The iGaming community is currently focused on California, where the State Assembly hosted an online poker hearing that featured several key individuals from the online poker industry in Nevada, including former NGCB Chairman Mark Lipparelli. But while California discusses the potential for online poker expansion Nevada continues to live it, dealing with all the ups and downs that go along with it. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Week in Review well look at the good and the bad going on in Nevada, and the contentious and the uncontroversial. Well kick things off with the ongoing mini-controversy regarding WSOP.coms customer service department (which is actually 888s customer service department) and why it speaks to a larger issue in the US iGaming industry, followed by Las Vegas Sands Andy Abbouds name surfacing as one of the people who spoke at Californias online poker hearing. So keep reading for the specifics on these stories and a whole lot more below. The WSOP.com customer service kerfuffle This weekend we brought you one of the most interesting stories weve seen in the one-year existence of Nevadas online poker industry, as the first forum-based controversy involving a licensed, regulated online poker room got a little bit of attention. There isnt much to the story itself (click the link above to see why), but it does demonstrate one of the issues the licensed online poker rooms still havent been able to solve, transparency. For whatever reason the licensed sites in the US have decided to continue the long tradition in the industry of being very opaque when it comes to their corporate structure and who and how things will be handled. In this example it was the customer support department, and because of a lack of transparency the entire community was under the assumption that WSOP.com was in charge of their own customer service, which isnt the case, 888 handles the customer service. These things arent a big deal in and of themselves, but they do make things unnecessarily harder for the sites when things do go wrong, and then when they do have to explain what is going on, they wind up with conspiracy theorists thinking they are then making excuses up out of whole cloth to cover their butts. Andy Abboud goes west Wednesdays California hearing on online poker wrapped up with Sheldon Adelsons henchman Andy Abboud. Check out the 24 Things I Learned at the California Online Poker Hearing here. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed This weeks running of the $15k guaranteed at WSOP.com pulled in 86 players, down seven entries week-over-week but still more than enough to eclipse the guarantee, as the final prize-pool tally topped off at $17,200. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
aggie69 $464.40 WSOP Main Event Satellite Once again the WSOP Main Event qualifier featured a substantial overlay, as just 35 players registered for this weekends $215 ($200+$15) tournament, leaving WSOP.com on the hook for the remaining $3,000 of the $10,000 seat.
DiaperChanger Seat to the 2014 WSOP Main Event The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker Apparently the seven players missing from WSOP.coms $15k guaranteed went over to Ultimate Poker this weekend (with one of them bringing a friend) as UPs $10k guarantee saw attendance jump eight players. UPs weekly tournament features a $100 buy-in ($91+$9) so even with the increased number of entries UP still had to cough up over $1,000 in overlays. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
VegasPlayer $300 Traffic trends in Nevada It was bad week for Nevada online poker traffic as WSOP.com stayed below 100 average cash-game players and Ultimate Poker saw their average cash-gamed traffic dip to just 60 players according to www.pokerscout.coms data. Traffic was already trending down, (last weeks numbers were 95 for WSOP.com and 65 for Ultimate Poker) but previous downward trends had been followed by a solid spike in traffic, a spike that did not occur this week. The word on the street Antonio Esfandiari begging for money at airport What happens when you forget your wallet and are stuck in an airport with no money? You go hungry until you can crack open some pretzels on the plane. But if your name is Antonio Esfandiari you can beg and plead until someone hands you $30. William Hill makes the case for election betting William Hill is making their case that betting on elections isnt all that bad, and what better place to make that case than in Las Vegas! For those of you that dont know, sites like InTrade are illegal in the US, so this would be a pretty big deal.
