Pennsylvania Senate Passes State’s First iGaming Bill; Massachusetts Senator Slows Momentum

When legislative sessions commenced across the country to begin the year, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were considered likely candidates to legalize and regulate online gambling.

But after a whirlwind week of legislative action in both states, only Pennsylvania appears to be pushing forward on the iGaming front, with Massachusetts punting on the issue until next year.

On May 23, the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee passed H-271 via an 11-3 vote. That same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee also moved the bill – which calls for the regulation of online slots, casino games, poker, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) – forward by a 24-2 margin.

One day later, the full Senate voted 38-12 in favor of passing Pennsylvania’s first online gambling bill.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) – who sponsored his own iGaming legislation this year and has been a vocal supporter of the issue – spoke from the Senate floor on the importance of retaining iGaming enthusiasts and the revenue streams they create:

“To not have those folks, we lose business along those lines, but more importantly, we lose an opportunity, an opportunity to have people who would be playing in that space.”

The Senate estimates that online gambling license fees and yearly taxation will generate between $110 million and $147 million next year, badly needed funds that have already been earmarked by Governor Tom Wolf to help resolve the state’s budget deficit.

Those projections are largely based on licensing fees, which H-271 sets at $5 million apiece for online poker and casino platforms – and $10 million for operators choosing to offer both. With up to 12 iGaming licenses slated to be issued, one for each of the state’s current land-based gambling licensees, garnering an eight-figure sum should be an attainable goal.

However, by passing H-271 and not one of three other iGaming bills introduced this year, Pennsylvania opted for the highest proposed tax rate of 54 percent on slot/casino revenue (poker will be taxed at 16 percent). And as Steve Ruddock of Online Poker Report has pointed out, that enormous tax burden may be enough to force smaller sites to sit on the sidelines, as the current 17.5 percent tax on iGaming revenue in New Jersey allows operators to retain just 5 cents on every dollar earned.

The House of Representatives will review H-271 in June and add its own amendments, before voting to send the iGaming issue to Governor Wolf’s desk.

Unfortunately, players in Massachusetts will be forced to wait another year for iGaming to launch, after Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) halted all momentum on the issue:

In a recent interview with Boston Herald Radio, Rosenberg outlined the Senate’s strategic approach to handling the current push to regulate both online lottery sales alongside slots, casino games, and poker:

“Online lottery and online gaming are both issues that are being reviewed now to try to figure out how we manage the situation so we don’t hurt the Lottery.

And in the case of online gaming that we don’t hurt the casino industry we’re building in Massachusetts.
We could potentially act next year… potentially.”

The Massachusetts Senate passed an online lottery measure last year, but it eventually stalled within the House amidst concerns that internet sales would inordinately effect the state’s traditional lottery system.

The state did manage to sign a DFS bill into law last year, which triggered the creation of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports. The panel was tasked with studying the latest online lottery and iGaming bills introduced to begin 2017, and their recommendations are scheduled to be published on July 31.

Rosenberg has decided that the best course of action is to wait for the results of that report, before crafting new legislative language for introduction in 2018.

World Poker Tour Icon Mike Sexton Retires to Become Chairman of PartyPoker

After a 15-year career as commentator for the World Poker Tour (WPT), legendary poker ambassador Mike Sexton has called his last card game.

In a press release issued on May 22, the WPT announced that Sexton will retire from the commentary booth and return to PartyPoker, the online poker platform he helped to found in 2001.

A statement published on the PartyPoker Blog, on behalf of parent company GVC Holdings, stated that Sexton would take on the new role of company Chairman. Per the statement, Sexton’s duties will run the gamut from ambassadorship – as he will be tasked with “representing the global poker community” – to daily duties like software development consultation for the site, and growth of the PartyPoker Live tour.

