PokerStars, the biggest most legitimate online poker site in the world, which got that way by thumbing its nose at the US government for their stupid laws, has gotten the big X in Nevada, and in New Jersey … so where to next? According to my personal Linked In recommended jobs feed, the less pokery-sounding Stars/Tilt parent Rational Group seem to be setting up shop in California, with a new open position(s?) to beef up their “social” gaming presence. Seems to make sense, with Cali kinda a holy grail as the only state, along with Texas, that could supply a profitably massive player pool. Or it could just be a play to recruit some Bay area tech talent …
Meanwhile, to catch up those of us who may have checked out for a semester, gaming law expert I. Nelson Rose explains rather succinctly the other day, in an appearance on Fox Business, where things currently stand with Obamapoker the slow rollout of American online gambling. And, he explains, why California online poker doesn’t really stand a chance this year (even though politicians are still happy to take your donations for giving it the good-ole college try) — go 2014!
Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) is almost single-handedly making sure horse racing interests gets their cut of online poker spoils.
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I dunno man … it’s starting to seem inevitable that Antonin Scalia may eventually have to reveal his screen name and/or recuse himself to avoid violating any PokerStars T&C’s. But until then, the state of Kentucky is doing its part to make sure the Black Friday cases don’t go away.
The governor’s office put out a kinda strange press release last week, just to let people know, hey, don’t be confused by recent reports of certain online gambling cases achieving final settlement. The great Commonwealth of KY, you may recall, made the bold assertion in ’08 that it had a right to take over foreign web domains that failed to block access by Kentuckians. And now they would like you to know with extra certainty that Kentucky only let go of their claims against Absolute and UB (after a $6 million score) but have not otherwise released claims against poker sites that still have any money left, which they plan go after in full force.
With Black Friday cases winding up, Mark Scheinberg could make out as the biggest winner in the poker universe.
The chief executive of online gaming giant PokerStars agreed to forfeit $50 million to federal prosecutors to rid his himself of a two-year-old complaint filed by the U.S. government.
In a settlement agreement this week with the Department of Justice, the money being paid by PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg is based on allegations contained in the April 15, 2011, complaint filed by federal prosecutors against PokerStars as part of the government’s “Black Friday” crackdown on illegal Internet gaming operations.
“The agreement is not in response to any action that had been brought against Mark and contains no admission of wrongdoing, culpability or guilt on his behalf,” PokerStars spokesman Eric Hollreiser said in an emailed statement.
Last July, PokerStars accepted a $731 million forfeiture to the federal government to end the company’s legal battle with prosecutors.
Three senior officers of PokerStars were charged in April 2011 with bank fraud, money laundering and running an illegal Internet gambling enterprise.
The Justice Department absolved the company of any wrongdoing in accepting Internet wagers from American customers. PokerStars also wasn’t prohibited from entering legal U.S. gaming markets.
#1. PokerStars filed a request for interlocutory appeal late last week in connection with their attempt to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino. This week could bring a response from either the ACC or the NJ courts, moving us closer to a final resolution. Read an in-depth analysis of PokerStars’ filing on OPR here.
#2. New Jersey regulators recently set a deadline of June 30th for casinos to ink online gambling partnerships . With more than half of the state’s potential operators still unaffiliated, the new deadline could spark a series of deals in the brief window that remains. A deal involving Trump and an as-yet-unnamed partner could come this week.
#3. Illinois lawmakers will convene for a special session this week to address the state’s pension crisis. Gambling expansion and pension reform have been joined at the hip politically in Illinois, meaning that if pension reform is on the table, gambling expansion probably is too. Movement on online gambling is a long, long shot, but not completely implausible in a session that could potentially produce unexpected results.
#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.
#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.
#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.
Chris Reslock $18,200 – WSOP-C Harrah’s Philly $580 NLH
Chris Reslock $8,820 – WSOP-C Harrah’s Philly $365 NLH
Jae Kyung Sim $98,700 – APPT Cebu Main Event
Chris Reslock is having a good week at the WSOP Circuit series in “Philly”. The Atlantic City regular tied Alex Masek for Circuit victories with his 6th ring on Thursday and then took the overall lead early this morning with his 7th title in the short-field $365 NLH tournament. On top of his seven WSOP-C rings, Reslock also has nine other Circuit final tables on his resume, including two runner-up finishes, and a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2007.
