Steve Wynn, going state-by-state with license applications.
After recently describing Atlantic City’s casinos as “the enemy,” Steve Wynn is now looking to cash in on online gambling in New Jersey.
The state, which has seen gaming revenues from its traditional brick-and-mortar casinos decline steadily over the last few years, legalized online gambling earlier this year and some sites are expected to debut this fall.
A subsidiary of Wynn Resorts Ltd., Wynn Interactive LLC, is one of 37 firms that have applied for an online gaming license in New Jersey. Currently, Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts does not own a casino in Atlantic City.
As a result, the company would have to partner with an existing casino licensee in New Jersey in order to offer online game. Atlantic City has 12 properties, with only Revel and Atlantic Club without online partners.
Wynn Resorts operates casinos in Las Vegas and Macau. The gaming company is building Wynn Palace, a $4 billion casino-resort on the Cotai Strip in Macau, as well as seeking approval to build resorts in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
#1. WSOP.com did not launch real-money poker last week as rumors suggested they would. But it’s a safe bet they will be launching the actual WSOP this week – on May 29th, to be exact. WSOP officials have indicated a desire to run online satellites to the 2013 Main Event (which starts July 6th). If that remains their goal, then there’s a pretty small window remaining for launch.
#2. Massachusetts is returning to the issue of online poker only weeks after a House attempt to insert regulated online poker into the budget was killed at the last minute. Now GOP members of the State Senate are trying the same trick . We should learn the fate of their attempt sooner than later as the clock winds down on MA’s budget process.
#3. Illinois closes their current legislative session at week’s end. It seems unlikely that an online gambling measure will reappear and progress to law before the close. But stranger things have definitely happened. And the larger issue of gambling expansion remains in play during the last days of the session, which could potentially produce prodigious bursts of activity in Springfield.
For the past two decades, Atlantic City’s casino industry has been under siege from gaming competition in neighboring states.
The Southern New Jersey seaside resort, where saltwater taffy was created in the late 1800s, which thumbed its nose at Prohibition in the 1920s and was the inspiration for the board game Monopoly, once owned the monopoly for casinos in the East.
But starting in the mid-1990s, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and New York legalized gaming. The competition, combined with the recession, took away business and caused Atlantic City’s annual casino revenues to fall more than 41 percent between 2006 and 2012.
A comprehensive reform package pushed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011 that created the Atlantic City Tourism District and focused new attention on boosting the city’s 12 hotel-casinos — nine on the famous Boardwalk and three in the Marina district — was just beginning to take hold in October.
#1. PokerStars came out on the losing end of last week’s legal battle with the Atlantic Club Casino. But given the latest statement from PokerStars, and the fact that they’ve sunk $10mm+ into the deal to date, I expect PokerStars to file new litigation in the days ahead.
#2. iPoker has given skins until May 20th to verify the identity of all players referred by certain affiliates. Sources report the action is linked to suspected VPN play from banned countries – including the United States.
Watch iPoker’s traffic – and the traffic of major US-facing sites – this week for clues to the scope of the issue. Based on back-channel chatter, it’s potentially huge.
As chief regulator for New Jersey’s struggling casino industry, Matthew Levinson has an interesting balancing act.
The Casino Control Commission must ensure the market is free of corruption. At the same time, turning away potential investment could be viewed as counterproductive.
Levinson, 33, was appointed to a five-year term as the commission’s seventh chairman in August by Gov. Chris Christie.
In less than eight months on the job, he has experienced the gaming market’s financial ebbs and flows, the weeklong closure of casinos in October because of Superstorm Sandy, the emergence of online gaming giant PokerStars as buyer of a struggling Boardwalk casino, and the application of MGM Resorts International to regain its gaming license that it surrendered in 2010 after a stipulated agreement with the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Also, New Jersey lawmakers approved legislation allowing Atlantic City casinos to offer Internet gaming, and Christie has pushed the casinos to allow sports wagering, a move being fought in federal court.
As a former dealer and pit boss on the Boardwalk, Mayor Lorenzo Langford is committed to seeing the city’s casino industry recover, despite his well-publicized disputes with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over reforms implemented by the state that the mayor says cut him and other city leaders out of the process.