Sexton released a statement which celebrated his historic run as the face of the WPT, while thanking the tour’s extended “family” of longtime employees:

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the World Poker Tour since its inception in 2002. When the World Poker Tour launched, it was a dream come true, and to be there from the beginning and see how the WPT changed the poker world forever by essentially turning poker into a televised sport has been amazing. And to do it all this time with my co-commentator from day one, Vince Van Patten, has made it even more special.

I’d like to thank Steve Lipscomb for his vision to create the World Poker Tour, Adam Pliska for bringing the WPT to incredible heights, and the entire WPT family for all they do and have given me. I’d like to mention everyone, but there’s simply too many to name. They know who they are, and without them, the WPT wouldn’t have become what it is today.”

Sexton’s statement also pointed out that he won’t be entirely absent from the WPT going forward.

After more than a decade spent competing in WPT events before calling final tables from the booth, the longtime poker pro finally etched his name on the tour’s Champion’s Cup last November. By virtue of his victory at WPT Montreal, Sexton is now eligible to compete in the WPT Tournament of Champions each year, ensuring that the iconic figure will be back in the mix on a regular basis.

Adam Pliska, chief executive officer of the WPT, praised the 69-year old Sexton for dedicating himself to the tour despite the demands of global travel:

“Today is a bittersweet day in WPT history. Mike, along with Vince Van Patten, is more than just a part of one of the longest-running commentating pairs in sports broadcast history. His graciousness, enthusiasm, passion, and genuine spirit are emblematic of all we have wished the World Poker Tour to be.

For years, we knew that this day would come, and the WPT is immensely grateful that Mike stuck it out for 15 years of nonstop travel and devoted work to the benefit of all of his colleagues. Mike will forever be a cherished member of the WPT family, and his impact will forever shape the core of this company and the entire industry.”

The WPT commentating torch was also passed seamlessly to professional player Tony Dunst, host of the tour’s Raw Deal segment for the last seven years.

Dunst, who won his own WPT title at Season XII’s Caribbean stop in 2013, added his thoughts on filling Sexton’s shoes to the company statement:

“While I have substituted for Mike and Vince several times over the years, getting the call to take a position in the WPT commentary booth full time is an incredible opportunity. Mike Sexton set the standard for what it means to be an ambassador, and the positive impact he had on my career and the broader poker community cannot be overstated.

I’m honored to be taking his seat in the booth next to the legendary Vince Van Patten; and while I intend to bring my own style to the position, Mike will be a lasting inspiration for how I carry myself and treat people within poker.”

Sexton departs ahead of the tour’s upcoming Season XVI, which officially began in April with a Beijing event, but really gets underway with the first televised tournament this August at the Choctaw stop in Oklahoma.

PokerStars Pays Out $39 Million to Host Highest-Volume Day in Online Poker History

In a press release issued on May 21, PokerStars predicted that the day would go on to become the largest in online poker history, with more than $28 million in guaranteed payouts on the line.

And after 1,275 tournaments were put in the books, PokerStars proudly proclaimed the record-breaking attempt to be a success, having smashed that guarantee by paying out over $39 million.

To achieve those results, PokerStars expanded its schedule of standard tournaments to coincide with the site’s 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) series and its three-tiered Main Event.

Like all SCOOP tournaments, the Main Event is divided into (L)ow, (M)edium, and (H)igh categories, with buy-ins set at $109, $1,050, and $10,300, respectively. The guaranteed prize pools for Sunday’s trio of Main Events were tabbed at $1.5 million (L), $3 million (M), and $5 million (H), and the High version guaranteed a first-prize payout of $1 million to the eventual winner.

The previous record for combined payouts in a single day was $35 million, set on May 22 of 2016 – when that year’s SCOOP series concluded.

Ahead of the May 21 record rush, Severin Rasset – who serves as director of poker innovations and operations for PokerStars – commented on the undeniable allure that massive guarantees hold for recreational players and professionals alike:

“This is a really special day for us and our players, which will go down in online poker history as a record breaking moment.

