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Mississippi’s casinos generated gross gaming revenue of $184 million in April, or 5% more compared to the same month in 2017. Furthermore, that total represents an all-time high for the state, and is 1.3% more than the previous record set in 2007 when thousands of volunteers entered Mississippi to assist in cleanup efforts post-Hurricane Katrina.
There are likely to be more positive developments ahead for Mississippi’s gambling market, too, as it is considered one of the state’s most likely to introduce regulated sports betting in the coming months.
In April, the Magnolia State 12 coastal casinos posted a combined $108.6 million in revenue, up by 9% versus the $99.2 million taken in the same month a year ago, and by $1.4 million compared to the previous record of $107.2 million reported for April 2007. As a result, these southern coastal casinos have now collected $407 million for the first four months of the year, up by $3 million from the same period in 2017.
The news was not so positive for the state’s northern river casinos, though, whose revenue fell in April by 0.9% to $74.8 million, according to data released by the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
State Lottery Option
Mississippi is the country’s sixth largest gambling state, and last year it generated $2.08 billion in revenue, of which around $250 million was collected in the form of gambling taxes. Nevertheless, the revenue figure was down by 2% versus 2016, and reflects a general downturn in the industry following The Great Recession of 2007 to 2013.
Consequently, Mississippi has been considering a range of different options to make its gambling market more attractive, including introducing a lottery in order to provide an alternative to state residents traveling to neighboring states to place bets, such as Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. According to estimates, a regulated lottery could result in an additional $100 million each year for the state, that could then be used to fund vital projects. As Rep. Mark Baker explains:
“If that money is going to go to educate children and it’s going to go to fix roads and bridges, then it ought to be in Mississippi. I’m just being a realist about it.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal sports betting ban, Mississippi has emerged as one of the frontrunners to launch a regulated industry in the country. Even before the ruling was made, Mississippi had already anticipated the development by passing a bill (HB 967) allowing legal sports betting, with analysts predicting that the industry could be ready in time for the football season.
The hope is that legalized sports betting will provide a much needed boost to the state’s quarter of a century old gambling industry, and its 28 casinos, especially those based in the river areas that have been suffering in recent years. Industry experts have further asserted that casinos will benefit from an upsurge in foot traffic to their venues during major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.
Proposed Sports Regulation
This month, the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) is expected to give its approval to a range of regulations to govern the state’s potential sports betting market. Amongst the measures proposed is restricting bets to casinos, imposing a 12% tax on sports-wagering revenue, individuals having to pay a 25% tax on their winnings, and restricting coaches and athletes from placing bets on their own teams.
Once the commission approves the regulations, it will subsequently take another 25 days before they are finalized, and a further 30 days before going into effect. It is hoped that sports betting will then be ready for the start of the NFL season on September 6th, and as Tony Scudiero, general manager of Waterview Casino Vicksburg, explains:
“We feel very confident that everything is going to get done, and hopefully just before football season begins, which is probably the most popular of all the betting seasons.”
On June 10th, Switzerland will hold a national referendum to decide whether the ‘Money Gaming Act’ passed by the Swiss Parliament in September 2017 can be implemented next year in its present form.
The piece of legislation paves the way for land-based casinos and local partners to offer legalized online gambling in Switzerland, although a negative vote would mean delaying the process by 2-3 years as the act would have to return to parliament for further debate.
Despite passing the legislature last September, a national referendum was forced by youth groups representing the Swiss People’s Party, the Free Democratic Party and the Green Liberal Party, who on January 18th submitted a 50,000 signature petition to parliament calling for international operators to be allowed in the country. Nevertheless, there are indications that the new act may still be upheld after a recent poll suggested that 58 percent of people are in favor of maintaining the international ban.
Money Gaming Act
The Money Gaming Act unites casino games and lotteries in a single Act, whilst placing regulation and legalization of the gambling industry in the hands of the federal government. Furthermore, the legislation allows online gambling in the country provided that it is offered by Swiss operators, with a blacklist of all foreign gambling sites being drawn up to enable Internet Access Providers to fulfill their duty in blocking access to all foreign gambling sites.
According to Swiss Casinos Group CEO Marc Baumann, however, this should not present too much of a concern for international companies as the federal government intends to impose one of Europe’s highest tax rates on the industry, thus making it unattractive to foreign firms.
