There is a lot going on in US online poker these days, especially in Nevada where its ground zero for the battle over online gambling being waged by Sheldon Adelson; a battle that has recently been kicked into overdrive, as the casino magnate now has a collection of politicians, lobbyists, and as youll see below fellow casino owners on his team. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Week in Review well start off by discussing Adelsons newest ally before moving on to other topics, including, a report by PokerFuse.com detailing how Nevadas current online traffic matches their population; when we can expect the Nevada / Delaware online poker compact to go live; as well as this past weekends tournament results, current traffic numbers, and the latest gossip from Nevada. Atlantis owner Farahi comes out against online gambling We are living in strange times people, strange times. On Tuesday the owner of the Reno based Atlantis Hotel and Casino, John Farahi, came out against online gambling according to Jon Ralstons Ralston Reports column. Whats so strange about that? Farahi and the Atlantis applied for and received an online poker license in Nevada! Farahi is the second casino owner with online licenses to come out against online gambling, the first being Steve Wynn. However, Farahis objections differ from Wynns, with Wynn seeing a bleak economic forecast for online gambling while Farahi is objecting to online gambling on moral groundsbasically echoing Sheldon Adelsons complaints. Farahi told Ralston he was 100% (adding a hyperbolic 1,000% for emphasis) against online gambling: Nevada traffic on par with projections An interesting article on PokerFuse.com last week details how the current traffic levels in the Nevada online poker market are right on par with what should be expected based on the states population. PokerFuse.com used data from pokerscout.com to determine Nevadas average traffic at 65 players per million residents, which is similar to other regulated markets around the world, where traffic ranges from 55-67 players per million. The article goes on to explain that while Nevada may be near its peak, there is still room for growth in New Jersey. The article is very interesting, and shows just how detailed the analysis already is (most people would probably assume this type of data is speculative) in regulated markets. Nevada / Delaware compact timeline Nevada and Delaware are hoping for a summer launch of their online poker compact according to an article by Howard Stutz. In addition to presenting a potential timeline for the interstate agreement, the article goes on to say that Nevada has been in talks with New Jersey, and both Nevada and Delaware are hoping more states join down the road. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed WSOP.com saw a solid traffic increase for its $15k guaranteed tournament this week as attendance went from 80 players to 96 week-over-week. With a prize-pool of nearly $20,000 it was former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow who took down the eventor maybe it was just some random player using TimTebow for a screen-name, which isnt as good a story but seems more plausible.
SuGaRay71 $518.40 Another week means another seat to the World Series of Poker Main Event was handed out, and this time around it was dicma who won his way into the worlds largest tournament, winning the $215 Qualifier to the 2014 WSOP Main Event ran on Saturday. With just 42 players the tournament had a nice overlay as well, $1,400.
dicma $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker The $10,000 guaranteed at Ultimate Poker had 88 players, producing a nice overlay of nearly $2,000. One beneficiary was Ultimate Poker Pro William Reynolds who finished in 4th place:
Nanis Dad $1,500
William ReynoldsXO Reynolds $1,000
DonkeyFish32 $300 Traffic trends in Nevada Cash game traffic dipped a little bit more this past week as WSOP.com dropped to just 95 average cash-game players while Ultimate Pokers cash-game traffic dipped to just 65 average players according to www.pokerscout.com. South Points Real Gaming is still averaging 0 players. This is somewhat troubling considering the sites were combining for about 200 players just a few weeks ago. The word on the street MGMs Murren wants AGA to chill Another Howard Stutz article that is of interest this week was MGM Chairman Jim Murren calling on the AGA to settle down with their online poker rhetoric. According to the article, Murren wants the AGA to focus on its more historical fights where the association is in complete agreement, and leave the online poker fight to the recently created C4COP. I dont want the AGA to find itself mired in a tremendous amount of controversy and infighting, Murren said in an interview this week. I feel like the Internet has become too divisive a topic when there are so many other topics we want to put forward where we can all agree.
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 Reids 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 Reids support of online poker legislation that was brought to light by Jeremy Johnson back in January of 2013it should be noted that Johnsons 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. Reids 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 Johnsons 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 Reids 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 its 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 wasnt 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 cant rule out another daffy Republican nominee, its 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.
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 Ill detail the most important panels at the conference; from an online poker players perspective of course. Ill also take a look at the latest results from this past weeks 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 worlds Comic-Con or Star Trek Conventionits 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.coms 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? Youll get your answers when PokerFuse.coms 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 panels 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 Hows this for a double dip; VPIHokie1970 didnt 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:
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 Pokers flagship tournament, the $10k Guaranteed, as just 86 players registered for the tournament, which left UP on the hook for a $2,100 overlay.
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:
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) lets see what else is going in the Nevada online poker market. This week weve got several interesting stories to cover including some perspective from 888 CEO Brian Mattingley on the interstate online poker deal between Nevada and Delaware. Well 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. Well 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. 888s 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 wellas I said, a very busy man. Mattingley spoke about the new interstate compact with NorthJersey.coms John Brennan and made some interesting comments; perhaps the most notable being that its 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 Nevadas 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 Tuesdays Massachusetts Internet Gambling Panel when Jim Barbee of the Nevada Gaming Control Board explained that 888s 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 partnersmost notably TI and Wynn. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed 91 players registered for this weeks tournament, creating a prize-pool of $18,200. While its unconfirmed, it looks like Kathy Liebert may have finished 3rd in the tournament.
MSAHM4 $491.40 In addition to the Sunday $15k Guaranteed, AstroBoy won the $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat in this weekends 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 Nevadas top online tournament players Butters finished in 4th place.
The Agnostic $2,900
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 weeks tally. It was Ultimate Poker that accounted for the gaining, as the sites average traffic rose from 70 to 80 players. WSOP.com still has the lions 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 companys deal with Peppermill Casino.
Ultimate Poker has been very busy in Nevada over the past week, as the nations 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 havent been keeping up with the latest goings on at Ultimate Poker here is what youve missed. UPs 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 companys 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 isnt exactly in the earth shattering categoryPeppermill and its four other casino properties will be something more akin to affiliate sites of Ultimate Poker and not skins for the online poker roomit should be quite beneficial to Ultimate Poker on two separate fronts. First, Ultimate Poker can now use Peppermills 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 Stutzs excellent column. Ultimate Pokers 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 Pokers chief spokesmen and best known sponsored pro is Antonio The Magician Esfandiari, and if youre wondering how Antonio got his nickname it wasnt because he could make his opponents 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, its a very well done video. At two and a half minutes its 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 UPs other YouTube clips you can visit their YouTube page at youtube.com/ultimatepoker.
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 its 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 personconsidering that if you live in the United States there is a good chance you are within driving distance of a Caesars propertyfor 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 Ballys Las Vegas, The Quad, the under-construction Cromwell, and Harrahs 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 Moodys felt the sale is likely the first in a series of steps to address (the companys) unsustainable capital structure. Needless to say the companys financial sheets dont exactly instill many people with confidence that Caesars can dig itself out if its hole. Dont 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 dont 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 Im 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 courtwhich 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 dont expect the companys 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 / Harrahs 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 companys 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 thats where the company sees the future of industry (which is an arguable point) than they have positioned themselves perfectly.
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.