OPR Bulletin: Week of June 24th, 2013

Get the OPRB in your inbox hours before it’s posted online – sign up for our email list.Stories worth watching#1. New Jersey – With a weekend deadline for potential licensees to announce partnerships, expect a flurry of activity – and possibly even the announcement of a casino sale agreement – in the next few days. Keep a close eye on Station / Ultimate Gaming, who have hinted they’ll be live in New Jersey at launch, and also the Trump properties.#2. DiCristina – The general sense of observers is that the DiCristina hearing went well for poker players. Read a synopsis of the hearing at TwoPlusTwo (start at post #18) and at Diamond Flush, and then read Grange’s sober assessment of exactly what impact a favorable ruling would have on the legal status of online poker in the United States. There is no firm timeline for a decision, which could come as early as this week.#3. Sheldon Adelson – The LVS CEO raised the hackles of online poker players with an opinion piece at Forbes slamming online gambling regulation and a follow up interview with Bloomberg. Expect more information / insight in the days to come into why Adelson is choosing to publicly attack an industry he once embraced at this particular point in time – and perhaps another blast from Adelson.The week that was
John Mehaffey issued a warning regarding play on the Revolution (Lock) Poker Network.
PartyPoker removed benefits for high-volume players without notice.
CalvinAyre.com explored the complicated question of Playtech’s potential in the U.S. market.
Swedish state gambling operator Svensa Spel refunded around a half a million USD to players who were victims of an alleged bot ring. Background on the story from PokerFuse here.
Zynga bolstered their real-money gambling team by acquiring Spooky Cool Labs.Recently on OPROn this week’s Rabbit Hunt, Mark and I cover Adelson’s slam of online poker, WSOP happenings of note and the DiCristina hearing.And here’s the latest installment of OPR’s comprehensive Online Poker in the States, providing regulatory updates for all relevant states in the U.S..Picks#GoodRead – Kim Lund articulates the Migratory Patterns of Online Poker Players in an interesting piece over at QuadJacks.@Follow – Great land-based casino coverage from David McKee over at @StiffsGeorges.

OPR Bulletin: Week of June 24th, 2013

Absolute Poker Head Serves Relatively Short Sentence

According to a report from Gambling911, former Absolute Poker principal Brent Beckley has been released from federal custody roughly 10 months into a 14-month sentence.The following video purports to show Beckley’s release:A search of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator suggests that Beckley is still in custody. The site claims to be updated daily. I have not seen the news confirmed by a source other than G911.A shortened sentence wouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as the DoJ argued aggressively for leniency in Beckley’s case (although the original 14-month sentence itself was generally considered lenient).