While the proposed tax rates are still under debate, the federal council has suggested levying 20 percent on the first CHF3m ($3m) in revenue, increasing to 40 percent up to CHF10m, and rising incrementally to 80 percent at its highest level. Casinos located in the Davos or St. Moritz area will be granted preferential rates, though, in order to encourage tourism in these mountainous regions.
Youth Wings of Political Parties
It was youth political groups from the country’s center-right and right parties who originally opposed the Act and managed to garner the required 50,000 signatures to force a nationwide referendum on the issue. In addition, Swiss residents in the 18-29 year old age group also seem to be vehemently opposed to the legislation over online restrictions placed on international operators.
In the meantime, the recent swing in support of accepting the Money Gaming Act is apparently a result of expected revenue declines in the casino and lottery industries, which will subsequently result in less funding for various social service schemes, such as pension funds. Amongst the various groups earmarked to benefit from the proposed high taxes are old age pensioners and specific Swiss cantons, while lottery proceeds will exclusively be funneled towards community projects, such as sporting events, and cultural festivals.
Nationwide Opinion Poll
Ahead of the June 10th national referendum, research institute GfS Bern conducted a poll indicating that 58% of respondents are in favor of the Money Gaming Act in its present form. That figure is up by 6% compared to a previous poll commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, although the 37% who voted against leaves 5% of respondents still undecided.
Commenting upon the number of undecided voters, Lukas Golder, co-director of GfS Bern, said that the gambling legislation referendum has not attracted sufficient interest from the general public, despite the huge social media campaign being launched by authorities. Nevertheless, the signs currently look good for the Money Gaming Act to secure enough voters to pass into law, and as Lukas Golder explains:
“The trend is clearly in favor of parliament and the government. Barring a major upset in the final phase of the debate, we expect the reform to win a majority.”
Victor Ramdin has parted company with PokerStars following 12 years representing the site as a sponsored ambassador. News of the Guyanan’s departure was made just prior to the start of this year’s World Series of Poker, which was seen as a necessary move in order to preempt any confusion created by his lack of an official PokerStars patch in Las Vegas.
12 Great Years
Interestingly, the news was not announced by either PokerStars or Ramdin, but via Kevin Mathers twitter account, the Community Manager at PocketFives. Ramdin subsequently confirmed the development on the very same social media account, and in his message highlighted the hardworking and fruitful relationship he has enjoyed with the world’s biggest poker site over the years, stating that he has proudly flown their flag at 12 WSOP Main Events, as well as at the European Poker Tour, World Poker Tour, and many more.
Ramdin also took the opportunity to thank his previous sponsor for all the support and charitable deeds which they had contributed to over the past decade or so, stating:
“PokerStars gave a lot back to me. They featured me at events and gave me great exposure on their blog. They were a major contributor to my favorite charities, including giving a lot of support to my medical outreach efforts in my birth country of Guyana. And overall, they made me proud to be part of a team of generous, smart, talented professionals who love their jobs.”
Originally born in Guyana, Annand “Victor” Ramdin relocated to The Bronx in New York, before taking up the game of poker in 2002, helped along in his endeavors by his good friend Phil Ivey. In 2006, he then won his biggest score to date after taking down the WPT Foxwoods for $1,331,889, and as of today boasts $4,369,537 in career earnings. Ramdin can currently be seen in action at the 2018 WSOP in Las Vegas.
Why The Departure?
Despite living in the United States, Ramdin even managed to maintain his close sponsorship relationship with PokerStars post-Black Friday, although it will have become increasingly difficult to achieve in a meaningful way over the past few years. In January of 2018, Ramdin then indicated that he was playing a little less poker than in the past, stating that he was “trying to get away from technology for a bit”, and in a lighthearted reference to the spate of pros being released by his sponsored site, also said “if PokerStars comes by, tell them I’m not home.”
Following his departure, Ramdin said that he would continuing competing at tournaments across the globe, as well as supporting various charities, and also running a pizzeria using management staff.
PokerStars Changing Roster
Victor Ramdin was one of the longest lasting sponsored pros at PokerStars, but has now suffered the fate of a number of other players whose contract was not renewed this year, including the likes of Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier, Felipe Ramos, and Bertrand Grospellier. There are still a handful of longtime pros still remaining at the site, though, such as Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Barry Greenstein, Liv Boeree, Andre Akkari and Fatima Moreira de Melo.