The big news in Nevada online poker this week has sprouted from of all places a rumor, but its a big enough deal that it has commandeered a lot of the headlines, and it commandeered a few of the stories in this weeks Nevada Online Poker Review. So what is the rumor? Youll find out as your reading this weeks column of course! In addition to the rumors well also talk about an interesting column that appeared on the Center for Public Integrity website; the upcoming one year anniversary of online poker n Nevada; some more anti-online gambling rhetoric from a Las Vegas Sands executive; and the latest tournament and traffic trends in the state. Center for Public Integrity takes on iGaming The Center for Public Integrity unveiled an incredibly in-depth look at the current fight for online gambling, taking an unbiased look at both sides in the fight, including where their funding comes from and how they are spending their lobbying money. Anyone who follows iGaming should read this article and take careful note of its contents. Perhaps one of the more interesting slants of the story is the continued funding of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) by the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars, as well as Rationals individual lobbying efforts at the state and federal level, something I was unaware of. Another piece of the puzzle that few people have a strong handle on is the role Joe Brennan Jrs iMEGA played in the legislation that was eventually passed in New Jersey. Anniversary of Nevada online poker approaching In just two weeks time the Nevada online poker industry will celebrate its one year anniversary. How has the first year gone for Nevada online poker rooms? The industry hasnt been what I would call a success, but its far from being a failure. So far online poker in Nevada has been the very definition of mediocre in my opinion. The market peaked relatively quickly, but has failed to continue to mature as most people had hoped; actually the current market, with three poker rooms, is smaller than when Ultimate Poker was the sole proprietor. The good news is, we have an impending interstate online poker agreement between Nevada and Delaware that is expected to launch this summer, and now rumors are swirling that New Jersey may be thinking about joining the Delaware/Nevada partnership. All things considered, Nevada has performed admirably considering they were hamstrung by being first state with legalized online poker (the guinea pig) and considering the sparse population they had to work with the expectations were never all that high to begin with. Sands COO says iGaming all about taxes for Feds Recently, Las Vegas Sands President and COO Michael Leven called the current efforts to legalize online gambling in the US a cash grab, saying the federal government was simply looking for something else to tax, and said of the entire conversation, Its all about finding more money, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Leven made the remarks at the Nevada Republican Partys VIP Breakfast at South point which ironically is one of three online poker providers in Nevada, with their Real Gaming product. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed This weeks running of the $15k guaranteed at WSOP.com attracted 93 players. With a buy-in of $215 ($200+$15) the prize-pool easily eclipsed the guarantee, topping out at $18,600. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
kingpin1 $502.20 WSOP Main Event Satellite Just a week after meeting its guarantee for the first time, the $215 buy-in WSOP Main Event qualifier handed out one of its biggest overlays. Only 34 players registered for the tournament, which meant an overlay of $3,200 for the registered players. The winner of the tournament was a player with a terrific screen-name, Don_Key who will now find him or herself in the World Series of Poker Main Event with a chance at the $10 million first-place prize.
Don_Key Seat to the 2014 WSOP Main Event The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker Ultimate Poker wasnt as fortunate as WSOP.com as they handed out an $1,810 overlay after just 90 players registered for their $10k Guarantee, featuring a buy-in of $100 ($91+$9). Here is a look at the final table payouts:
swordfish515 $300 Traffic trends in Nevada After some gains the Nevada online poker market has suffered a significant setback, as traffic numbers dipped roughly 13% this past week according to www.pokerscout.coms data. WSOP.com saw average traffic drop from an average of 110 cash-game players to just 95, while Ultimate Poker suffered a similar decline, dropping from an average of 75 cash-game players to just 65 this week. What about South Points Real Gaming online poker site? The site is still struggling to gain any type of foothold in the market, and its tables remain virtually empty most of the day. Of course, there is still hope that the World Series of Poker, which kicks-off next month, will see a surge in players, and that the upcoming pooling of players with Delaware will also help out on the traffic front with the above mentioned potential for a partnership with New Jersey that has been discussed being a Holy Grail of sorts. The word on the street New Jersey may finally be interested in joining forces Youve already seen several mentions of this in this column, but just to emphasize how big a deal this would actually be, if this comes about average cash-game traffic would suddenly start approaching four-figures from all of the licensed sites combined. Basically, the only unlicensed online poker site that could compete would be Bovada.
Historically, the advent of spring ushers in a marked decline in the amount of global online poker traffic. 2014 has proven no different. Nevadas newly-minted online poker industry, now approaching its one-year anniversary in the regulated iGaming space, failed to escape the seasonal downtrend, exhibiting nominal losses in both cash-game and tournament traffic. However, with the World Series of Poker and a shared liquidity agreement with Delaware on the horizon, Nevada appears well-positioned to reverse its woeful fortunes. But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. We examine the latest traffic trends in the Silver States regulated gaming market, and offer our own insight into the future of the industry, in this, our first installment of Nevada Traffic Report. Cash-game volume dips across the board After recovering from a five month low point in late-March, WSOP.com recovered briefly, only to lose steam once again. Ultimate Poker suffered a similar fate. Cash-game 7-day averages for Nevadas three regulated poker sites, as of April 14th, listed below: · WSOP.com: 94 · Ultimate Poker: 65 · Real Gaming: 0 Compared to April 1st, traffic on WSOP,.com is down nearly 8 percent, but still slightly improved over its March 23rd low point of 89. Ultimate continues its seemingly endless downward spiral, dipping down to its lowest levels since first launching late last April. And according to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, Real Gaming has failed to record any traffic. This is largely due to the sites utter dearth of marketing, but can also be partially attributed to Nevadas small population, which is hardly large enough to sustain three online poker sites, let alone the upwards of six the Silver State may boast by years end. When compared to trends in the global iPoker marketplace, Nevadas performance ranks well below average. Globally, cash-game traffic held steady from the period of April 1st April 14th, whereas traffic in Nevada dipped 6.4 percent. Majors boast deflated numbers This weeks Majors also exhibited noticeable decreases across the board, with the weeks biggest Major, WSOPs $15k Guarantee only drawing 93 runners. While the $15k still crushed its guarantee by $3,600, week-over-week turnouts were down 15.5 percent. WSOP would also give away one seat to the Main Event last week, awarded to a player that goes by the moniker Don_Key. Only 34 players entered the $200 + $15 qualifier, amounting to a $3,200 overlay. Ultimate Pokers $10,000 Sunday drew approximately the same amount of runners (90) that it did last week. But that still wasnt enough for the site to turn a profit, as even including tournament fees the site was forced to pony up $1,000 out-of-pocket. The last time UPs major drew more than a 100 runners was on March 31st. Is help on the way? Due to a shared liquidity agreement with Delaware, cash-game volume on Nevada-housed sites should receive a modest boost come late-summer. I say modest because Delaware boasts a paltry population of less than one million, and thus far, traffic on its regulated poker sites has been close to non-existent. Then again, its very possible that more patrons from Delaware will take notice of online poker once a larger player pool is available. The upcoming WSOP should also help to bolster online poker traffic, as swarms of professional and recreational poker players will mob the Rio for a six week period beginning in late May. Still, with so much activity taking place at Las Vegas b&m casinos, its hard to fathom many players wanting to go to their rooms to play online, especially with so many juicy live cash games running. Arguably, Nevadas best shot to stay/become relevant would be to forge an interstate compact with New Jersey. Due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is falling traffic numbers, New Jersey suddenly appears willing and able to share liquidity the Silver State and Delaware by the end of 2014. Should this happen, more states might be compelled to join in the mix, thereby creating additional interstate liquidity sharing opportunities in Nevada. But make no mistake; Nevada faces a long uphill climb.