The huge prize pools on offer further cement our position as the biggest and the best and on Sunday when players compete for $28 million we will be delivering millions of winning moments too.”

And when the once lofty benchmark was surpassed by over $11 million, or more than 39 percent, Rasset was quick to thank PokerStars’ player base for turning out in record numbers:

“Thank you to all our players who participated in our tournaments making it possible for us to break these records. Being able to offer the biggest day in the online poker history is a victory for everyone in poker and we’re delighted that so many of our players joined us to make this a reality.

We are proud to have been able to provide so many winning moments to so many of our players and we’re looking forward to providing even more for a long time to come.”

Per the most recent press release, the 2017 SCOOP schedule generated $29.5 million of the $39 million in payouts distributed across the entire platform.

Those figures included the aforementioned Main Events and their $9.5 million in combined guarantees, along with the conclusion of three SCOOP-01 opening events.

Buy-ins for the (L), (M), and (H) tiers of SCOOP-1 were set at $11, $109, and $1,050, respectively, and each event was played out under PokerStars’ popular “Phase” format – allowing for multiple reentries over a series of starting flights spread throughout the schedule. The guaranteed prize pools for these three events were also in the seven-figures, set at $1 million (L), $1.5 million (M), and $5 million (H) to pump up SCOOP’s contribution to the new record.

The largest of these SCOOP-01 Phase tournaments was designed with a $1 million guarantee for the winner. In a rare show of cooperation, however, the last five players at the final table agreed to chop the remaining prize pool after surviving a massive field of 5,821 entrants.

Holding twice as many chips as his nearest competitor, Germany’s “girafganger7” claimed the lion’s share at $745,000, while none other than Gordon “holla@yoboy” Vayo actually won the tournament to take home $692,460. Playing from Canada to access PokerStars legally, the American-born Vayo is best known for his runner-up finish in last year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

As for the grand finale, the Main Event (H) final table concludes on May 23, and in an interesting twist for poker fans, decorated pros Harrison “gibler321” Gimble and Connor “blanconegro” Drinan are sitting in first and third on the chip leaderboard, respectively.

Gimble and Drinan are linked as prior winners of the Florida State Poker Championship, and both have recorded live cashes larger than the $1.35 million guaranteed prize for winning the SCOOP Main Event (H).

Wagering on Trump’s Term Ending Early Reaches Fever Pitch Online

During the height of last year’s presidential campaign, as political pundits roundly dismissed Donald Trump’s odds of winning as a laughable longshot, online betting markets like PredictIt largely predicted the upset outcome.

Today, in the wake of a disastrous week – one defined by the curiously timed firing of James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and a subsequent series of incriminating public comments – President Trump has seen his chances of completing a first term fall under 65 percent.

Per the PredictIt website, which offers real-time wagering on political elections and events, the price of a “No” contract on the question “Will Donald Trump be President at Year-End 2017?” fell to a low of 63 cents on May 17.

On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein revealed that former FBI Director Robert Mueller had been named as Special Counsel. In that role, Mueller will serve as an independent prosecutor, tasked with overseeing the federal government’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump, or members of his campaign, and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

Today, the PredictIt platform – which uses a pricing scheme ranging between $0.00 to $1.00 as a way of assessing odds – puts the likelihood of Trump leaving office before year’s end at 26 percent.

However, the exact method and means of that departure are less clear.

On the particular issue of impeachment in 2017, PredictIt bettors have moved the needle on Congressional action against the President from a peak of 33 percent on May 17 to 19 percent as of today.

Other online wagering sites are getting into the action as well, with Bovada spreading a series of Trump-based bets.

The most prominent among Bovada’s menu of Presidential wagers concerns the “exit date” for Trump. Bettors who think he’ll leave office in 2017 are getting (+150), while wagers on a 2018 departure come in at (+250). An exit date of 2019 is the longshot at (+700), and those who think Trump will survive the ongoing scandals until his term ends naturally in 2020 enjoy favorite status at (+130).