Nevertheless, PokerStars has shifted its focus away from just sponsoring talented players to those who are also entertaining, represent growing markets, enjoy strong social media followings, or stream live sessions across platforms such as twitch. According to PokerStars VP of Player Relations Eric Hollreiser, this is necessary in order to keep the game “fresh and exciting” and attract new players to the site, with recent additions fitting the bill including Muskan Sethi, Jeff Gross, Jaime Staples, Benjamin Spragg and Fintan Hand.
In January, Spain and France started pooling their online poker players in an attempt to revive an industry decimated by the ring-fenced policies adopted by their respective governments.
If they were ever in any doubt as to the validity of their move, the results for the first three months of 2018 will certainly have allayed their concerns with revenue spiking by a whopping 27% year-on-year to €21 million ($24.5m).
Online Poker Market Soars
France released its Q1 online poker result recently, with the country showing an impressive 8% increase in revenue versus the same period a year earlier. That number, however, pales in comparison to the gains noted in Spain, after online cash games jumped by 30% to €8.4 million ($9.8m), and tournaments rocketed by 50.2% to €13 million ($15.2m).
To put things into perspective, before the shared online poker liquidity was enacted at the start of 2018, Spain’s online poker revenue increased by a mere 5% in Q4 of 2017. Portugal also joined the shared liquidity pact last month, indicating more positive developments ahead going into Q2. Furthermore, the latest poker figures will certainly have attracted the attention of Italy and may even provide sufficient incentive for the country to speed up its commitment to enter into the agreement by the year’s end.
More Competition Ahead
In January, PokerStars became the first operator to share its Spanish and French poker players, and in May the operator also pioneered similar developments in Portugal. PokerStars’ EU network has since grown into the third-biggest in the world, and according to PokerScout the site currently has 56,296 players online, and a seven day average of 1,600 cash game players.
While PokerStars has enjoyed its early advantage in the new shared landscape, it will soon face fresh competition as other leading operators also begin to enter the space. Winimax, for instance, is expected to share online poker players between France and Spain later this year, although it still remains to be seen whether Portugal will issue an iPoker license to any other company than just PokerStars. In addition, PartyPoker is schedule to join the shared liquidity bandwagon starting next week.
PartyPoker is expected to connect its French and Spanish sites on Monday, June 4th, and has already snapped up France’s number one tournament player Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier to help promote the brand across shared European borders. As the pro stated at the time:
“Our goal is to provide players and fans with an experience they deserve worldwide. PartyPoker will be aiming to bring their ambition, expertise and successful model to the .eu market with some big announcements coming soon.”
Details of these “big announcements” have since been revealed, and include an impressive guarantee prize pool of €1 million for its MTTs each week, and €600K for its Progressive Knockout MTTs, with no rake charged on the bounties of these PKO tournaments. PartyPoker will also be offering a range of 6-max tournaments across its updated MTT schedule, with ‘Predator’, ‘Shield’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Bazooka’ amongst the variants being featured on its new roster.
Spanish iGaming Up 27%
Including poker, Spain’s overall online gambling market posted a 27% year-over-year increase to €163.3 ($190.5m) in Q1, according to the latest result released by the Spanish regulator DGOJ.
Accounting for almost half of all revenue was sports betting, which generated €81.7 million ($95.3m) in the first quarter, marking a 15.9% increase versus the same quarter in 2017. Also strongly contributing to the impressive numbers was the online casino segment, whose revenue soared by 51% to €56.6 million ($66m), roughly half of which was accounted for by slot games.
As mentioned, online poker revenues reported a 27% increase to €21.5 million in the first three months of the year, while online bingo also saw its revenue post double-digit gains after jumping by 30% year-on-year to €3.5 million.
On Thursday, May 29th, the 49th World Series of Poker kicked-off at the Rio Las Vegas, and as of Sunday a total of three events are now in the bag. As traditional, the $565 Casino Employees event launched the prestigious tournament series, with Jordan Hufty, a card dealer at the Aria, eventually besting the 566 player field to walk away with a first place prize worth $61,909.
Since then, two more events have been completed, both of which were won by former WSOP Main Event champions, namely Elio Fox who picked up a second-career bracelet after taking down Event #2 $10,000 NL Super Turbo Bounty for $393,693, and Joe Cada, who increased his bracelet tally to three following victory at Event #3: $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em SHOOTOUT for $226,218.