Nevada is fast approaching its one-year anniversary of legalized online poker, but that doesnt mean everything has fallen into place without issue, or that the industry is now on secure footing. Setting aside the operational and technical issues the online poker industry has faced, there is also the ever-present storm cloud of Sheldon Adelson hanging over the industry, although a number of chinks in the armor are starting to appear that are making Adelsons anti-online gambling crusade look more like the last stand of the 300 than Operation Overlord. In this weeks installment of the Nevada Online Poker Review well take a look at a bit of defiance from the Sands Board of Directors; see which six casinos were granted extensions by the NGCB; take a historical look at Nevada Gaming revenue; and a whole lot more, including the latest traffic trends and tournament results. Sands board member now iGaming shareholder Well isnt this an interesting wrinkle! Apparently one of the members of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Board of Directors, Jason Ader, has recently become the second largest shareholder of bwin.party, one of the giants of the online gambling industry, and a company that is licensed in New Jersey as an online gambling site. Las Vegas Sands is of course owned by Sheldon Adelson, the Sheldon Adelson who is currently spending millions of dollars to repeal online gambling in the United States, which will likely make the next Sands board meeting quite interesting. Perhaps Ader is simply taking a contrarian stance, or perhaps he realizes Adelsons efforts to ban online gambling are futile. Either way it makes for an interesting debate and is yet another interesting addition to the already tangled plot line that is online gambling in the US. 6 Casinos receive online poker extensions As we reported earlier this week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) extended the licenses for six Nevada casinos, allowing them to continue to develop their online poker products (if they choose to do so) without having to renew their license applications
a renewal process that would have come with a six-figure price tag. Here are the six casinos that received online poker license extensions in Nevada:
Boomtown Reno Truckstop
Grand Siena (Reno)
LV Golden Nugget
Boyd Interactive Gaming You can read our entire write up on this story here. A Historical look at gambling revenue in Nevada With the Nevada Gaming Control Board finally releasing data on online poker revenue, which is currently looking like a $150 million a year industry based on the revenue numbers (Nevadas cut of that revenue will be about $10 million per year) I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the bigger picture of the revenue generated by the casino industry in the state. Based on the following numbers, the online poker revenues being generated in the state are a mere drop in the bucket, but with revenues down $2.5 billion from their peak in 2007, every hundred million counts!
2001 $9.3 Billion
2002 $8.9 Billion
2003 $9.2 Billion
2004 $9.9 Billion
2005 $10.5 Billion
2006 $11.8 Billion
2007 $12.5 Billion
2008 $12 Billion
2009 $10.5 Billion
2010 $9.9 Billion
2011 $10.1 Billion
2012 $9.9 Billion
2013 $10.1 Billion You can find more historical gaming data at UNLVs Nevada Revenue page. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed A really strong turnout of 110 players registered for the $15k Guaranteed at WSOP.com this past Sunday, creating a prize-pool of $22,000. Considering the recent turnouts the site may want to consider bumping the guarantee up to $20,000. Here is a look at the final table payouts from the tournament:
Pweda287 $462 WSOP Main Event Satellite For the first week since it has been offered, the WSOP.com satellite to the World Series of Poker Main Event didnt offer an overlay, as a total of 55 players registered for the tournament, creating a prize-pool of $11,000:
1more1time $10,000 seat to the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event
BShriver5 $1,000 The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker While WSOP.com saw a nice uptick in tournament attendance it seems to have come at the expense of Ultimate Poker, which saw just 88 players register for their $10K Guaranteed tournament this past Sunday, which meant an overlay of nearly $2,000. For the second time in three weeks William Reynolds managed to make the final table, this time finishing in 6th place.