Langford, Atlantic City’s mayor since 2002, was critical of Christie’s reform package that was passed by state lawmakers in 2011 and put authority over the city’s 12 casinos under the state through a newly created tourism district.
In an interview last Friday in his seventh-floor City Hall conference room, Langford said the first two years of Christie’s planned five-year program haven’t shown any notable improvements.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Langford said, citing gaming revenue statistics that showed declines of 6.9 percent in 2011 and 8 percent in 2012. Atlantic City tourism and gaming leaders, however, cite upticks in nongaming areas, such as luxury tax collections, sales taxes and occupied hotel room nights.
#1. PokerStars’ apparently failed deal for the Atlantic Club Casino dominated discussion last week. But based on statements from Stars, this story is far from told. Hopefully this week we’ll get some more information about the nature of the contract between PokerStars and the ACC. And if the deal is dead, perhaps we’ll learn more about who is swooping in to buy the ACC out from under Stars. Could it be Station?
#3. Ultimate Poker rode a crush of publicity to a launch that saw reasonable traffic but was riddled with technical trouble. And not everyone thought it was such a big deal. Key thing to watch this week – the performance of next Sunday’s major tournament. It hit the cap of 200 players yesterday, so that’s the bar.
Correction: Last week I wrote that the MA House passed their budget bill with an online poker amendment intact. The amendment was removed prior to passage.
Jonathan Taylor $138,938 – WSOP-C Lodge Casino Main Event
Allen Kessler $20,859 – WSOP-C Lodge Casino $580 NLHE
Dan Shak $450,000 – PartyPoker Premier League VI
Michael Harris $95,663 – HPT Belterra Casin Main Event
There were plenty of results posted around the world over the weekend with the PartyPoker Premier League VI wrapping up, the Heartland Poker Tour crowning another champion, and the WSOP-C handing out a few more rings.
Dan Shak seems to love the big action, big attention games. He defeated Sam Trickett to capture the PartyPoker Premier League VI title after a few days of play for $450,000. As expected, it was a stacked final table with Antonio Esfandiari, Jonathan Duhamel, Daniel Cates, and actress/poker player Jennifer Tilly. Negreanu made a big splash as he just missed the final table (video can be viewed below).
Jonathan Taylor is the latest World Series of Poker Circuit event winner, his 3rd ring ring of the 2012/2013 series. He topped the other 420 entrees in the tournament for over $138,000. Perhaps only interesting to me, the small buy-in WSOP-C event in Blackhawk, CO drew exactly 150 less entrants than a similar Heartland Poker Tour event held in the same town just a few weeks. Also notable during this WSOP-C stop was the stunning non-min-cash of Allen “Complainsaw” Kessler who won the $580 No Limit Hold’em side event for his 2nd career ring.
Next up for the WSOP-C is a trip to the great Northeast and 12 tournaments at the mammoth Foxwoods Casino.
Tweet(s) of the Day – Allen Kessler’s humble brag with the Matt Salsberg follow up needle. Good stuff, now where is my Entourage movie?
Atlantic City’s Revel casino files for bankruptcy – This news isn’t very shocking. The latest, greatest, fresh casino in Atlantic City hasn’t been doing well since it opened. My one and only experience there left me wondering how quickly I could catch a cab to the Borgata. The Chapter 11 filing will help them try to cut debt and stay alive, but we’ve all heard those stories before.
Kane ‘Nascar_1949′ Kalas – Risks and Riches – As a Philly boy, I grew up listening to Harry Kalas call Phillies games but most sports fans probably know him as the “voice” of NFL Films. I had no idea his son has been a professional poker player/degenerate for years. “Friend of Pokerati” Remko Rinkema has a very in depth interview talking about all things gambling and sports.
Emotions run high as poker pro Daniel Negreanu throws all his chips – WATCH THIS VIDEO is how Jesse May would extort you to view the following (I just see the words coming out of his mouth in all caps). Negreanu, the self appointed judge of all things poker etiquette, lost his mind a little when he caught a bad beat during PartyPoker Premier League VI action.
Online gaming giant PokerStars folded its hand last summer after a 15-month legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since that time the company has been on a heater.
It was the right call for PokerStars to accept a $731 million forfeiture to the federal government and shed a nine-count indictment. The settlement also absolved PokerStars of any wrongdoing in accepting Internet wagers from American customers.