In the online world, Ultimate Poker held it’s first “major” tournament with the regularly scheduled Sunday $10,000 guarantee event. The field hit it’s 200 player cap and the first big winner on the site was “d4heals” for just over $4,000. Meanwhile on PokerStars, “friend of Pokerati” Katie Dozier scored her biggest online title for $10,624 (and a soft drink) in their $30,000 2x-Turbo.
Tweet of the Day – Good to see Marafioti is staying well grounded heading into his summer at the WSOP including some weird bet with Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Can’t wait for the 2013 version of the Adzizzy Bunny Hop.
People on 2+2 talk about me non stop. I’m the most talked about, hated, + imitated player in the game. #QuietInPerson+JealousOnline! #UMad?
Lock Poker Shadiness 101 – Lock poker did not have the Best Week Ever. Never a big fan on linking up a 2+2 post because I’m afraid it won’t wash it off the Silkwood shower, but this seems to be the most comprehensive list of things going south for Lock Poker, player cashouts, and the pros who support it via Todd Witless and h/t to @Kevmath.
Blair Hinkle $121,177 – WSOP-C Council Bluffs Main Event
Roger Campbell $131,681 – Heartland Poker Tour St. Louis
Terry Fan HK$1,771,000 – Red Dragon Main Event
Daniel Pidun €880,000 – EPT Berlin Main Event
A historic day here in the States for online poker with the live launch of the Station Casinos/UFC backed Ultimate Poker. The client was opened to the public this morning and the first hand was dealt shortly after 9am Vegas time. Which prompted someone to immediately complain about a bad beat after busting on that very same hand. Welcome back online poker to the States!
Some questions have been answered about the process involved with the Nevada based site. Players do not need to be located within the state to signup and create an account, thus preventing another unprofitable hack from stealing the AlCantHang username. Players can deposit on the site from outside Nevada, which will allow them to load up on the site before traveling and play as soon as they are within the state lines. Deposit options include MasterCard, echeck, real check, bank wire, and the option to walk up to the main cage in any of the 16 Station Casinos in Nevada.
It seems the only downside so far, besides the small player base currently offered, is the system judging a player’s geographic location based on their cell phone signal. Verizon customers are unable to access the site and word is coming out about other smaller carriers being blocked as well. I can only assume these issues are being dealt with to allow everyone access.
All things considered, it’s a pretty big day for online poker back in the US. The first step in the process which includes interstate compacts and hopefully Federal regulations as quickly as possible. WSOP grinders can start loading up their accounts because they now have a legal online solution for playing away from the Rio.
In non-online poker news, poker good guy Blair Hinkle won his 2nd career WSOP Circuit ring at the Council Bluffs Main Event. He became the first player to win the same Circuit event twice with the first ring coming there in the summer of 2010. This 2nd ring will go along nicely with his WSOP bracelet for 2008, setting him nicely for a big run at the 2013 WSOP.
Tweet of the Day – Ultimate Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari tweets a screencap of the first hand played on the site. For the record, I want to play every one of these min-raising (redacted) online players.
Duke on Decisions – Seems my former Epic Poker boss has been making her rounds on the corporate speech circuit. Short-stack Shamus has a run down of a recent article about Annie Duke’s latest appearance.
PokerStars Blog turns eight years old – I remember running off to the Bahamas years ago to provide a little moral support to Otis during the PCA (and cause myself severe liver damage) and now the PokerStars blog has turned 8 years old. The site has long been a strong supporter of the poker writing community and deserves all the kudos they receive.
Phil Ivey is God – A deleted scene from the upcoming BET RAISE FOLD documentary, this one all about Phil Ivey. It’s good to see a flashback to Gloria Balding on camera along with Dr. Pauly and Jesse May.
SecureTrading Inc., a Las Vegas-based subsidiary of UC Group, has been licensed by Nevada gaming regulators to provide online gambling payment processing, identification verification and geo-location services, the company said Monday.
“We began developing our tailored payments, ID verification and geolocation solution for the U.S. market a few years back in anticipation if a regulated Internet gambling marketplace”, said Chris Thom, chairman of SecureTrading.
Thom said the firm was prepared to serve as a one-stop shop for licensed gambling operators.
#1. Pennsylvania representative Tina Davis (finally) introduced a bill to regulate online gambling late last week. Expect more specifics to emerge this week; early word is that the license fee is $5m and the tax rate is 28%.