I Love Beer $2,000
BrownPride $300 Traffic trends in Nevada After a few months of steady decline there is finally a bit of good news coming out of Nevada as average cash-game traffic at WSOP.com has ticked back up to 110 players after dipping below 100 just two weeks ago according to www.pokerscout.coms data. Ultimate Poker also saw some small gains for the second straight week as the site now boasts average cash gamed traffic of 75 players. South Points Real Gaming online poker site continues to be a complete non-factor in the market with average traffic still sitting at 0 although the site is still in a testing period and hasnt been marketed at all at this point. Overall, Nevadas online cash-game traffic is once again approaching 200 players. The word on the street Culinary Union okays strike Last week we told you that the Culinary Union had authorized a strike of Downtown Las Vegas Casino, and this week the picket lines began as the Las Vegas Sun reported. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out, as it could be bad for both sides.
WSOP.coms customer support has been anything but supportive according to poker players on the 2+2 poker forum, but are they casting blame at the right people? At issue is the companys handling of a collusion complaint, more specifically the follow-up questions regarding the investigation, which has now morphed into a critical analysis of their customer support in general. Coming under specific fire is the Head of Poker at WSOP.com Bill Rini, who is arguably the highest profile WSOP.com employee, and also the most reachable of WSOP.com higher-ups. Unfortunately, it appears that most people arent looking at the situation critically and Bill has become a scapegoat of sorts. What happened? First off, lets not lose sight of the fact that WSOP.com did investigate the situation promptly; caught and punished the colluders; and refunded the affected player*. So a job well done on that front. *After digging a bit deeper the players in question seemed to be colluding and had their accounts shut down. No restitution was made to psasjc. Its unclear if the alleged colluders had the money from their accounts confiscated. Where the criticisms began was in the aftermath, when the affected player (psasjc on the 2+2 poker forum) sought clarification on certain aspects of the investigation and felt as though he was being stonewalled and ignored. His concerns were curtly answered by Bill Rini, who told psasjc this was not something the company would talk about publicly, and their investigative methods and personal information were off limits. This has always been a major point of contention between online poker rooms and online poker players, as the poker community thinks they are owed certain information, especially after the many scandals in the industries past. But this is simply not the case. How collusion is dealt with is not something WSOP.com has to relay to the community, its something they have to relay to regulators. The situation received even more attention when it appeared on the PokerFraudAlert.com forum, with the sites owner Todd Witteles going so far as to contact Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber, and discussing the matter with another Caesars bigwig Seth Palansky. Palansky reiterated some of Rinis comments to the community, stating that the 2+2 forum was not a support forum and they were moving away from discussing any support related questions there. Palansky also expressed support for Bill Rini and the job he has done. A part of the story most people are overlooking What wasnt mentioned during any of the forum outcry, or in the discussion between Witteles and Palansky is something it seems that very few people are aware of: Caesars is not in charge of their customer support department. *WSOP.com does have some customer support people on staff who act in a managerial capacity.* Their online gambling partner 888 runs customer support for the WSOP.com site. So, while Bill and WSOP.com employees can bring these complaints to 888, it is then up to 888 to sort through everything and at that point there is little anyone from WSOP.com can do. The stones being cast at WSOP.com should probably be redirected at 888, although WSOP.com does bear some responsibility for the overall poor customer support. But Bill Rini really has little to do with any support issues. What we have is a situation where Bill Rini has been thrust into a position where he is seemingly the face of the sites customer support, even if that isnt part of his job description. This puts him in a very awkward of situation of not being able to answer the questions being posed to him, similar to a manager in name only. Is it a big deal? The US online poker industry is currently facing a number of issues they have no control over, from geolocation to payment processing, so you would think the last thing they would want to do is open themselves up to more criticism on issues they can control, like customer service. For some people that have been jaded by the multitude of online poker scandals over the years this lack of communication is a very big deal, as virtually every online poker scandal perpetrated by a poker room was precipitated by poor customer support and a lack of answers from the site in question. So the reaction by the community is somewhat understandable. That being said, we are in a different time and place now, and WSOP.com is a regulated online poker room. Poor customer support and no comment type answers may be frustrating and are certainly not the best business model, but they no longer indicate more nefarious goings on below the surface. My feeling on this is that the situation is what it is, a poorly run customer service department; something many companies are plagued by see American Airlines and not some broader conspiracy or portent of how the business is run as a whole. The root of the problem First off, 888s customer support is far from ideal, in fact, most would call it abysmal thus far. WSOP.com could conceivably create their own customer service department, and hire someone skilled at answering questions on poker forums (arguably the hardest job in the world) but