On the question of “Will Trump Complete a Full Term as POTUS?,” the Bovada oddsmakers favor “No” at (-160). When betting on Trump making it through four full years, Bovada offers an incentive of (+120).

Over on the Irish-based betting site Paddy Power, the initial impeachment odds of (+1600) when Trump was inaugurated have plummeted to just (+300).

Paddy Power spokesman Lee Price spoke with CNBC to offer comment on the historically narrowed odds on a Trump impeachment:

“We’ve been betting on impeachment for all recent U.S. presidents but, even at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton was only ever 6-1 to be impeached.”

The odds of Trump failing to complete his first term via any route are even better on Paddy Power, which offers (-150) on the President resigning, dying, or otherwise leaving office before 2020.

Election bettors may remember Paddy Power for an infamous snafu this past October, when the site made an early election call in Hillary Clinton’s favor – even going so far as to pay out more than $1 million in “winning” wagers before the November 8 vote. When Trump completed the historic upset, Paddy Power made good on the mistake and honored its Hillary-to-win wagers.

The U.K.-based sportsbook Betfair reported to MarketWatch that betting activity on Trump-related props has skyrocketed since the Comey firing and associated scandals.

On the day Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, Betfair spokesperson Katie Baylis told MarketWatch that the site now favors an early Trump exit:

“Overnight we’ve seen more than [£5,000] bet on Trump to leave before the end of his first term, and we expect to see a lot more bet today, with his odds now shortening from evens into 5/6.”

And many punters think it won’t be too long before he departs, with the odds of him leaving this year now into 12/5 from 11/2 – a 27 percent chance [up] from 16 percent before the latest allegations.”

Betting Guide for the 2017 Preakness Stakes

Of the two races that form the second and third legs of thoroughbred racing’s fabled Triple Crown, the upcoming Preakness Stakes holds one advantage over the later Belmont Stakes: Urgency.

The field of 20 horses that ran the Kentucky Derby two weeks back has been halved, and with a shot at Triple Crown glory secured, champion Always Dreaming will take center stage.

The oddsmakers at online sportsbook Bovada think he and jockey John Velazquez will take first place as well.

Always Dreaming (-125) has been installed as the heavy favorite, offering less than even money in fact, with only one day before the 142nd running of the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.”

The Todd Pletcher-trained thoroughbred has excelled since ascending to Grade 1 competition, dominating the Florida Derby in April by five lengths in his first elite-level race, before taking a wet and muddy Kentucky Derby by 2 ¾ lengths.

Classic Empire and jockey Julien Laparoux were actually listed by Bovada as narrow favorites ahead of the “Run for the Roses” – just ahead of Always Dreaming – but trainer Mark Casse and crew were forced to suffer through a fourth-place finish after an early bump by McCraken in the next lane.

As Casse told assembled media after the disappointing finish, track conditions and gate placement – both non-issues for the Preakness Stakes – led to Classic Empire’s lackluster race:

“We got wiped out at the start. That’s the problem with the auxiliary gate. … Classic Empire really got clobbered.

The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering.”

The weather conditions at Pimlico will bring a balmy Baltimore spring, so Classic Empire shouldn’t face the same start-related issues that caused the early legs of the Kentucky Derby to go awry.

With one day to go until the Preakness Stakes, the roles have obviously been reversed, so Classic Empire (+300) comes in at second on the Bovada betting board.

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are the only horses offering better than 10-1 odds, and racing from the fourth and fifth lanes, respectively, the rivals should see plenty of one another over the 9.5-furlong sprint.

The only horse to give Always Dreaming a run for his money at the Kentucky Derby was Lookin’ at Lee, who posted a late charge under jockey Corey Lanerie to finish in second place.

Accordingly, Bovada has Lookin’ At Lee (+1000) in third on its board, but the wide gap between him and Classic Empire in second suggests the winner’s circle is hard to find. The results back that up, as Lookin’ At Lee hasn’t recorded a first-place finish since August of last year – with seven non-wins in the interim.

