Author Jennifer Newell's poker week in review for August 19-25.
Our consolidation of the week's news is quick and to the point — seven stories, to be exact — for the week ending Aug. 25. Let's go.
No. 1 — California Online Poker Gains Momentum, Then Falls Flat
As states like Nevada and New Jersey move along steadily toward online gaming regulation and site launches, California lags behind. However, there seemed to be some momentum behind one of the state proposals last week. State Senator Lou Correa amended his SB 678 online poker bill to make it severable, meaning that a part of it could be deemed invalid without killing the entire bill. He also reclassified it with an urgent status so a two-third majority of both houses of the legislature could push it to the governor's desk for approval. Correa noted that he hoped the act could pass and take effect immediately.
However, the Committee on Governmental Organization, of which State Senator Roderick Wright is the chairperson, did not add the bill to the last-minute docket. And within days of hopes being raised that California would make progress on Internet gaming, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) tweeted that the bill would not move forward. "Sources confirm that amended Correa bill will not be brought up b4 end of session. Work on iPoker to continue over Fall recess." This means that the topic will likely not receive any further attention from legislators until the next session begins on Jan. 6, 2014.
No. 2 — Steve Wynn Decides on New Jersey Move
One of the names missing from the flow of businesses to New Jersey for online gambling was Steve Wynn, but that is no longer the case. His Wynn Interactive LLC company recently filed an application with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in the hopes of obtaining an Internet gambling license. No details have been released as to potential partnerships or the nature of the license, but it is clear that Wynn does intend to be a part of the emerging industry.
Wynn Interactive was granted a request by New Jersey to keep the organizational structure of the company under wraps, and thus little is known about the structure or administration of the company. Speculation is that the Atlantic Club of Atlantic City is a potential partner for Wynn Interactive, as the casino has not announced a partnership since dissolving the agreement with PokerStars this summer. Wynn has a past with the casino, which he owned when it was the Golden Nugget, prior to its name change.
No. 3 — Red Star Poker Leaves Revolution for Microgaming
Red Star Poker was one of many skins of the Revolution Poker Network until last week, when it announced to affiliates that it was leaving the troubled network for Microgaming, now known as MPN. Red Star gave no official reason for the move, and Poker Affiliate Solutions noted that the site used its own cashier, which kept it removed from many of the payout issues that other Revolution sites have faced.
The move to Microgaming will garner more traffic due to the network's status as the seventh-largest online poker room in the world, though it does not accept players from the United States. Traffic was expected to double for Red Star Poker with the move, and players were promised a smooth transition to the new software.
No. 4 — PartyPoker Adds Fees Without Notice
Bwin.party made a bold move last week without notifying customers or the media in advance, nor providing comment or reason after the fact. Pokerfuse reported that for PartyPoker and other skins, a new fee was instituted for players — $4 plus an uncapped 3 percent fee for all withdrawals via Skrill and Neteller, two of the most-used electronic payment processors. European players will pay €3, and UK players will pay £2.50.
Pokerfuse does note that PartyPoker offers a few withdrawal options without fees attached, such as PayPal or credit card. What bothered most players, however, as they expressed on poker forums, was the lack of warning or announcement. Players discovered the change upon attempts to cash out from their accounts, and though the website FAQ section had been updated, they were not notified. There were no notices from Skrill or Neteller, either.
No. 5 — UK Gaming Tax Ruffles Feathers
The UK government has been discussing a point-of-consumption tax on Internet gaming operators for quite some time, and it looks as if it will go into effect in December 2014. A draft of the bill has been released, and the basis of it is a 15% tax on betting companies that are based outside of the UK but cater to UK customers. The goal is to garner revenue for the country while enticing companies to base their operations in the UK. Reports say that the tax may raise as much as £300 million.
Some Internet gaming companies were based in Gibraltar and other parts of the world where they thought tax rates would be protected, but they must now face the tax that could severely impact their bottom lines. Meanwhile, Pokerfuse pointed out that there may be positive results for players, such as the designation of the UK Gambling Commission to determine how player funds should be controlled, which will give players more protections.
No. 6 — EPT Partners With Duracell
PokerStars' European Poker Tour has had numerous sponsors for its series of tournaments in the past, but none as mainstream as Duracell. The EPT announced last week that it is partnering with Duracell Powermat for Season 10, which begins later this month. Duracell noted that it is pleased to partner with the EPT, in addition to other companies like AT&T and Starbucks, which puts the tour in an elite group.
The partnership will allow all EPT tables at Season 10 stops to be built with hotspot charging pads built in, enabling any player with a Duracell Powermat phone case to set their phones on the mat and charge without any power cords necessary. All players will be allowed to borrow phone cases if they don't have them, and those who satellite into an EPT Main Event will be given a free case.
No. 7 — Ultimate Poker Releases Version 2
There was big news for online poker in Nevada. After weeks of waiting for Nevada's Gaming Commission to approve upgraded software, Ultimate Poker was finally able to release Version 2 over the weekend. Though there were initial problems with the release that prompted the shutdown of numerous tournaments, anong other issues, the version was much-anticipated by the players and Ultimate Poker itself.
The new version of the online poker site offers many improvements to both tables and the lobby, including resizable tables and new avatars. Among changes to multi-table tournaments and sit-and-gos are late registration and rebuy tournaments, as well as the introduction of a tournament currency that fits into the establishment of the new VIP program. Color UP involves multiple tiers for players to achieve and rewards to accompany them, as well as a VIP store that offers tournament tickets, cash, and prizes that can be purchased with U-Points.