PokerStars, through its Isle of Man-based parent The Rational Group, said in January it was buying a casino in Atlantic City. On Feb. 21, it announced plans to open a live-play poker room at the City of Dreams in Macau, while its online business grew to more than 50 million registered customers through legal Internet gaming markets.
The only place PokerStars can’t earn a seat at the table is Nevada.
The gaming market has seemingly been covered by dark clouds for much of the past six years. Last week’s announcement that Revel, the Boardwalk’s newest resort, was filing for bankruptcy less than a year after opening, didn’t shock anyone.
Bad news has become expected.
Atlantic City gaming revenues have declined more than 40 percent over the last six years. The Boardwalk suffered through labor strife, competition from resorts in neighboring states, casino closures, stalled investments and the recession.
When Hurricane Sandy washed ashore in October, shutting down portions of the Boardwalk for as long as to a week, several analysts quietly wondered whether the freakish storm was a warning sign from above.
MGM Resorts International, which gave up its ties to Atlantic City’s casino market nearly three years ago to settle a dispute with New Jersey gaming regulators, is seeking to regain a piece of the action.
The Las Vegas casino giant, which still owns 50 percent of Atlantic City’s market-leading Borgata, petitioned the New Jersey Casino Control Commission on Monday to reinstate the company’s gaming license in Atlantic City.
In a statement, MGM Resorts officials said the company “would welcome the opportunity to once again be an active, contributing member of the New Jersey gaming marketplace.”
MGM Resorts placed its Borgata ownership in trust in 2010 following settlement of a complaint filed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The agency said MGM Resorts’ joint-venture partner in Macau, Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho, was unsuitable because international law enforcement alleged casinos controlled by her father, billionaire Stanley Ho, were influenced by Chinese organized-crime triads.
It hasn’t been the best of times for Atlantic City.
The question now is whether intrastate online gaming is the panacea that revives the Boardwalk.
Union Gaming Group managing director Bill Lerner believes the state’s Internet gambling bill sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk could benefit the two Las Vegas gaming companies that own Atlantic City’s largest resort.
But the bill, which would allow Atlantic City casinos to operate a full catalog of online games — not just poker — would have different results for Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Resorts International.
The Borgata, which is now 50-50 owned by Boyd and MGM Resorts, is the market leader in Atlantic City — collecting roughly 20 percent of Atlantic City’s $3.05 billion in gaming revenues in 2012 — and figures to hold the same role in a potential Atlantic City Internet gambling space.
Wall Street is sold on the parent company of online gaming giant PokerStars taking ownership of a downtrodden casino in Atlantic City.
The question that remains is whether or not New Jersey gaming regulators will sign off on the deal.
On Tuesday, Isle of Man-based The Rational Group, which owns PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, filed papers with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, seeking approval to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel from Resorts International Holdings.
There is now a 90-day period in which the Division of Gaming Enforcement will conduct an investigation and then report its findings to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. The casino commission will then have 30 days to hold hearings and ultimately make a determination on suitability.
Last week’s news that November gaming revenues at Atlantic City’s 12 casinos suffered their worst single-month decline in the New Jersey community’s 34-year history of legalized gaming had to be the low point.
Or was it?
Granted, Superstorm Sandy, which hit the region in late October, caused most of Atlantic City’s casinos to stay closed between Oct. 28 and Nov. 5.
Infrastructure impairments hindered travel from key feeder markets while residents of the Atlantic City – many of whom are employed in the casinos – were dealing with their own property damages.
In November, casino revenues fell 27.9 percent, which followed a 19.9 percent drop in October.
Not all the declines can be attributed to the storm.
The idea that online gaming giant PokerStars would buy the struggling Atlantic Club Hotel-Casino in Atlantic City brings additional intrigue into the ongoing Internet gambling legalization debate.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that PokerStars is negotiating to purchase the Boardwalk property from private equity group Colony Capital for less than $50 million.
This part is not a surprise. For that price, acquiring the casino originally built by Steve Wynn in the 1980s as the Golden Nugget and most recently operated as the Atlantic City Hilton is practically a steal.
One question, however, supersedes all others. Can PokerStars which agreed to pay $731 million to the federal government in August to settle a nine-count criminal indictment actually gain licensing approval from the ultra-strict New Jersey gaming regulators?