Weekly Poker Roundup: August 6, 2016
Trump Taj Mahal to Close in a Month
The struggling Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City will soon not be struggling anymore. That’s because it will close after Labor Day weekend. The news was announced on Wednesday by Tropicana Entertainment (which operates the Taj) President and CEO Tony Rodio following a month-long strike by the Unite Here Local 54 which has seen more than 1,000 casino and hotel staff protest the loss of benefits.
“Currently the Taj is losing multi-millions a month, and now with this strike we see no path to profitability,” Rodio said. “Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point where we have will to have to close the Taj after Labor Day weekend and intend to send WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notices to before this weekend.”
Four Atlantic City casinos – Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza – shut down in 2014. The Trump Taj Mahal nearly met the same fate that year, but concessions made the by the union during Trump Entertainments’ bankruptcy proceedings as well as a $20 million investment by Carl Icahn kept the casino alive. When Trump Entertainment was taken over by Icahn when the company emerged from bankruptcy in March 2016, it looked like things might get better, as Icahn had pledged a $100 million cash infusion. But after he didn’t receive certain tax breaks from the state and city, compounded with legislative plans to authorize two casinos in northern New Jersey, he refused to part with the money.
Featured in the movie Rounders, the Trump Taj Mahal was once the center of east coast poker; many players who developed their games there have gone on to impressive poker careers.
bestbet Jacksonville Fined for Violating Florida Gambling Laws
In a clear case of angle shooting, the bestbet Jacksonville card room has been fined $4,500 for violating state laws regarding what types of games Florida casinos are allowed to offer. Judge Suzanne Van Wyk ruled against the casino and its owner, Jacksonville Kennel Club, in case stemming back to complaints filed by state regulators in January.
In Florida, pari-mutuel operators such as bestbet Jacksonville are not permitted to run “house banked” games, games like blackjack in which the customer competes against the house. Poker is just fine – and bestbet Jacksonville has hosted stops on the World Poker Tour, the Mid-States Poker Tour, and the CardPlayer Poker Tour as the popularity of Florida as a poker destination has grown – because in poker, players go up against each other.
But bestbet Jacksonville decided to try to get away with a house banked game, anyway. The card room operated a three-card poker game that replaced the house’s dealer with a “designated player” against which the customers would play. This designated player would play in the exact same way the dealer would normally play, so the customers had the same experience as if they were up against a real dealer.
Taking the extra inch, bestbet Jacksonville also hired people to serve as the designated player, sitting behind chips and not doing anything. It was an extremely transparent operation, leading Judge Van Wyk to write, “As currently operated, the designated player is a player in name only. The existing operation of the games does no more than establish a bank against which participants play.”
PokerTribe.com Pushes Back Real-Money Online Poker
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma announced on Monday, August 1st, that it will be delaying the launch of real-money poker on its online poker site, PokerTribe.com. Should it ever launch, it would be the first licensed international online poker site that is based in the United States.
In a press release, the Iowa Tribe explained:
With the successful launch of their international free play online casino website, www.PokerTribe.com, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and its exclusive Online Casino software developer, Universal Entertainment Group “UEG,” are working to finalize the international country by country gaming licensees and international merchant processing banking. Banking partners will include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and more, plus our European banking partners.
After an independent arbitrator ruled last fall that the Iowa Tribe and UEG were not violating any laws, the state of Oklahoma and the federal government agreed to let the tribe go forward with its real-money poker plans. The problem PokerTribe.com now faces, if it gets the real-money portion off the ground, is finding a way to attract players. The site will only be open to people in jurisdictions where online poker is legal. In the U.S., that means only Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada, but players from those states can only play on sites located in their own state (unless interstate agreements are in place, and they are not where Oklahoma is concerned). That leaves players in other countries – and there are a lot of them – but it is doubtful that many will choose to meander over to PokerTribe.com when there are plenty of established international sites from which to choose.
Caesars Sells Playtika to Chinese Consortium
Last weekend, Caesars Acquisition Corp. and Shanghai Giant Network Technology Co., Ltd. announced that Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc. (CIE) had sold its social and mobile gaming division, Playtika to a consortium of Chinese companies for $4.4 billion.
Shanghai Giant (Giant Interactive Group) is the centerpiece of the consortium; it is one of China’s leaders in the online games market.
One most interesting aspects of the deal was that Caesars retained control of the World Series of Poker and WSOP.com. Though fairly small when compared to the rest of the company, the WSOP is very profitable. It is unknown if the consortium simply didn’t want the WSOP or if Caesars refused to include it in the deal (my guess is at least a bit of both).
In a press release, Playtika co-founder and CEO Robert Antokol said:
We are incredibly excited by the commercial opportunities the Consortium will make available to us, particularly in its ability to provide us access to large and rapidly growing emerging markets. This is an amazing milestone for all Playtikans and we truly value how unique this opportunity is to continue executing our vision with such a strong partner.
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