they really shouldnt have to; this is supposed to be taken care of by 888, and Caesars has their own financial constraints its already dealing with. That being said, WSOP.com (and quite frankly every US online poker room with the possible exception of Ultimate Poker) hasnt done the best job of communicating with the poker community on a number of levels. Its somewhat unclear who the go-to guys from the company are, evidenced by Bill Rini having to deal with customer support questions. Furthermore, WSOP.com seems to want an idealized existence, and poker is far from ideal. The idea that they can have a dedicated forum on 2+2 and not expect to receive customer support questions is unreasonable. Poker players are accustomed to bringing complaints to light on 2+2 and if you have a dedicated forum you are going to be bombarded by customer support questions whether you want them or not. *WSOP.com expects to receive general customer service questions in their 2+2 forum, but if a request is specific, or requires account information to be accessed WSOP.com would like those to go through standard CS channels.*
The 2014 World Series of Poker is just around the corner and this will mark the first WSOP tournament series where visitors will have the chance to play at one of Nevadas licensed online poker rooms. With the WSOP brand also home to the largest online poker room in the state, many players making their annual migration will have a unique opportunity to enhance their poker experience this summer, and the WSOP is welcoming this; allowing players to play online poker while playing in WSOP events, and even setting aside a designated computer area with a secure wi-fi network in the Pavilion Room dubbed the Grind Room. So if you are ready to grind, here is what you need to know to create and fund your WSOP.com account while youre in Nevada. Creating an online poker account Creating an online poker account in Nevada is a fairly simple process, but youll definitely want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before getting started. This isnt the old days where you simply type in a name and click a box saying youre over 18 and type in On the river as your address, in the new regulated market youll need to prove who you are and fill out the required information with care and attentiveness. Also, a word of warning, youll need to surrender your Social Security number. Expert tip #1: Preregister! One of the nice things about a site like WSOP.com is that even though you can only play for real money in Nevada you can preregister and have your account and identity verified beforehand. The first thing youll need to do is download the WSOP.com software, a process that takes just a couple minutes. Once the download completes youll be prompted to log-in or create a new account. Expert tip #2: Check and double check your info! If you mess up on even a very minor piece of data your registration process will suddenly become far more difficult and time consuming. Make sure everything matches up precisely before clicking submit. Once you finish the registration process you will be asked to confirm your WSOP.com registration via E-Mail, and youll be ready to play once your account is funded, which you can only do once youre inside Nevadas borders of course. Payment options when you get into Nevada You can register your account out of state, but as mentioned above, you will only be allowed to fund your account when you are physically in Nevada, so youll need to put some thought into and coordinate how you will fund your account beforehand. Expert Tip #3: Have a backup plan! Planning on funding your account via an ACH check or a credit card is great, but you should also formulate a contingency plan in case something goes wrong. If possible, make sure you have more than one funding option available when you head to Las Vegas at the end of the month. Here are your options: Cash at the Cage According to WSOP.com Head of Poker Bill Rini, players will be able to deposit in person at the Rio by the time the World Series of Poker rolls around. This option isnt available at present an WSOP.com is not guaranteeing it will be ready to go when the WSOP starts, but its as close to a guarantee as you can get, short of something improbable occurring like the grid going down. If you can swing it (and by swing it I mean travel with thousands of dollars) this is the way to go, and would be my #1 choice. Neteller The best way to fund your account while visiting Nevada short of walking around with thousands of dollars in your suitcase is by setting up a Neteller account. There will be some small fees youll have to pay, but like preregistering your WSOP.com account you can have your Neteller loaded up and ready to go the second you land in Vegas, which makes Neteller a surefire way for out of state players to fund their account. Even if you plan on using another funding source it would be wise to have a Neteller account in your back pocket in case it is needed, and setting it up beforehand is critical. Credit Cards (Visa and MasterCard) Credit cards are a precarious way to fund your online poker account, with MasterCard success rates hovering around 75% while Visa is still about a 50/50 proposition, with Visa transactions declined over 50% of the time. Certain banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are known to still be declining online poker transactions despite their legal status in Nevada, and many other smaller banks have followed suit. If a credit card is your primary funding method make sure you have a backup plan. ACH (eChecks) One of the most reliable funding options is sending an eCheck, but this could present problems for players whose bank is not in-state, and ACH checks can take a couple days to clear. If you can set it up this is a very reliable method, with few transaction denials, but it will also be one of the more logistically difficult. Expert Tip #4: Withdraw from anywhere in the world! Depositing has to occur within Nevadas borders but you are able to initiate a withdrawal from anywhere in the world. So fear not, if you go on a nice run at WSOP.com in Nevada you can request a withdrawal when you get back home.