Lookin’ At Lee can’t seem to get over the hump against Classic Empire either, recording a third-place run in the Arkansas Derby in April while his rival won, along with third- and fourth-place results in Breeders’ Cup races when Classic Empire crossed first.

The longshot category is occupied by no less than three horses, as Multiplier under jockey Joel Rosario, Term of Art under Jose Ortiz, and Senior Investment under Channing Hill are all tabbed as +3000 underdogs.

2017 Preakness Stakes Winner Odds at Bovada

Pole Position Horse (Jockey) Preakness Stakes Odds
1 Multiplier (Joel Rosario) +3000
2 Cloud Computing (Jose Castellano) +1200
3 Hence (Florent Geroux) +2000
4 Always Dreaming (John Velazquez) -125
5 Classic Empire (Julien Laparoux) +300
6 Gunnevera (Mike Smith) +1500
7 Term of Art (Jose Ortiz) +3000
8 Senior Investment (Channing Hill) +3000
9 Lookin’ At Lee (Corey Lanerie) +1000
10 Conquest Mo’ Money (Jorge Carreno) +1500

 

Amaya Changes Name to The Stars Group & Relocates to Toronto as Part of PokerStars-Focused Shift

In the wake of a tumultuous two years, PokerStars parent company Amaya Inc. has announced several significant shifts designed to rebuild its ailing brand.

According to a press release issued on May 12, Amaya will change its corporate name to The Stars Group Inc., while relocating from Montreal to new headquarters in Toronto.

Those changes aren’t final as of yet, but pending shareholder approval via a vote scheduled for the summer, Amaya intends to seek a continuance through the Ontario Business Corporations Act to effect the move.

In a conference call held on May 12, Amaya’s chief executive officer Rafi Ashkenazi told reporters that further emphasizing PokerStars was a prime motivation for the name change:

“As we undergo this transformation, we look to embrace the future of our business while also recognizing the incredible consumer goodwill and loyalty associated with our primary brand.”

Shareholder approval is expected to be a formality, given the widely-reported pressure applied by investors, many of whom have become increasingly concerned by Amaya’s connection to founder and former chief executive officer David Baazov.

After being charged with insider trading by Quebec authorities in March of last year, Baazov – who built Amaya into one of the world’s leading online gambling companies since its founding in 2004 – officially resigned all positions in August.

In December, Baazov spearheaded an acquisition bid valued at more than $4 billion, attempting to reclaim his former company and take it private. That effort, like most of Baazov’s recent financial dealings, eventually fell apart amidst concerns over viability, investor confidence, and even allegedly falsified links to wealthy backers.

Since assuming the mantle of CEO in November of last year, Ashkenazi has implemented an ambitious pivot, one predicated on maintaining the prestigious PokerStars brand – while simultaneously shifting from a poker- to casino-focused business model.

To that end, Ashkenazi directed a rollback of PokerStars’ player rewards program, prioritizing recreational players rather than high-volume professionals for the first time.

To expand the company’s non-poker offerings, Amaya added a daily fantasy sports (DFS) platform known as DraftStars in September of last year, followed by an online sportsbook component called BetStars three months later.

The PokerStars platform itself was also adapted to provide additional casino offerings, including the lottery-style Spin and Go tournaments, and a player rewards program based on random distribution rather than accumulated points.

The name change and move were made public amidst a series of sweeping adjustments to Amaya’s corporate hierarchy.

Robin Chhabra was poached from rival William Hill to take on the recently created role of chief corporate development officer, a hiring which was announced on May 3.

As a former director of strategy and corporate development for William Hill, Chhabra will be tasked with overseeing mergers and acquisition for The Stars Group beginning in September of this year.

On May 16, Amaya appointed Brian Kyle – former chief financial officer of Pivot Technology Solutions – to the same position. Former CFO Daniel Sebag – a staunch Baazov ally – resigned in January of this year, stepping down alongside his friend and confidant after 10 years at the post.

