By Haley Hintze
First Wave of Full Tilt Refunds Slated for Late February – Garden City Group, the government-appointed claims administrator overseeing the refunds of Full Tilt Poker online balances of US players that have been frozen since 2011, has announced a first wave of refunds tentatively scheduled for the end of February, 2014. Some 30,000 former FTP account holders will receive approximately $82 million, according to GCG. All of the refunded players in the first wave accepted the balance information as presented to GCG from old Full Tilt records. An additional 8,400 accounts may receive partial or full refunds at a later date, including players with disputed balances and former affiliates and sponsored pros of the site.
by Haley Hintze
New Jersey’s Lesniak Seeks International Players – New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak, one of the state’s most instrumental legislators in getting New Jersey to authorize and offer intrastate online poker, has now proposed legislation which would allow the state’s licensed online sites to accept players from other countries in addition to New Jersey residents and visitors. Lesniak’s new S980, with State Sen. Jim Whelan as co-sponsor, renews a bill sponsored by Lesniak in late 2013 which would allow the international players, though players from other US states would still be barred.
by Haley Hintze
FIRST EVENT IN BORGATA WINTER POKER OPEN FROZEN AFTER BOGUS CHIPS CONFIRMED
The Borgata’s annual Winter Poker Open suffered a blow when New Jersey gaming regulators ordered the cancellation of the WPO’s opening event after a large quantity of counterfeit chips were discovered. Twenty-seven players remained in the event, a $560 buy-in tourney which drew a massive 4,814-player field, when the full extent of the cheating was uncovered. No arrests have been made in the matter, nor has a final resolution been made regarding a possible distribution of more than $1.4 million in prize money to the event’s remaining players.
ATLANTIC CLUB DOORS CLOSE AFTER TUMULTUOUS FINAL YEAR
Atlantic City’s Atlantic Club Casino closed permanently on January 13th after court approval of an asset purchase by two AC competitors, Caesars and Tropicana. The Atlantic Club entered bankruptcy proceedings last year, shortly after backing out of a deal with PokerStars that could have kept the casino, Atlantic City’s oldest, open—pending regulatory approval for PokerStars, which may have been unlikely. The Tropicana claimed the gaming equipment while Caesars assumed ownership of the hotel and land itself in the accepted deal; the closing of the Atlantic Club itself resulted in layoffs for the casino’s approximately 1,800 workers.
PARTYPOKER SIGNS MARKETING DEAL WITH 76ERS, DEVILS
by Haley Hintze
WYNN RECEIVES MASSACHUSETTS APPROVAL FOR CASINO
Wynn Resorts emerged as the clear favorite of the developers of a Boston-area casino after the company was deemed “suitable” by Massachusetts gaming regulator. Wynn plans a $1.2 billion casino complex in Everett, an inner Boston suburb, but will likely have to outlast legal challenges by rival Caesars Entertainment, which had competed for the same single Eastern Massachusetts license, but was forced out over questionable and modest business ties to a suspect New York hotelier. Caesars responded to its ouster by suing a prominent Massachusetts gaming official with alleged close ties to Wynn, meaning that despite the recent Wynn approval, matters aren’t quite settled.
POKERSTARS CLAIMS CONFIDENCE IN INVESTING IN US ONLINE POKER MARKET IN 2014
by Shari Geller
As 2013 draws to a close it is time for our annual reflection on the stories that made news, whether for good or bad, in the world of poker over the past twelve months. From a new WSOP locale to the continued scrambling over the future of online poker, the return of some notorious names and the introduction of some new ones, 2013 was another eventful year.
The return of online poker in the US was both the biggest story of 2013 as well as the source of great disappointment to poker players. By year’s end, three states have managed to get regulated online poker sites operating to serve their residents, leaving 47 states where poker players cannot enjoy their favorite game in the privacy of their own homes.
Nevada became the first state to license and regulate online poker and had sites up and running by mid-year. Two sites, UltimatePoker. com and WSOP.com, are servicing local Nevada players, but the number of participants is a mere fraction of what Pre-Black Friday websites handled. Delaware followed Nevada as the second state in the country with statewide real-money online poker. Delaware had a soft launch on Halloween and by November, players physically located within the state were able to log on to one of three state-sanctioned sites; Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. New Jersey governor Chris Christie made a few friends for his expected future presidential run by finally signing legislation allowing New Jersey to allow online poker, and New Jersey has now outpaced Nevada and Delaware in the number of players who have signed up. But while those states overcame the many hurdles to bringing online poker to their residences, other states do not seem to be in any hurry to join them.
