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Poker News: Zynga Shifts Focus to Real Money, Eyes Nevada License and more

by Haley Hintze


 Leading smart-phone application developer, Zynga, maker of the widely popular Facebook app, Zynga Poker+, has formally applied to the Nevada Gaming Commission in hopes of offering real-money poker services in that state. Zynga hopes to convert its millions of play-poker fans to real poker, and has also reached a separate UK-based deal with bwin.party to offer real-money services there. Zynga’s move comes in the face of declining stock values and the need to further monetize its extensive social-networking brand awareness; the firm also markets the popular Farmville and Words with Friends apps, among several dozen prominent titles. Zynga Poker boasts four times as many active play-money players as leading online site PokerStars, according to one measuring site.


 Full Tilt shareowner Rafael “Rafe” Furst, who served on the board of Tiltware, LLC, the controlling entity for Full Tilt Poker, has reached a civil settlement with Department of Justice officials after being targeted for an $11.7 million forfeiture in connection with the US’s “Black Friday” crackdown against Full Tilt and other US-facing sites. Furst agreed to a $150,000 fine in addition to surrendering the unspecified contents of the Telamonian Ajax Trust, a Swiss bank account through which Furst received his Full Tilt disbursements. Furst claimed no knowledge of wrongdoing in connection with his role at Full Tilt, while the company’s three other board directors, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Ray Bitar, continue to battle larger forfeiture actions, each in excess of $40 million.


 A recent Wall Street Journal report cites former US-facing online poker site PokerStars as being in “advanced talks” to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino, a smallish gambling property located on Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk. Though the reported price tag (under $50 million) is tiny by casino-property standards, the purchase represents a possible point of reentry for Stars into the US market if the deal is finalized and approved by state regulators. PokerStars has invested in brick-and-mortar properties elsewhere, in both Macau and Great Britain.


 Caesars Entertainment Corp, parent company of the World Series of Poker and several prominent casino brands, has won preliminary approval from a Nevada Gaming Commission hearing board to provide online poker to Nevada resident, beginning in 2013. If approved by the full NGC on December 20th, Caesars may roll out several online brands. In addition to the WSOP, Caesars properties include Harrah’s, Caesars Palace, Horseshoe, Bally’s, and Planet Hollywood.


 A revised version of New Jersey Assembly Bill A2578, which authorizes several forms of online gambling, including poker, is set for legislative votes after being re-introduced in early December. The latest version of the bill also removes “bad actor” provisions which could have preemptively hindered former US-facing poker sites such as PokerStars, which has separately entered negotiations to purchase an Atlantic City casino. The latest version of A2578 is set for Assembly and Senate votes on Dec. 17th and 20th, respectively, before moving on to a possible signature or veto by NJ Governor Chris Christie.


 Lottery directors from seven states traveled to Washington DC in early December to voice their opposition for provisions of the Reid/Kyl online gambling bill that would limit states’ abilities to offer online lottery sales. The seven states represented include Kentucky, Idaho, Washington, Missouri, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Iowa. The opposition of the directors, with the nearunanimous support of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, joins similar anti-Reid/Kyl positions taken by the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures, all of which have protested the possible impact of Reid-Kyl on states’ rights regarding gambling matters.

 Veteran poker-industry writer/editor Haley Hintze is the author of an upcoming book on the Absolute Poker and UltimateBet online cheating scandals, to be released later this year.

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