Absolute Poker Head Serves Relatively Short Sentence

NV Licensee Profile: American Casino & Entertainment Properties

This is one of a series of profiles covering companies that hold a license to participate in Nevada’s online gambling market.Contents
1 Details and Timeline of ACEP Nevada License
1.1 Partnerships and role in Nevada market
2 ACEP: Company Overview
2.1 American Casino & Entertainment Properties: Power Players
3 Potential in other US markets
4 LinksAmerican Casino & Entertainment Properties (commonly referred to by the much simpler to remember and say acronym, ACEP) is a subsidiary company of Whitehall Streets Real Estate Funds, which purchased ACEP and its assets in 2008 from American Real Estate Partners.The best known asset of ACEP would be the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, which the ACEP Company picked-up after the original Stratosphere owners declared bankruptcy in 1996. When Whitehall entered the picture they paid $1.3 billion for land and casino assets which were valued at about $1 billion in 2007, and since the acquisition ACEP has been operating in the red.Details and Timeline of ACEP Nevada License
ACEP wasted little time in filing their application for a Nevada online poker license, formally submitting their application in February of 2012. Acep was the fourteenth company to apply for an iGaming license in the state.
On September 6, 2012 ACEP received preliminary approval for an online poker operator license from the Nevada Gaming Control Board in a formal hearing. Just a couple of weeks later ACEP’s license application was approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
On September 20, 2012 American Casino & Entertainment Properties saw their license application accepted by the Nevada Gaming Commission. ACEP’s license allows them to host online poker games in Nevada.As an online poker operator ACEP will be allowed to host and operate an online poker site in the state of Nevada, following the regulations set by the NGCB and the NGC.Partnerships and role in Nevada marketAs stated above, ACEP has formed a strategic partnership with Bally Technology and has already launched the OnGame powered AcePlay.com poker room. While their deal is with Bally, Bally has also entered into a strategic partnership with Amaya Gaming, which allowed Bally to lease out the OnGame software to ACEP as well as the Golden Nugget.AcePlay was launched in February of 2013 and at this time AcePlay.com is currently only available in play-money format, but it appears that ACEP and Ballys are well on their way to launching real-money online poker in Nevada.ACEP: Company OverviewWhitehall Streets Real Estate Funds is an equity firm managed by Goldman Sachs, but so far Whitehall seems to have overpaid for ACEP, apparently banking on a parcel of land around the Stratosphere Hotel to increase the valuation of ACEP’s holdings. Currently the properties controlled by ACEP are losing money, and Whitehall has sought to restructure their debt, which means the Stratosphere could very well be a massive failure twice-over.In 2009 ACEP restructured its debt with Goldman Sachs and laid-off some 600 employees, but the Stratosphere and other assets of ACEP have continued to bleed money. Online poker may very well be the tourniquet the company needs.As mentioned above, the Stratosphere is considered one of the biggest flops in Las Vegas history as its location is simply too far down the Las Vegas Strip to appeal to many tourists. When the hotel opened in 1996 it was considered one of the nicest properties on the Strip, but its poor location has failed to attract visitors and the Stratosphere has fallen into disrepair, unable to keep pace with their competitors farther south on the Strip.According to an article in Cardplayer Magazine, ACEP’s Director of Gaming Development Alec Driscoll, sees online poker as a “player acquisition tool”, bucking the conventional wisdom that online gaming will detract from land-based gaming.Here are the four properties controlled by ACEP:
Aquarius
Arizona Charlie’s Decatur
Arizona Charlie’s Boulder
Stratosphere Las VegasIn February of 2013, along with their partner Bally Technologies, ACEP launched the free-play version of their online poker site, AcePLAY.com. AcePLAY will have a familiar look and feel to online poker players as the site is using the OnGame client to host their online poker games.OnGame is currently owned by Amaya Gaming, which entered into a agreement with Bally Technologies earlier this year, with the three players making for one of the most convoluted partnerships in the market.American Casino & Entertainment Properties: Power PlayersThe head honcho at ACEP is the company’s CEO and Board of Directors member Frank V. Riolo. Riolo has been in his current position since 2008, and has been an executive in the gaming industry since 2002.Other key people in the ACEP hierarchy are:
CFO, Treasurer and Board Member: Ned Martin
Board Member: Alan Kava
Board Member: Peter WeidmanAnd here are the people at the helm of each of the four properties controlled by ACEP:
Executive Vice President, General Manager Arizona Charlie’s Decatur: Ronald P. Lurie
Senior Vice President, General Manager Arizona Charlie’s Boulder: Mark Majetich
Vice President, General Manager Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower: Paul Hobson
General Manager Aquarius Casino Resort: Sean HammondPotential in other US marketsACEP does have casino properties in other states, but at the time being their role is limited to the Nevada market. For ACEP to jump into a newly regulated market where they have no physical presence they would likely have to see new laws introduced as well as needing to comply with the imposed regulations.Links
American Casino & Entertainment Properties Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/company/american-casino-&-entertainment-properties
American Casino & Entertainment Properties Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AcePlayPoker
American Casino & Entertainment Properties Twitter: https://twitter.com/acePLAYpoker
American Casino & Entertainment Properties Corporate page: http://www.acepllc.com/
*Resources: www.wikipedia.org, www.acepllc.com