$565 Casino Employees
Going into the $565 Casino Employees event, Jordan Hufty had just two live tournament cashes worth $1,938. The Michigan native, who had previously dealt on the TV program Poker After Dark, then went on to reach Event 1’s final table, eventually defeating Jodie Sanders in a four-hour long heads-up marathon to claim the title. Commenting upon what the victory means to him, Hufty stated:
“I’ve thought about winning a bracelet about every day of my life for the past 15 years. So, to actually have it come through today is pretty special.”
Fox Wins $10k Super Turbo Bounty
In 2011, Elio Fox won the WSOP Europe €10,400 Main Event for €1.4 million ($1,927,660). On Wednesday, the New York pro and 242 other players then paid $10,000 each to enter the Bounty Turbo No-Limit Hold’em Event, and amongst the notable pros seeing a return on their money was John Racener in 16th ($14,300), Bryn Kenney in 10th ($21,734), Joe Cada in 9th ($27,582), Alex Foxen and in 5th ($63,042), and Paul Volpe in 3rd ($169,195).
Elio Fox started heads-up holding a commanding 7-to-1 chip lead against Adam Adler, and despite his opponent staging an impressive comeback, Fox had regained control of the game by the time the deciding hand was played. All the money went to the center of the table preflop with Fox’s pocket two up against Adler’s A-10, and winning in style Fox made a full house from the 6-5-3-2-6 board to bring the event’s one day of action to a close.
“I’m really happy about this one because I haven’t won a live poker tournament in a really, really long time, so it feels good,” explained Fox. “And I think the first one was just such a shock that I wasn’t really that excited about it in the moment, but I’m really happy about it now. It’s a great way to kick off a summer.”
Final Table Result
1: Elio Fox $393,693
2: Adam Adler $243,323
3: Paul Volpe $169,195
4: Danny Wong $119,659
5: Charles Yohannan $86,096
6: Alex Foxen $63,042
7: David Eldridge $46,993
8: Taylor Black $35,671
9: Joseph Cada 27,582
Joe Cada Wins $3k NLHE Shootout
Back in 2009, Joe Cada made his way past a field of 6,494 players at the $10,000 WSOP Main Event to claim a top prize of $8,547,044, while in 2014 he topped a 264 player field at the $10,000 WSOP NLHE Six Handed event for $670,041. The US pro has subsequently lost no time making waves at this year’s WSOP, and after making the final table of Event #2 $10,000 NL Super Turbo Bounty he then went on to take down Event #3: $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em SHOOTOUT to complete a hat-trick of career bracelets.
By the time three-handed play had been reached, Cada still faced formidable opposition in the guise of Canada’s Sam Phillips and the 2015 WSOP main Event champion Joe McKeehen. Cada sent the latter to the rail in 3rd, however, to take an almost 7-to-1 chip lead into heads-up play, and before long the deciding hand was played with Phillips re-raising all-in holding A-4 and Cada (6-6) making the call.
The 10-9-4-Q-2 board that ensued sealed the victory for Cada, who now boasts three career gold bracelets, as well as a massive $10,770,288 in lifetime earnings.
“I’m feeling great; it’s tough to win any no-limit tournament,” commented the 30 year-old pro. “It means a lot to win my third bracelet. I have loved the WSOP ever since being a kid, I watched it all the time on TV. Winning these bracelets, it’s unreal. You’ve got to just run good and I’m lucky to run better than everyone else. I like shootouts because you have to adjust constantly.”
Final Table Result
1: Joseph Cada $226,218
2: Sam Phillips $139,804
3: Joseph McKeehen $101,766
4: Jack Maskill $74,782
5: Harry Lodge $55,480
6: Ihar Soika $41,559
7: Anthony Reategui $31,435
8: Taylor Wilson $24,013
9: Joshua Turner $18,526
Other Events being Played
Two more events are due to play down to a winner tonight. This includes Event #4: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, which currently has just four players remaining. Leading the way is France’s Julien Martini, followed by three US players in hot pursuit, namely Kate Hoang, William Kopp and Mack Lee.
Meanwhile, Event #5: $100,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller has also reached its final table, and furthermore five of its 10 player line up are past WSOP bracelet winners, including the likes of Adrian Mateos, Elio Fox, Nick Petrangelo, Bryn Kenny and Fedor Holz. Rounding off a final table jam packed with pros is also Stephen Chidwick, Jason Koon, and Andreas Eiler.
Finally, the $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball event is due to reach its final table today, while other tournaments schedule to kick-off later on Sunday include the $565 COLOSSUS, $365 PLO Giant, $365 WSOP Online NL, $10k Omaha Hi-Lo Championship.
