instill many people with confidence that Caesars can dig itself out if its hole. Don’t misunderstand what a Chapter 11 filing would mean A lot of people hear the world bankruptcy and immediately think of seized property, auctions, and shuttered doors. But don’t think that Caesars and its properties are just going to be auctioned off if the company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chapter 11 allows the business to continue operating, under court supervision, while it restructures its debts. While I’m definitely not an expert in bankruptcy law, my understanding of the situation is that by selling the four properties to their subsidiary, Caesars has effectively removed these properties from any restructuring by the court—which could force Caesars to liquidate certain assets to meet its debt obligations. Caesars problems are their own doing Caesars is a very fitting name for a gaming company whose empire stretches far and wide, and while I don’t expect the company’s downfall to come at the hands of an insurrection during the Ides of March as befell the historical Caesar, their end may be caused by the same failings that brought about the decline of the Roman Empire, namely being spread too thin. When gaming was booming, Caesars / Harrah’s was very active in acquiring properties in the run-up to the financial meltdown, and just before the economy took a turn for the worse the company went private. So yes, external factors (the economic collapse of 2008) exacerbated Caesars problems, but the company’s business plan shoulders the brunt of the blame. With the numerous purchases and takeovers of rivals, the company may hold some $20-something billion in assets, but Caesars has also racked up an unbelievable $20-something billion of debt, and now owns a number of properties worth a fraction of what Caesars paid for them prior to the real estate bubble bursting. Caesars future While they are in a tough spot at the moment, it would be extremely premature to write Caesars off. Here is why:
Caesars is the only casino operating a relevant online gambling site in both Nevada and New Jersey, and the company has been at the forefront of the online gaming industry.
Caesars is also the most prominent company in Atlantic City gambling, owning four of the 11 casinos in the city, and owning the now-closed Atlantic Club property.
Caesars is also the only major casino corporation with properties in multiple states from Iowa, to Mississippi, to Missouri, to Louisiana, to Ohio. Having a presence in so many states should make Caesars path to interstate online gambling much easier than their competitors. Basically, Caesars is primed to be a leader in the online gambling market in the US, and if that’s where the company sees the future of industry (which is an arguable point) than they have positioned themselves perfectly.