NV Licensee Profile: American Casino & Entertainment Properties

PokerStars Deal for New Jersey Casino Dead

After reports yesterday that PokerStars missed a key conditional deadline in its pending deal to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino, word today from the ACC indicates the deal is dead – at least for now.The story was first reported by John Brennan:Excerpt from a statement by Atlantic Club Casino COO Michael Frawley:There has been no confirmation or statement from PokerStars.Timeline of PokerStars’ attempt to purchase the ACCThe timeline of PokerStars’ (apparently failed) attempt to purchase the ACC is a strange one:
Dec 2012 – Reports emerge that PokerStars is in negotiations to purchase the ACC.
Jan 2013 – PokerStars confirms they have reached a conditional agreement to purchase the ACC.
Jan 2013 – Reports from several sources indicate that PokerStars filed their application for an Interim Casino Authorization license with NJ state officials at the end of December. The filing of the application would trigger a 90-day review window.
March 2013 – AGA files a brief opposing PokerStars’ interim application. PokerStars files a brief in response.
March 2013 – PokerStars asserts that Caesars had offered to sell them the Rio and the WSOP.
March 2013 – Reports reveal that PokerStars’ Interim Authorization application – thought to be already filed – is actually not complete.
April 2013 – PokerStars actually completes the Interim Authorization application. No word on what caused the delay.
April 2013 – The WSJ reports that PokerStars’ deal for the ACC has “expired without a new contract in place, according to people familiar with the matter”. The expiration was due to a condition in the contract that required PokerStars to have secured the Interim Authorization by April 24th.
April 2013 – The ACC announces the contract to purchase has been terminated.Deal “really” dead? PokerStars done in NJ?While certainly not a positive development for those who wish to see PokerStars operating in New Jersey, the news is hardly a death knell for the site’s chances to be a part of regulated online gambling in the state.For example, this news could simply be part of a negotiating ploy on the part of the Atlantic Club Casino. It’s also possible that PokerStars could participate in the state as a software provider in partnership with a licensed operator, a role that does not require ownership of a land-based casino. Finally, PokerStars could always seek to purchase another NJ property, although the list of bargain-priced gambling halls looks pretty thin after the ACC.Not everyone is certain that the deal has completely fallen through. Howard Stutz of the LVRJ tweeted these responses to the news:… and in a story on NJ.com that preceded Brennan’s, online gambling proponent State Sen. Raymond Lesniack said:Again, note that Lesniack’s comments were in response to the WSJ story about the missed deadline, not Brennan’s report that the deal is dead.I will update this story as events warrant.

PokerStars Deal for New Jersey Casino Dead

OPR Bulletin: Week of June 17th, 2013

Get the OPRB in your inbox hours before it’s posted online – sign up for our email list.Stories to watch this week#1. PokerStars filed a request for interlocutory appeal late last week in connection with their attempt to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino. This week could bring a response from either the ACC or the NJ courts. Read an in-depth analysis of PokerStars’ filing on OPR here.#2. New Jersey regulators set a deadline of June 30th for casinos to ink online gambling partnerships. With more than half of the state’s potential operators still unaffiliated, the new deadline could spark a series of deals in the brief window that remains. A deal involving Trump and an as-yet-unnamed partner could come this week.#3. Illinois lawmakers will convene for a special session this week to address the state’s pension crisis. Gambling expansion and pension reform have been joined at the hip politically in Illinois, meaning that if pension reform is on the table, gambling expansion probably is too. Movement on online gambling is a long, long shot, but not completely implausible in a session that could potentially produce unexpected results.… + the week that was
PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg reached a $50mm settlement with the U.S. government.
Former Absolute Poker principal Brent Beckley was reportedly released from prison.
A key Pennsylvania legislator said online gambling was a dead issue until 2015.
PokerStars began investigation of an alleged case of forced disconnection attacks.
An interesting attempt to “short” the market for staking poker players failed.Recently on OPROn this week’s Rabbit Hunt, Mark and I talk PokerStars’ appeal, Scheinberg’s settlement and controversy over the the growth of hold’em at the WSOP.And I offered up 5 Reasons Rep. Peter King’s Online Gambling Bill is DOA. Finally, I have a new article in the June issue of CEM – “Player Segregation in Online Poker: Fad or Future?”Picks#GoodRead – Missed this one while I was on vacation, but Grange95 has the most in-depth writeup of thePokerStars Purchase Agreement with the Atlantic Club Casino that I’ve seen anywhere.

OPR Bulletin: Week of June 17th, 2013

Genting Poker Bails on Hendon Mob Players, Then Backtracks

Genting Poker has been under siege by The Hendon Mob online poker community since Friday, thanks to a post by Genting Poker Room Manager James Lowe stating that Genting was cancelling their Hendon Mob Tournament $ promotion – effective immediately.So Lowe’s post was effectively saying that all players who joined Genting Poker (a part of the iPoker Network) through The Hendon Mob would have all unused Tournament $ rescinded – meaning they would receive zero value for earned tournament currency that was basically as good as cash.Obviously this went over about as well with Hendon Mobbers as Ben Mezrich lecturing the poker world on the virtues of Absolute Poker.Genting retracts policy change, claims errorFortunately for Hendon Mobbers it looks like Genting and their new Poker Room Manager James Lowe have come to their senses.After nearly three days of silence Lowe returned to the forum just hours ago to backtrack on Genting’s new position [bold mine]:Now, compare that to the original post: “This does mean that any points you have accrued and not used are no longer valid,” and you’ll see why the word backtrack is getting thrown around a lot.But the good news is that everything appears to have been worked out in the end.Severe backlash over original decisionThe initial decision is all the more baffling when you consider James Lowe’s work experience in the world of online poker; with his resume he must have known the blowback he would receive for what is essentially a bait and switch tactic.As one Mobber “neilcaterham” said, “This is starting to sound like one of them Yank sites,”The cancellation so shocked the community that posters on the forum thought it was a level, or some diabolical plot to besmirch James Lowe’s name. One poster “4K Suited” hypothesized:Unfortunately, it wasn’t a joke or an “ill-judged statement.”Several players attempted to redeem their tournament dollars and/or contact support to see if the promotion was in fact cancelled, and all signs pointed to yes, the promo was just cancelled out of the blue.Even The Hendon Mob wasn’t notified, and had to read about the cancelled promotion on their own forum:Another poster “AKHater” explained how the cancellation of the affiliated deal would have a real-world impact on players like himself:

Genting Poker Bails on Hendon Mob Players, Then Backtracks

Adelson: Make Internet Gaming Illegal Nationwide

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has penned a scathing indictment over at Forbes of efforts to regulate online gambling in the United States.In the article, Adelson calls online gambling a “societal train wreck waiting to happen,” “a toxin which all good people ought to resist” and claims that online gambling could lead to the “demise” of land-based operators.Read the whole piece here.For his claim regarding the impact of online gambling on land-based operators, Adelson refers to, but does not identify by title, “[r]ecent research from a number of European countries.”LV Sands said to support online pokerIt’s important to note that Adelson’s position is not necessarily synonymous with the opinion of the company he controls.In February of 2013, AGA head Frank Fahrenkopf indicated that all AGA members – including Las Vegas Sands – supported federal online poker regulation.Adelson has long history with online gambling issueThis is far from the first time that Adelson has come out swinging against online gambling regulation.But it does seem to mark a dramatic shift from his earlier position on the issue. In 2001 he told the Las Vegas Sun that “our hat will be in the ring” for regulated online gambling, and praised the efforts of Nevada lawmakers toward regulating such activity. And in 2006 his company announced plans for a UK-facing online gambling venture with Cantor.Featured image credit: Bectrigger, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Adelson: Make Internet Gaming Illegal Nationwide

With Avoine Dismissal, DoJ Clear to Sell Assets of Ultimate Bet / Absolute Poker

Online poker’s Black Friday continues to slowly wind its way through the courts.The latest loose end tied up yesterday as the DoJ reached a resolution with Avoine that resulted in a dismissal of the company’s claims to property seized on Black Friday.Avoine filed a claim of ownership in January 2012 covering domains names, software and other intellectual property related to Absolute Poker, setting off a legal back-and-forth between the company and the DoJ.Scott Bell (creator of soon-to-come doc UltimateBeat) saw the decision as a big win for AP/UB stakeholders. As Bell notes, this dismissal should clear the way for the (now-likely-near-to-worthless?) assets of UB and AP to be put on the government’s auction block:In a 2012 post, Haley Hintze characterized Avoine as a company that “has been alleged to be the true hiding spot of the Americans who really controlled AP in the years following its acquisition of UltimateBet and its flight from America’s UIGEA.”Avoine offered a slightly different description of their activities in court filings from October 2012:It’s not clear if the settlement between the DoJ and Avoine is a precursor to a larger deal involving other UB / AP principals.

With Avoine Dismissal, DoJ Clear to Sell Assets of Ultimate Bet / Absolute Poker

Bank of Timex Lasts Less Than a Week

Creativity is one of the hallmarks of a good poker player.So it came as little surprise when Canadian poker pro Mike “Timex” McDonald came up with an innovative way to leverage the current staking marketplace, which he jokingly dubbed The Bank of Timex.For anyone unfamiliar with short-selling, or the securities market in general, the Bank of Timex effectively serves two separate functions:
The first is to offer shares of players who are not selling shares (like Phil Ivey). In these instances McDonald is basically offering a price for different players that he thinks is too high, but setting them at a price he believes other people will buy due to the current overvaluation in the staking market.
The second function is to “short-sell” other players’ staking packages. In these cases McDonald is saying that the player’s markup is too high for that person to show a profit. Essentially Timex is betting that the players will not show a positive ROI, even though he is cross-booking at a lower price than they are actually selling at!The gist: McDonald believes that the staking world is in a “markup bubble” – that players are (intentionally or unintentionally) pricing themselves too high.Sounds like a great idea right? Fix the poker world while making some cash at the same time?Yeah, well – spoiler alert – McDonald has already shut it down:What McDonald is alluding to are people on 2+2 pointing out (justifiably so I suppose) concerns regarding the legality of selling what seem to be “securities” and/or being a sportsbook.In addition to legal concerns, Bank of Timex also seems like the ideal way to alienate yourself from your peers, so McDonald may very well have shut it down to avoid any potential hassles and/or future confrontations.

Bank of Timex Lasts Less Than a Week