Earlier this month, State Representative Brandt Iden expressed optimism that his online gambling and sports betting bill would pass in Michigan before the legislative session adjourns on June 21st. While many compromises have since been reached on HB.4926 between state lawmakers and gaming interests, unfortunately one issue labelled a “poison pill” by Iden threatens to bring the whole process to a grinding halt.
The Indian gaming tribes’ main bone of contention is a section in Iden’s bill which states that if the federal government ever decides to ban tribes from offering online gambling products outside of their reservation, commercial casinos would remain unaffected by such a ruling and be allowed to continue their internet gambling operations regardless. Tribal interests, however, want the same set of rules to apply equally to commercial casinos as to themselves, and as Iden explains:
“What tribes want is that if the federal government says they are not allowed, the commercial casinos cease from online gaming as well.”
There are currently 25 tribal casinos spread out across Michigan, while the state’s three commercial casinos are based in the city of Detroit. Iden subsequently included Section 16 in his bill in order to satisfy the demands of Detroit’s casino operators who said that they were not prepared to make the necessary investments into setting up online gambling sites if they had to stop later down the line due to a dispute between Indian tribes and the federal government.
Tribal vs Federal Concerns
Iden said that while he understands the concerns of Indian tribes, he believes the likelihood of the federal government ever pursuing such action in the future was extremely slim. Besides, Iden pointed out that the state has little authority to intervene in such a matter as Indian tribes are recognized by federal law as sovereign nations, and as they are not answerable to the state legislature, there is little he can include in the bill to ease their concerns.
Nevertheless, Iden said that he would do his best to include more equitable language in the bill to address their concerns, stating that they were already 90 percent of the way towards agreeing an acceptable compromise. Iden further asserted that online gaming in Michigan would eventually become a reality, and stood to benefit all parties involved, stating:
“At the end of the day, it will be a win-win for Michigan and our casinos, both corporate and tribal.”
Sports Betting Driving Interest
Iden’s online gambling bill aims to legalize online casino games and poker in Michigan, with a provision included authorizing sports-betting as long as it’s not prohibited by federal law. In May, the US Supreme Court subsequently overturned the sports betting ban that had been in place since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992, with Iden stating that the landmark ruling has since created a great deal of interest in advancing his bill among state lawmakers.
According to Iden, many of his colleagues have focused more on his bill since the landmark ruling, which should help it advance towards a vote in the House in the coming weeks. The bill also needs to receive a positive vote in the Senate, and be signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder before passing into law, but as Iden points out:
“I have a great partner in Senator Kowall, and we’re going to work to make sure it becomes law before the end of the year.”
No Federal Sports Bill Needed
Since the sports betting ban was lifted in the country, some politicians in Congress have called for a federal regulatory framework to be imposed governing the whole industry. Leading the charge is Senator Orrin Hatch, an original author of PASPA who currently represents the interests of Utah, one of only a handful of US states where gambling is totally forbidden.
Hatch appears to have the support of various sports leagues in his quest, including the NFL and NCAA, but in the meantime Iden has warned against Congress interfering with legislation, saying that such decisions were best left to individual states. Iden expressed further concern that if individual states did pass sports betting bills of their own, but Congress later decided to interfere, then this would lead to conflicting state and federal legislation, serving only to confuse the issue once more.
“This decision is best left up to the states, the way gaming always has been. The leagues are just going to have to work with states individually, those who choose to participate,” commented Iden.
Real estate and entertainment conglomerate MGM Resorts International has revealed that it’s embarking on a purchase of Empire City Casino, a slots and pari-mutuel wagering venue located in Yonkers, N.Y., just a few miles north of Manhattan.
The deal was announced May 29 in a press release, and is expected to be completed near the beginning of 2019, although consent from the New York Gaming Commission is required before the transfer becomes active.
About the Deal
MGM Resorts intends to purchase Empire City Casino and the adjoining Yonkers Raceway from its current owners, the Rooney family, for about $850 million. This includes the assumption of around $245 million in debt, with shares of MGM stock accounting for approximately $260 million of the total consideration due.
MGM Growth Properties will then acquire the casino from MGM Resorts for $625 million, and it will lease back Empire City Casino to a subsidiary of MGM Resorts International to operate at a rate of $50 million per year.