Last week the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) granted six casinos an extension for their online poker licenses according to the Las Vegas Sun. None of the six casinos have launched an online poker product at this point. Under Nevada law, companies that are approved for online poker licenses were required to launch their software within a set amount of time. These recently granted extensions give the following six companies an additional six months to submit their software to the NGCB for testing:
Boomtown Reno Truckstop
Grand Siena (Reno)
LV Golden Nugget
Boyd Interactive Gaming Even with the extensions dont expect a sudden rush of sites to launch in the coming months, as the extensions do not necessarily mean all of these companies are even working towards launching online poker sites in Nevada anytime soon. The extensions will give a site like Z4 (which has been working towards launching an online poker site) the additional time it needs, and it will also allow the other companies a few extra months to observe the industry, including how the interstate compact with Delaware affects the Nevada industry when it is expected to go into effect this summer. Whats the holdup? Given the small market size and the muddied waters brought on by the possibility of a federal ban on online gambling, it now appears that most companies in Nevada are now taking a wait and see approach, evidenced by the words of Ellen Whittemore, an attorney representing MGM Resorts, who told the Las Vegas Sun that the MGM, was continuing to monitor the industry. Jeff Silver, a lawyer for Carson Station and Max was a bit more blunt in his remarks, stating that an online poker room needs 500 players to be viable (Im not sure where Silver came up with this number) and called the Nevada online poker industry a loser according to the Las Vegas Sun article. Online poker traffic in Nevada The Nevada market has proven to be small even taking into account the states small population of 2.8 million and barely capable of supporting Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com at present. The average online cash-game traffic for all three online poker rooms in Nevada is hovering below 200 players according to www.pokerscout.com; a number that would rank Nevadas online poker industry in the low 30s worldwide, below online poker providers like Sky Poker, Enet, and OnGame France. For comparisons sake, PokerStars average cash-game traffic over the same period of time is 21,000 players according to PokerScout.com, and sites like iPoker, Full Tilt, partypoker, and 888 have 15-20x the traffic of the entire Nevada industry. Revenue reports dont support further growth Beyond the small market and limited room for growth, there is also the matter of the long-awaited revenue reports released by the NGCB in March which showed the Nevada online poker market generating less than $1 million a month in revenue; $824,000 in February 2014, and $8.5 million since launching in April of 2013. This number that will likely further frighten other potential providers, considering the initial cost of an online poker license in Nevada is $500,000, with a yearly renewal fee of $250,000. That expenditure is on top of the 6.75% tax on gross revenue they must pay. Considering the current cumulative traffic of the three online poker rooms operating in the state and the current revenue being generated, it doesnt appear that Nevada has the liquidity to support more than one online poker room, let alone a half-dozen more, so these extensions may be more for show than anything.
Nevada Online Poker Review: Reno CEOs About-Face on Internet Gambling, Revenue Numbers Finally Released
Even though the debate over online gambling continues to rage on (Sheldon Adelson was apparently very sincere when he proclaimed he was going to fight online gambling to the bitter end) the most talked about stories coming out of Nevada over the past week has been in regards to the recent revenue numbers for February, which for the first time included the states online poker numbers. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Review well breakdown those revenue numbers for both land-based and online gambling; well also discuss the CEO of the Atlantis Reno, John Farahis newfound opposition to online gambling; and well fill you in on the latest tournament results, traffic numbers and gossip coming out of Nevada including potential strike by a union with 37,000 members. Farahi explains new stance on online poker Last week we brought you the news via Jon Ralston that Atlantis Reno owner John Farahi had come out against online poker in the state. In detailing Farahis opposition I brought up the interesting angle to the story explaining how the Atlantis Hotel and Casino (under the name Monarch Casino and Resort) had applied for and received an online poker license in Nevada. As Ricky Ricardo would say; someone has some splaining to do! Farahi was willing to explain his new position, as he spoke with the Reno Gazette Journal recently, and in an article published on Monday explained his flip-flop on the issue. We used to be for it, but we found out poker is being used as a tool to jar the door open to wide-open online Internet gaming, Farahi told the newspaper, right before launching into Sheldon Adelsons talking points almost verbatim: How do you control a person who comes home from work and blows the paycheck? Farahi said. Or someone not 21 years old? Farahi isnt the only casino owner to change his stance on online gambling. Earlier this year Steve Wynn came out against online gambling, but unlike Adelson and Farahi, Wynn wasnt worried about the morality of the industry, his concerns were almost purely economic, as he said he just didnt see a feasible revenue stream from the fledgling industry. Nevada casino revenue plummets in February The most recent revenue figures for Nevadas gambling industry showed a steep decline in year-over-year revenue for the month of February. Actually, a decline is probably not a strong enough term to describe the near 14% drop the report revealed. The hardest hit area was the Las Vegas Strip, where revenue was down some 20% year-over-year (nearly $700 million in 2013 and just over $550 million in 2014) while Downtown Vegas showed a slight boost in revenue, with revenue increasing about 3%. The revenue figures may not have been what the industry was hoping for, but it may not get quite as much negative attention as it normally would as the report also contained Nevadas much anticipated online poker revenue for the very first time. Online poker revenue numbers As mentioned in the previous header, for the first time since its launch in April of 2013 we are finally able to see the revenue numbers from Nevadas online poker industry. The reason for the long wait was because Nevada regulators came up with the arbitrary threshold of needing three online poker sites before they would release the revenue data, and with the recent launch of South Point Pokers Real Gaming in February the Nevada market reached three providers WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker being the other two. As far as the numbers went, they were pretty much in line with what analysts expected to see, as total revenue since launch was $8.5 million. Unfortunately, the NGCB did not break down the revenue by operator, so the best we can do is speculate based on the information in the report and the traffic data available. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed 89 players registered for the $215 $15k Guaranteed at WSOP.com this past Sunday, creating a total prize-pool of $17,800, with a player using the screen-name cantfakeit taking home the largest share, pocketing just over $5,000 for the win. There was one well-known player at the final table, as Christina Lindley finished in 6th place.
