Weekly Poker Roundup: November 20, 2016
PokerStars Warns it Might Withdraw from Australia of Online Gaming Restrictions Pass
Amaya, Inc., parent company of PokerStars, has said it may have to withdraw from the Australian online poker market if the country’s legislature passes proposed amendments to its gambling laws. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was not written specifically to kill online poker, but because of the way it is written, it very well could.
The initial goal of the bill was to crack down on “in-play” sports betting, which is only legal if the bets are placed via a telephone call. But unlicensed bookmakers based in nearby Pacific Rim countries have skirted the ban and some bookmakers licensed in Australia have also gotten around it by creating smartphone apps that allow for in-play betting. Regulators have said such apps are illegal, but nothing much has been done about them.
The bill updates the country’s gaming laws for the first time in 15 years, but unfortunately would also ban operators who are licensed in other countries. It would also prohibit all online gambling that is not explicitly legal; online poker is neither explicitly legal or illegal and therefore would not be permitted. Thus, in order to stay out of trouble, both in Australia and elsewhere, Amaya has said it may have to stop offering games to Australians should the bill become law.
Study Says Washington State Could Have Strong Online Gambling Industry
A study recently published by the Spectrum Gaming Group, a gambling consulting firm, says that Washington State could very well support a solid online gambling industry, should legislators decide to make games legal. According to the study, the market for online gambling could be around $100 million.
Part of the study compares Washington to New Jersey, one of just three states with legalized online gambling. Though New Jersey has more residents and a higher median income, the cost of living is much lower in Washington (though don’t tell that to my brother, who lives in Seattle) and therefore Spectrum believes New Jersey could be a valid comparable.
The study also combats the idea – typically put forth by land-based casinos – that online gambling would cannibalize casino revenue. From the study:
iGaming revenue should, in our opinion, be predominantly incremental to overall GGR for land-based casino operators if the regulations require iGaming operations to be provided by licensed Washington Indian casinos or cardrooms. In fact, researchers conducted a statistical study that found “economic concerns around the cannibalization of traditional gambling industries should be reconsidered, and provide support for prior research showing that Internet based firms can be complementary to brick and mortar businesses.”
Washington is one of the few states in which online poker is explicitly illegal. In 2006, tribal casinos and cardrooms lobbied hard (read: spent money), eventually getting State Senator Margarita Prentice to introduce a bill to make PLAYING online poker a Class C felony, the same as third degree child rape. No poker players have ever been arrested or charged with anything, but the damage was done and even before Black Friday, poker rooms had pulled out of Washington.
David Baazov Makes Bid for Amaya
Former Amaya CEO David Baazov has made an offer to purchase the company he once ran, submitting the offer on behalf of an investment group that wants to take the company private. The proposal was for CAD $24 per Amaya share, approximately 30 percent more than the share price of the company at the time of the offer. The total value of the deal would be CAD $6.7 billion, or about USD $4.95 billion.
Earlier this year, while still CEO of PokerStars’ parent company, Baazov and others were hit with insider trading charges by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Canada’s securities regulatory agency. The insider trading scheme he was allegedly a part of had to do with the June 2014 purchase of PokerStars and Amaya; Amaya stock increased sharply in price in the weeks leading up to the acquisition.
Baazov had previously made a soft offer for the company, but that fell by the wayside when he took a leave of absence from Amaya in the wake of the insider trading allegations before eventually resigning in August.
Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton Wins First WPT Title
Mike Sexton has been the face and the voice of the World Poker Tour (WPT) since the very beginning, but a WPT title as a poker player had always eluded him until this past week. Early Friday morning, Sexton won the WPT Montreal Main Event, his first WPT championship to go along with two World Series of Poker titles.
Sexton, who for years was not permitted to play in WPT events because of his role as the WPT television announcer, was the chip leader going into the six-handed final table with 6.215 million chips. Ema Zajmovic, aiming to be the first woman to win an open WPT title, was in second with 5.385 million. Nobody else had more than 2.5 million.
It eventually came down to Sexton and Benny Chen for the championship, with Chen holding a 1.7 million chip lead. More than 40 hands into the insane 148-hand heads-up match, it looked like Sexton was done for, as he faced an overwhelming 17.35 million to 1.825 million chip deficit. But you know how poker goes. Sexton hung in there and on the third-to-last hand, took the lead with a rivered straight. Then, on the final hand, Chen moved all-in pre-flop for more than 8 million chips with K-J, only to run into Sexton’s Queens. Sexton flopped a set, but Chen also flopped a gut-shot straight draw to give him a sweat. As you know by now, that straight never surfaced and Sexton won his first WPT title along with USD $317,896.
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