About Empire City Casino
Yonkers Raceway has been holding horse racing events for more than a century. It was subsequently bought by the family of NFL tycoon Art Rooney in 1972, and in 2006 slot machines were installed, after which the Empire City Casino was born.
A further development came in 2015 when additional electronic games were authorized, enabling visitors to enjoy blackjack, baccarat, and other fare in addition to slots. Empire City Casino lacks a license for casino table games, however, so all of these games are only present in video terminal form. In fact, there are more than 5,200 electronic games on the casino floor, although MGM has expressed an interest in obtaining a license for table games, and if it does so before the end of 2022, it will pay an additional $50 million to the Rooneys. There’s no poker room at Empire City, though.
The facilities stand on a 97-acre lot of which only about half of the area is currently developed. This gives MGM plenty of scope for future improvement. There’s currently no onsite hotel, for instance, and the entertainment facilities are basic.
MGM Firming up East Coast Presence
MGM Resorts has traditionally been a Las Vegas-based power in the brick-and-mortar casino world with the MGM Grand and Bellagio among the jewels in its crown. In recent years, however, it has been increasing its activity on the Atlantic seaboard. In 2003, the MGM opened the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City in conjunction with Boyd Gaming. In 2016, MGM purchased Boyd’s remaining interest in the property, becoming the sole owner. Later that same year, the company launched the National Harbor Casino near Washington, D.C, while in August 2018 MGM Springfield plans to open in Massachusetts.
Now with the acquisition of Empire City Casino, MGM will gain a foothold in the profitable New York City market.
Sports-Betting Coming Soon?
Many observers feel that the purchase of Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway was driven by the anticipation of New York permitting sports-betting. Following the recent Murphy Supreme Court decision, the individual states are now free to establish frameworks for allowing such wagering within their borders.
The New York Legislature is working hard to pass some form of sports-betting licensing bill before it adjourns on June 20. Mobile betting is being discussed as a strong possibility. This would be a big win for MGM because it already has significant experience with its mobile sports app in Nevada, and it would be able to court customers from across New York, not just the vicinity of Empire City Casino.
Online Poker Ahead?
There have been periodic attempts by New York elected officials to institute an online poker licensing scheme, but their efforts have thus far proven fruitless. Now with the excitement surrounding sports-betting, it’s more likely that lawmakers will support the idea of state-licensed online cardrooms either in a separate bill or combined together with sports.
MGM has been pushing for NY internet poker for a few years, and a representative of the company even testified on this subject before a New York Senate committee in 2015. Unlike competitor Las Vegas Sands and its chairman, the aged Sheldon Adelson, MGM execs feel that online gaming doesn’t negatively affect live gambling revenues but rather augments them.
In August 2017, MGM launched its New Jersey online poker site, called PlayMGM Poker, with GVC Holdings helping to set up the venture, the owner of PartyPoker. MGM can thus draw on the software acumen and industry experience of what was once the largest online poker brand in the world. There’s no reason why MGM couldn’t deploy a similar poker solution if New York authorizes a legalized internet poker market.
The Empire City Casino is already a profitable concern with an estimated $230 million in annual net revenue. MGM Resorts International has the wherewithal to further enhance the success of this enterprise especially if sports-betting and poker are added to the gaming menu in the coming years.
Last month’s decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the sports betting ban in the country has opened the floodgates for individual states to legalize and regulate sports wagering within their borders. Before its decision was even made, though, a number of states had already put in place the necessary legislation in order to facilitate the industry post-PASPA, including Delaware.
Living up to its name, The First State on June 5th will subsequently become the first state outside of |Nevada to legally allow its residents to place bets on a wide variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, boxing, soccer and auto racing. Commenting upon the development, Governor John Carney stated:
“Delaware has all necessary legal and regulatory authority to move forward with a full-scale sports gaming operation, and we look forward to next week’s launch. We’re hopeful that this will bring even more visitors into Delaware to see firsthand what our state has to offer.”
Delaware is in a unique position to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision as it was one of just four states to be exempt from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, with Nevada, Oregon, and Montana being the others. Nevertheless, Nevada was the only state that was allowed to offer the full range of betting options, while up until now Delaware has been restricted to offering parlay betting on National Football League games, with punters required to pick a minimum of three teams per bet.
Starting next Tuesday, however, Delawareans will be able to take advantage of “full-scale sports gaming” options with the timing coinciding with the start of the NBA finals, which kicks-off on Thursday between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, and could continue all the way through to June 17 if the series reaches a seventh game.