Christina lindeyloo Lindley $1,050.20
jchak $480.60 WSOP Main Event Satellite Another Nevada online poker player has punched their ticket to the World Series of Poker Main Event, as the WSOP.com player orono won this weeks satellite tournament. There was an even larger overlay ($1,600 compared to last weeks $1,400) than last week as one less player registered for WSOP Main Event qualifier this week.
orono $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker This week the $10,000 guaranteed at Ultimate Poker saw a nice increase from last weeks 88 registrants, as 103 players showed up this past Sunday to partake in the event. the 103 entries still wasnt enough to reach the guarantee, but fell short by only about $600.
Honey Badger $910.90
allinallen $190.10 Traffic trends in Nevada Over the past week traffic at WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker ticked up ever so slightly, as average cash-game traffic at WSOP.com rose from 95 to 100 players, while Ultimate Poker had a similar increase, going from 65 to 70 players according to www.pokerscout.com. South Points Real Gaming online poker site continues to be a non-factor with average traffic still sitting at 0. The word on the street Culinary Union OKs strike One of the strongest unions in Nevada, the Culinary and Bartenders Union, has voted to strike against 10 Las Vegas casinos according to multiple outlets. All 10 of the casinos are located in the Downtown area, and includes landmarks like the Golden Nugget, Binions, El Cortez, and the Four Queens. The Union has reached an agreement with Las Vegas Strip properties. What is the reason for the strike? It seems the two sides are at an impasse (the current contract expired in June of 2013), and the union has now cut off contract talks with the sticking point being health care.
Right now in New Jersey, partypoker is counting down to their 30 millionth hand dealt and running a $40,000 promotion to celebrate the milestone, but another licensed US online poker provider has already reached this milestone, Ultimate Poker, which reached the milestone earlier this week. Of course, Ultimate Pokers accomplishment isnt quite as impressive as the one partypoker is working up to, considering Ultimate Poker is counting both New Jersey and Nevada in their calculation, the latter of which has been up and running for nearly a year. In my opinion, Ultimate Poker has been the most enigmatic of the first wave of US online poker rooms, with the site excelling in terms of promotions, marketing, and customer service, but coming up short when it comes to their actual product. Overall, UP does a lot of things really well, but they also have some issues that seem to be deal-breakers amongst the online poker community. Still, in my opinion Ultimate Poker has the highest ceiling of any of the US sites, but that being said, the window is starting to close. Ultimate Poker software Ultimate Pokers main problem thus far has without doubt been the sites inferior software. UP decided to build their online poker software in-house (buying the software development company CyberArts in 2011 to handle the cumbersome project of creating an online poker room) and foregoing a partnership with an already established provider. The reasoning behind this decision was likely to avoid splitting revenue with what Ultimate Poker deemed an unnecessary collaborator, and this may turn out to be a very wise decision down the road; provided Ultimate Poker can weather their early software shortcomings without falling into irrelevancy. Thus far Ultimate Poker has released one significant software upgrade, and while the upgrade fixed a number of problems with the software it still lacks many of the features their competitors offer and online poker players expect. Ultimate Poker marketing On the other hand, Ultimate Pokers marketing efforts have been innovative, fairly well-publicized, and well-received. This is something the site had to get right, considering Ultimate Poker was an original brand that needed to be marketed Ultimate Poker has very little brand connection to Station Casinos or even the Ultimate Fighting Championship. From Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tie-ins to their usage of the internet and their sponsored pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Jason Somerville, and Terrence Chan, Ultimate Poker has done a better-than-expected job of getting their brand out to the public, but more work certainly needs to be done, especially in New Jersey. My one real criticism of Ultimate Pokers early marketing efforts is the lack of marketing in New Jersey, which falls at the feet of both Ultimate Gaming and their New Jersey partner the Trump Taj Mahal. Ultimate Poker promotions Ultimate Poker did an excellent job of creating a player-friendly VIP Rewards Program which is the backbone of an online poker sites entire promotional offerings. UP has also been very creative with their other promotions, particularly their NO-verlay promotion that they ran in New Jersey, which turned one of the sites greatest weaknesses into a strength. Unfortunately these promotions havent had any type of staying power, and even though these promotions have been popular and well-received while they are running, theyve had little to no impact on the sites traffic numbers in the long-run. What to expect from Ultimate Poker in year 2 Ultimate Poker is rumored to be prepping another major software upgrade, and this should certainly be the companys #1 priority in 2014, as it would seem that without a significant software upgrade the site is going to find it harder and harder to compete as Nevadas market becomes even more crowded, and UP is already falling into irrelevancy in New Jersey. Im also anticipating that Ultimate Poker will ramp-up their cross promotions between Station Casinos, the UFC, and the Trump Taj Mahal to create a stronger tie-in between the brands. One of the things Im eagerly awaiting to see is how Ultimate Poker (and the other US online poker rooms for that matter) market during the World Series of Poker tournament series that kicks-off in late May. The WSOP was the catalyst for the Poker Boom, and during the years of plenty online poker rooms used the WSOP like Coca Cola, GoDaddy, and Doritos use the Super Bowl.