#2. Illinois members of the PPA just received a survey concerning PokerStars, leading one industry observer to speculate that Stars is considering buying their way into Illinois’ online gambling market. PokerStars wouldn’t need to take over a full casino to get in; electronic gaming license holders and advance deposit wagering license holders are also eligible to apply under proposed online gambling regulation in Illinois.
#3. Caesars is reportedly considering a sale of NJ property Showboat - and the eligibility to apply for a New Jersey online gambling license that goes with it. It will be interesting to follow the story (and reaction from the markets) in the coming days. Will Caesars get a premium for the online component? And, if so, will that spark the sale of more New Jersey land-based properties?
Courtesy of Nathan Vardi, today comes news that Chad Elie, a Black Friday defendant now serving federal time, has sued Washington D.C. lawyer Jeff Ifrah and his law firm, Ifrah PLLC, whom Elie alleges were retained to represent him. The complaint was filed yesterday in the District Court in Clark County, Nevada; a copy of the complaint is available here.
Part of the complaint is devoted to Ifrah’s defence (or purported lack thereof) of Elie in a prior case commenced in Nevada state court and subsequently removed to federal court.
But the potentially explosive part of the claim concerns alleged payments that Ifrah received payments from Elie’s LLC (21 Debit) as “commission[s] on procuring the deals with the banks which processed poker transactions.” In so doing, Elie alleges that Ifrah acted in a conflict of interest vis-a-vis Elie and his other clients and withheld critical information from Elie about the illegality of payment processing for online poker in the United States. Elie states that Ifrah received $100,000 per month as his cut for this processing and more than $1M in total therefrom.
The other incendiary claim is that Ifrah disclosed privileged and false information to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York “in order to avoid indictment from the US Attorney’s office for his own illegal activities.”
This is just a complaint at this stage; none of this is evidence and nothing has been proved in court. Ifrah will doubtless respond. Given the seriousness of the allegations, the response should be every bit as good a read as the complaint.
With that subhead above, thus concludes the only attempt on my part to do anything for April Fools’ Day. Carry on.
There was plenty of potential for a first-class WPT Venice final table but instead it was just relatively historic. With just two tables remaining, the field still included WSOP bracelet winner Mike Sexton, former November Niner Martin Staszko, former EPT Champion Ludovic Lacay, poker player/producer/writer extraordinaire Matt Salsberg, and our bestie Kara Scott.
Unfortunately for televised poker history, all of them would be eliminated before the official final table except for Mike Sexton. This was the 2nd final table for the WPT commentator on their tour after his 2011 Bay 101 appearance. He collected just shy of $70,000 for his 3rd place result with the victory ultimately going to Italian Rocco Palumbo.
Tweet of the Day – I feel bad for poor Geno, friend of Pokerati and former professional poker writer. Not only is he stuck living in Pennsyltucky but he also fell for a prank on this of all days.
Just fell for an online April Fool’s joke. Want to burn the Internet to the ground, salt its fields, foul its wells, etc.
Apple’s poker app may be illegal here – News from Australia isn’t all sunbeams and wallabies. Word from Down Under that some bigwigs in government aren’t too happy with Apple and PokerStars since their mobile app is available for download in Australia complete with real money deposits and games.
Digging into the AGA / PokerStars New Jersey War – Missed this link a few weeks ago but worth a spot in the link dump. Haley Hintze gives her opinion on the battle in New Jersey between the American Gaming Association and PokerStars. Nothing is ever clear cut when it comes to all the players involved.
Google Glass At the Poker Table? – There’s been some interesting oh-god-we-are-living-in-the-future talk about Google Glass, headgear which looks/acts like something out of Star Trek. The gang over at CardChat took an amusing look at what it would be like have Google Glass at the poker table.
#1. Full Tilt Poker’s traffic slide just won’t quit. PokerStars has tried bonuses, splashy promotions and even PR stunts to prop up Full Tilt, so it will be interesting to see how PokerStars reacts this week – if they react at all – to FTP’s recent drop into 4th place (by cash game traffic).
#2. PokerStars & NJ: The online poker giant has yet to complete its NJ application. But the PR war between PokerStars and the AGA continues, and looks set to escalate as NJ marches closer to launching real-money online gambling.