Infrastructure in Place
Delaware has nine years experience offering NFL parlay betting, and has the infrastructure in place to smoothly transition into full-scale sports betting. This includes prewritten sports betting legislation dating back to 2009 that was passed by the state that year but was later shot down by a federal appeals court. In addition, no significant changes have had to be made to the industry’s existing software already in operation, which apparently is already working well.
In the past, Delaware’s pari-mutuel wagering activities were run by the lottery, and offered by the three commercial casinos in the state, namely Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway & Casino. Three years later, bars and convenience stores were subsequently permitted to offer parlay bets, too.
On July 5th, these establishments will still be restricted to offering just these type of wagers, though, and sports punters will have to travel to these land-based casinos in person in order to place their bets. Plans are afoot, however, to release a mobile application enabling residents to eventually place bets from anywhere within the state via smartphones.
Delaware’s casino market has suffered from increased competition in recent years. For instance, there are currently four casinos in neighboring states situated less than two-hours by car from the center of Delaware, including in the Washington D.C. area, and Maryland. Delaware also introduced online gambling in 2013, but last year saw the market’s revenue drop by 18% to just $2.4 million compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, Delaware’s existing sports lottery collects around $46 million in wagers each year, ultimately providing the state with profits of $2.2 million in FY 2017, and $9 million in FY 2018. As to how much Delaware can expect to earn once regulated sports betting goes live is a matter of speculation. Referring to the opinion of Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger in a NY Times post, however, the author noted that a lot more gaming was needed to produce even the same amount of revenue for state coffers, stating:
“… that while the average net take on parlay football bets has been about 25 percent, the average win on head-to-head, single-game bets is about five or six percent. That means the state would need to see a sharp increase in wagering to match or exceed its current profit.”
Other States Readying
Meanwhile, a number of other states are lining up to carve out for themselves a slice of the multi-billion dollar industry, and are expected to launch legal sports betting markets by the end of the year. Current frontrunners include New Jersey, the state responsible for bringing the sports betting issue to the Supreme Court in the first place, with other contenders including Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Japan’s bicameral legislature, known as The National Diet, consists of an upper House of Councillors and a lower House of Representatives, with the latter having started discussing the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill last week.
Being debated is the regulatory framework required in order to set up an efficient and well functioning casino market in the country, and according to analysts the process is proceeding smoothly and should fly through the current parliamentary session due to end on June 20th.
A few days earlier, the House of Representatives also passed a new problem gambling bill focusing on countermeasures to tackle possible problem gambling and addiction concerns that might result from Japan’s recently approved casino market. This bill has since been sent to the the House of Councillors for further debate before being voted upon once more.
Integrated Resorts Bill
In late 2016, Japan legalized casinos, but before these venues officially become legal in the country a piece of legislation called the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill still needs to be passed by the Diet. According to the bill, three casino resorts will be permitted to be built in Japan with no more than 3% of their total size designated to casino gambling, with the resorts then paying 30 percent on their gross gaming revenue (GGR) by way of taxes. It also sets a 24-hour access fee of JPY6,000 (US$54) for locals entering casinos, whilst imposing a limit on them of three visits per week, or 10 per month.
Encouragingly, agreement on these and other major issues have already been reached by the ruling coalition, and all being well, the legislation should be passed soon, paving the way for the first integrated resort to open in Japan by 2024.
Problem Gambling Measures
Historically, Japan had long resisted calls to allow casinos over fears that a legalized gambling market could result in a spike in the number of people becoming gambling addicts. Concerns were further highlighted by a survey conducted by the Health Ministry in October 2017 that estimated 3.6% of the country’s residents, or 3.2 million people, were already believed to be addicted to certain types of gambling games.
In order to pave the way for the implementation of the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill, the Japanese Government has subsequently sworn to everything possible to keep its people safe, and ensure problem gamblers will receive all the help they may need in dealing with their addiction. This then led to the coalition government, consisting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, as well as the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai party, submitting a problem gambling piece of legislation to the Lower House last week.
Amongst the measures proposed in the bill is the establishment of a special commission under the Chief Cabinet Secretary responsible for proposing directives designed to tackle problem gambling. These include providing social welfare support for gambling addicts, and the setting up of specialized medical facilities for addicts.
$15 Billion Industry
Morgan Stanley has estimated that the Japanese casino market will to be worth $15 billion per annum by 2025, making it bigger than Nevada which last year generated $11.5 billion in revenue, and second only to Macau whose market was worth $33 billion last year.