Its hard to predict what will come of the proposed online gambling ban that has been introduced in Congress by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). The Restore Americas Wire Act bills were introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday, and the architect of these pieces of legislation, Sheldon Adelson, has been unequivocal in calling for a comprehensive ban, but is this really the case? If a piece of online gambling legislation is going to make it through both houses of Congress, and receive the signature of the president, its going to take a number of amendments and compromises, and in the end Adelsons war against online gambling may see both sides come out victorious. The path in the Senate If this bill is going to pass (in some form, but certainly not as written) its toughest road will be in the senate. The bill is expected to be sent off to the Judiciary Committee where both Lindsey Graham and two of the bills three co-sponsors are members, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Mike Lee (R-UT). Interestingly, there is only a single member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who represents a state with legalized online gambling, Chris Coons (D-DE). However, both senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are on the committee, and Minnesota has recently enacted online lottery sales. Minnesota radio also made headlines last week due to a misinformation filled online poker debate. The bill already carves for certain carveouts, including horse racing (considered to be an olive branch for Kentucky Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) and fantasy sports, and will likely need to strengthen its language concerning online lotteries to make it through the committee. The Reid factor If this is a serious attempt to strengthen and clarify the Wire Act, and not simply posturing in order to court Adelson campaign donations, the Judiciary Committee will almost certainly have to address online poker in the bill, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he wants an online poker carveout in any legislation of this type, and might introduce a competing bill doing just that. We should know if Graham, Feinstein, and the rest of the committee are serious about this legislation based on the inclusion or exclusion of online poker. It should be noted that Senator Graham has already floated the idea of an online poker carveout: Appeasing Delaware and New Jersey Another potential amendment to keep an eye out for is a grandfather clause for Delaware and New Jersey, allowing them to continue to offer online casino games. This is not only important to gain support and votes, but this would also ease the concerns of the states rights wing of the Republican party, a group that could also be reached with an opt-out clause for any carveouts that are included in the bill, essentially allowing each state to choose its own destiny. What a passable bill would look like Here is what a passable ban on online gambling would look like in my opinion:
Include a poker carveout
Grandfather in Delaware and New Jerseys online gambling industries
Allow states to opt-out
Call for companies to relocate to the US and hire US citizens (an idea stolen from John Mehaffey)
Ban all casino games and sports betting Why its a win for everyone With the above amendments the Poker players Alliance and online poker players get precisely what they want, federal legislation legalizing online poker. The AGA benefits mostly by putting the issue to bed and reuniting their members, as well as seeing an expansion of online poker. The Christian conservative wing will certainly not be thrilled with the carveouts and grandfather clauses, but its still a win as it bans many forms of online gambling. States rights advocates will see the grandfather clause and the ability to opt-out as 10th Amendment victories. Fiscal conservatives concerns beyond tax and licensing revenue could be strengthened by mandating US companies and US jobs. What about Adelson? Sheldon Adelson would appear to be the loser in this scenario, but I have to wonder if this is precisely the outcome he wanted all along? Was his call for a ban on everything, simply an instance of leveraged bargaining (you start high and I start low) where he was more than willing to allow online poker to seep through, as this will not detract from his brick & mortar properties. Is online poker merely his bargaining chip? Did Adelson focus on poker knowing it would rile up an organized contingent of poker supporters who will fight tooth and nail to keep online poker legislation moving forward, while taking everyones eyes off his real target; online casino games? If the above bill I outlined is passed by Congress I would be extremely happy, and I think most others would as well, but if Adelson had started with Im ok with online poker, the AGA and PPA may have pushed for more, especially considering we already have New Jersey and Delaware to point to. Obviously this all speculation on my part, but it does make sense. The reason this theory makes even more sense in my mind is that Adelson was quite quiet when Nevada (a state where he owns a casino) passed online poker legislation in 2011. Adelson seemed to only get excitable about iGaming when Delaware and New Jersey went live with comprehensive online gambling. Perhaps Adelson only sees online casino games as a potential competitor for his brick & mortar properties; after all, it was during the online poker boom that land-based casinos were thriving. Furthermore, it would explain the somewhat amateurishness of Adelsons and CSIGs anti-online poker campaign thus far. From the laughable collusion and terrorism connections, to sending an obviously disinterested Andy Abboud out as the messenger, to Cold War style web videos, to paltry social media campaigns, its clear that Adelsons money is not being spent wisely but maybe thats the whole point. If this is Sheldon Adelsons angle we may in fact see legislation similar to the proposed Reid / Kyl bill from 2012 passed. Poker players will get exactly what they want, and the anti-online gambling crowd can claim a major victory, stopping the scourge of online gambling at Delaware and New Jersey its a win-win for everybody.