Author Jennifer Newell's poker week in review for Oct. 21-27.
Our consolidation of the week's news is quick and to the point — seven stories, to be exact — for the week ending Oct. 27. Let's go.
No. 1 — Delaware to Launch Online Gaming Oct. 31
Delaware has quietly been working on its preparations for online gaming in the state. Free-play games were launched in August, and the state's lottery director, Vernon Kirk, revealed to Card Player that real-money online gaming will be available to residents on Oct. 31. He admitted to having to overcome some technological challenges to meet the self-imposed deadline, but the state is anxious to offer the real-money games. He also confirmed that poker will be one of the games available upon launch, as well as video poker, slot machines, and other casino products.
Kirk also told Card Player that Delaware has been in talks with Nevada and New Jersey with regard to combined liquidity via interstate compacts. He asserted that Nevada is "definitely anxious to compact with us, and us to them likewise." While the top priority is launching and working out possible kinks with its own Scientific Games/888 offering, compacts are important in long-term success.
No. 2 — Tropicana Licensed in New Jersey, Two Casinos Opt Out
The fifth online gambling license in the state of New Jersey was awarded last week as Tropicana Casino and Resort received authorization from the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The casino may proceed with a soft launch of online gambling on Nov. 21 and hard launch after that five-day testing period, if all goes well. Tropicana is partnering with Gamesys Limited for its online gaming platform, and Gamesys will need to acquire its license, as well, in order for the launch to move forward.
It was also revealed last week that two casinos will not be pursuing any Internet gaming partnerships at this time. A New Jersey attorney familiar with the industry said that Revel and the Atlantic Club will stay away from online gaming at this time, though they may always choose to participate at a later date. They are the only two major casinos in Atlantic City that will not attempt online gaming this year.
No. 3 — Geolocation Outage Hurts Nevada Online Poker
Only two online poker sites have launched in Nevada to date — WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker — and both rely on geolocation services through mobile phone providers to verify that players are physically present in Nevada and thus able to play online. There have been various glitches in the process since the start for both sites, but last week brought to light a new problem that affected players on both sites for several days.
AT&T performed maintenance and shut down its geolocation services on two separate days, though WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker did not give much warning to players whatsoever, with the exception of a poker forum post. Many players were blinded out of tournaments, and tournaments on both sites were cancelled due to the inability of players to stay verified and online. Players are still in the process of coordinating refunds for the downtime.
No. 4 — Nevada Online Operators Receive Extensions
While Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com continue to offer online poker to players located in Nevada, other sites still struggle with the basic components required for launch. Five companies recently admitted to the Nevada Gaming Control Board that they required a second six-month extension in order to prepare and fulfill licensing obligations before launching online poker.
On Oct. 24, those companies received approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission by a vote of 5-0. Another six months was granted to Boyd Interactive Gaming, Golden Nugget of Las Vegas, MGM Resorts Online, Z4Poker of Reno, and PNK. No public information was released regarding the status of those companies' online poker preparations or when players can expect to see real-money offerings from any of them.
No. 5 — Ultimate Poker Loses Three Pros
Ultimate Poker has a rather large roster of sponsored pros attached to its site, but several of them recently left the stable. Randy Dorfman was the one who expressed his opinion publicly and made it clear that he disagrees with management decisions within the company. He wrote, "I have resigned from Ultimate Poker as the Team Pro… To have your ideas and experiences from the game I love fall on deaf ears while you bust your ass to build a game for a new company just was extremely frustrating to me."
Soon after, Dorfman revealed that Tom Marchese exited the team roster as well. In addition, Jonathan Little is no longer listed as a sponsored pro. No official word has come from the Ultimate Poker team regarding the changes, and some pros — like Jason Somerville and Dan O'Brien — seem to remain happy representing the site.
No. 6 — PokerStars Carnival and New Pros
PokerStars recently wrapped its Carnival of Tournaments promotion with the final celebratory tournament, one that boasted of a $1 million guarantee. And the event attracted more than 21,635 players to push the prize pool over double that guarantee and award the winner more than $200,000. It took the site more than a decade to reach the point of offering its 800-millionth tournament. Also, Pokerfuse reported that its Spanish site is close to dealing its one-billionth hand and expects a 30 percent traffic spike during that particular set of promotions.
Two new players joined Team PokerStars Online over the past week. French Canadian Marc-Andre Ladouceur is the most well-known of the two and plays on the site as FrenchDawg. He has been a Supernova Elite player since 2010 and is also recognized for his 12th-place finish in the 2012 World Series of Poker main event. British high-stakes player Alex Millar also joined the team and plays on the site as Kanu7. He is a heads-up poker expert and plays regularly at the $25-$50 tables.
No. 7 — Caesars Experiences Difficulties
It is no secret that Caesars Entertainment has a rather sizeable debt, if $23.5 billion fits into that range. Some analysts say that bankruptcy is nearly inevitable, but Caesars continues to push forward as is. Meanwhile, the company was forced to deal with a problem in its partnership with Suffolk Downs racetrack in Boston, Massachusetts. As the state's gaming authority was conducting its standard investigation before issuing a license, it discovered that the US Treasury's Federal Crimes Enforcement Network had been investigating money laundering allegations at Caesars Palace. Caesars withdrew its license application in Boston.
Another part of Caesars facing scrutiny was its partnership with Gansevoort, the company that was going to brand the new casino being built to replace Bill's Gambling Hall in Las Vegas. However, a Gansevoort investor was found to have alleged ties with Russian organized crime, so Caesars withdrew from that partnership, as well, leaving the new Strip project without a name or partner.
Caesars also received some concerning comments from Massachusetts regulators concerning its head of Caesars Interactive Gaming and Caesars Acquisition Company, Mitch Garber. His affiliation with PartyPoker prior to the company's exit from the United States, especially Party's offering of online gaming to states that specifically prohibited the activity, came under scrutiny with the Boston facility, and the company may have to face future concerns from regulators throughout the United States.