Needless to say, most of the major casino operators are extremely interested in applying for a casino license from the government, with one of them being MGM Resorts International, who is eager to secure potential local partners to help operate an integrated resorts in the country. If successful, James Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts International, said that the casino will definitely be in keeping with Japanese culture, and “designed with Japanese architect, outfitted with Japanese interior designers and artists, and powered by Japanese technology.”
Murren also said that integrated resorts in japan can act as a powerful economic driver for the country, and help attract visitors from all across Asia.
The WPT Tournament of Champions (TOC) is an invitational only tournament consisting of past WPT champions, who can enter the competition for $15k if they wish, or this season’s winners, who automatically receive a free seat, airfare and hotel accommodations through to the end of season finale.
The World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions subsequently kicked-off at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on May 24th, with 80 entries helping to create a prize pool worth $1,365,000. Three days later, and it was Matt Waxman who managed to navigate himself past the field, including Matas Cimbolas heads-up, to claim a top prize of $463,375.
$4 Million in Winnings
Waxman cashed in at his first live tournament in 2008, with his latest victory now pushing his career earnings past the $4 million mark. The pro’s largest cash is still the €500,000 ($721,178) he won back in 2011 after taking down the WPT Rendez-Vous à Paris, though, which enabled him to enter this year’s TOC, and commenting about his impressive performance in Nevada, the Florida pro stated:
“I had a lot of fun playing with these guys and I was thinking about not even playing, just because it’s a big buy-in and I wasn’t too confident with my game, but I just jumped in there, and I’ve been feeling pretty good lately.. To be able to win this thing is amazing.”
WPT Tournament of Champions
Just 10 money places were available at this year’s season-ending Tournament of Champions, and amongst the players booking a cash was Justin Young in 10th ($39,840), Nam Le in 9th ($39,840), and Sam Panzica in 8th ($45,175).
At the end of Day 2, Waxman scored a double elimination over Ryan Riess in 7th ($53,985), and J.C. Tran in 6th ($67,800) to lead the remaining field going into Day 3. Instead of returning to the Aria, however, Matt Waxman, Nick Schulman, David Benyamine, Darren Elias and Matas Cimbolas switched the action to the Esports Arena Las Vegas at the Luxor. Commenting on the venue which only opened its doors for business in March, Waxman said:
“.. I’m just huge on video games, so being into such a center that has big video competitions and I get to play poker here? That was awesome.”
Final Table Action
Elias (7-7) then took care of Nick Schulman (4-4) in 5th, before being dealt pocket fives and getting lucky against the pocket sevens of David Benyamine to see the Frenchman off in 4th. Elias (Q-Q) then almost eliminated Waxman (J-J) in 3rd after the latter called the former’s all-in, but fortunately for Waxman he made a jack-high straight to jump into the chip lead.
“.. it was nice. It was just a spot where the money’s going in and I’m glad that it worked out for me,” said Waxman.
Soon after, Cimbolas (A-K) sent Elias (10-8) to the rail in 3rd, after which the heads-up phase started with Waxman holding a 2-1 lead over his remaining opponent. On the last hand, Cimbolas tried an all-in bluff holding 10-3 on a K-2-Q-4-8 board, but after Waxman made the call with Q-7, Cimbolas exited the competition in a runner-up position worth $265,590.
Waxman, on the other hand, claimed the first-place prize, a WTP Tournament of Champions trophy, and a $15,000 seat for next season’s WPT Tournament of Champions. He also received a Hublot watch, and a JetSmarter membership worth $50,000.
Waxman has recently taken quite a bit of time off playing poker in order to travel around Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. He’s also been helping to develop a poker app and even had time to earn a certification in yoga, which all made him feel a bit worried entering a stacked field at this year’s TOC. All’s well that ends well, though, and as Waxman explained later:
“I definitely feel like throughout my travels I learned a lot of things that helped keep me balanced and composed throughout the tournament and I’m very thankful to have acquired that.”
Final Table Results
1: Matt Waxman $463,375
2: Matas Cimbolas $265,590
3: Darren Elias $177,060
4: David Benyamine $123,045
5: Nick Schulman $89,290
6: J.C. Tran $67,800
7: Ryan Riess $53,985
8: Sam Panzica $45,175
9: Nam Le $39,840
10: Justin Young $39,840