By Wendeen H. Eolis
Last week the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement finally announced that PokerStars' application for a gaming license has been suspended for two years—with one pointed equivocation. If the Company seeks relief from this suspension, based on appropriately “changed conditions” within the Company, the DGE says its license application may be reassessed sooner.
The DGE cites the unresolved indictment of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg as the "primary" cause for the decision. Insiders close to the regulator say there are various other management concerns in the mix, notably including questions as to Isai Scheinberg’s current involvement in Poker Stars. A settlement agreement between the Company and the U.S. Department of Justice, (arising from the Government’s prosecution, U.S. v Scheinberg et al April 15, 2011) presently prohibits Isai Scheinberg from assuming any leadership role in the Company.
Truths and Consequences
It is hard to imagine separating the Scheinberg name from PokerStars; it stands for immense technical know-how in the world of online poker security, an uncanny understanding of the poker business, exceptional responsiveness to customers' wants and needs, and impeccable financial integrity with its patrons. These are the hallmarks of Isai Scheinberg’s PokerStars and they continue to be at the heart of the Company’s operating philosophy with its customers, under his son Mark Scheinberg, say their legions of fans. The younger Scheinberg now holds the reins as CEO,
The Company’s detractors, however, debate PokerStars' business principles beyond the glow of customer satisfaction. Reports of uneven relationships and questions of fairness on the part of the Company in their arrangements with various corporate business partners and a large force of independent contractors surface periodically. So do complaints of a corporate strategy that promotes and endorses "uninformed accusations" of character deficiencies of successful competitors and others not in favor with the Scheinbergs. The chief gripe noted by several competitors and former service providers is "bad-mouthing that emanates from the top of the pyramid,”
by Haley Hintze
SEVEN NJ CASINOS GRANTED INTERNET GAMING APPROVAL
A late rush in approvals by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement saw seven of the state’s 12 casinos and a total of 13 online sites approved for the state’s soft launch of real-money online gaming, which began as scheduled on November 21st. The sites approved included www.Borgatacasino.com, www.Borgatapoker.com, www.NJ.Partypoker.com, www.HarrahsCasino.com, www.WSOP.com, us.888.com, us.888poker.com, us.888casino.com, www.CaesarsCasino.com, www.tropicanacasino.com, www.virgincasino.com, www.betfaircasino.com and www.ucasino.com. The late additions included six Caesars affiliated sites, with Caesars owning four of the state’s 12 land-based casinos.
VADIM TRINCHER, TWO SONS PLEAD GUILTY IN NYC GAMBLING CASE
Caesars Interactive Entertainment Launches Three Online Casino Websites for New Jersey Residents & VisitorsNovember 21, 2013 - 4:40pm
Marks 1st Time in U.S. that Caesars & Harrah’s Offer Real-Money Online Gaming
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (November 21, 2013) – On June 26, 1979, Caesars Atlantic City first opened its doors. Now 34 years later, a new era of gaming in New Jersey begins, as three online real-money gaming offerings under the Caesars umbrella begin entertaining New Jersey residents and visitors.
by Wendeen H. Eolis
As exclusively reported at pokerplayernewswpaper.com, on November 7th, PokerStars will not be part of the iGaming fraternity operating in New Jersey on its historic scheduled launch date of November 26th.
Look for statements from PokerStars and/or DGE pledging that the dance continues—but for more on the back story to this state of affairs, stay tuned to pokerplayernewspaper.com.
by Wendeen H. Eolis
The New Jersey gaming license application of Poker Stars has been a bruiser after a series of battles instigated and propelled by indignant opponents united under the umbrella of the American Gaming Association (AGA). But the fallout from the warring parties’ activities is far from over—regardless of the outcome on the PokerStars application this week.
The time worn precept that a zealous foe who seeks to bury his target had best to build two graves may apply here. The AGA has succeeded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in spotlighting PokerStars as a company that poses serious suitability issues in the context of New Jersey’s traditional casino licensing standards.
At the same time, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s disorganized and dragged out proceedings, have provided regulators in other jurisdictions quite the primer on potential pitfalls in licensing deliberations. Perhaps as important, regulators have been motivated to take a harder look at the suitability of potential licensees, even if already licensed elsewhere. This food for thought was not likely anticipated by other gaming companies now being held accountable to more stringent standards than ever before.