Kyle has extensive history working within the Canadian and American financial markets, and per a press release announcing his hiring he is expected to work from The Stars Group’s new Toronto headquarters.

Per the first quarter financials included with the announcement, Amaya posted overall revenue of $317.3 million in Q1 – good for a year-on-year increase of 10 percent. The company’s net earnings came in at $65.75 million, up 18.5 percent on the year.

In terms of poker-specific revenue, even with the widened scope of Amaya’s casino and sports product line, the company grew its poker take to $218.7 million for a slight 1.1 percent uptick.

The alternatives to poker are gaining steam though, as Amaya grew its share of casino players from 470,000 to 660,000 in Q1, while the sportsbook grew from 170,000 bettors to 280,000.

New York Senate Committee Advances Online Poker Bill to Full Senate Vote

New York has renewed its ongoing debate over online poker regulation after a May 9 voice vote by the Senate Finance Committee moved the state’s most recent proposal up the legislative ladder.

Sponsored by state senator John Bonacic (R-42), Senate Bill 3898 would create the regulatory framework required to offer legal online poker in New York. An almost identical bill introduced by Bonacic last year, S-5302, was passed by a 53-5 margin in June of last year, only to die in the state’s Assembly.

Following the most recent committee vote, which was the second such success for S-3898, Bonacic’s latest effort to legalize online poker in the Empire State returns to the full Senate for further consideration. Given the overwhelming support offered by the Senate last year, that legislative body’s passage of S-3898 is widely expected to be a foregone conclusion.

If and when that passage occurs, the online poker debate would be taken up by the Assembly. But despite optimistic comments offered recently by Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89) – who serves as chairman of the Assembly Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee – a repeat of 2016’s stalling may be in the cards.

On February 25, a local media outlet posted a two-part interview with Pretlow, who expounded on his renewed support for online poker. Pretlow had previously voiced concerns about potential cheating, and the ability of geolocation to effectively bar players attempting to access New York’s iGaming platforms from out of state.

In the interview with Andrew Whitman of news station FiOS-1, Pretlow recounted a trip to New Jersey to study that state’s iGaming industry as the impetus for his newfound support. Pretlow also predicted widespread support for online poker passage within the Assembly, based largely on his own political clout:

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason.

So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

Pretlow also observed that the 2016 delay was partially motivated by concern for protecting the state’s four newly built land-based casinos – three of which have since opened to the public – while stating that New York’s brick and mortar gambling industry was on-board with online poker:

“I didn’t want to put competition in there before they even opened their doors.

All four casinos have said they don’t have a problem with the state offering online poker-and the seven racinos are also eligible to be in partnership with organizations that handle online poker.”

Despite these earlier statements, however, Pretlow appears to be backtracking in terms of Assembly support.

In a series of tweets posted on May 9 by Whitman, who once again spoke with Pretlow just after the Senate Finance Committee’s vote, the FiOS-1 reporter revealed several newly raised concerns.

According to Whitman, Pretlow and his colleagues in the Assembly find themselves questioning the rapid pace of gambling expansion in the state, given the aforementioned land-based casino openings, and the passage of DFS regulations in August of last year. Whitman quotes Pretlow as asking, “are we making it too easy to gamble,” among other newly raised issues such as the current lack of tribal gaming involvement.

Pretlow told Whitman that he plans to meet with fellow Assembly members at some point soon to discuss these issues, while pointing out that time is of the essence.

The current legislative session concludes on June 22, giving lawmakers in New York just over a month’s time to approve online poker – or force another delay into 2018.

AGA Survey Says Nearly 75 Percent of Sports Fans Support Federal Legalization of Sports Betting

Anecdotal evidence showing that Americans oppose a blanket ban on sports betting has accumulated in recent years, but a recent survey commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA) provided conclusive data.

The mixed-mode survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of the AGA – the largest lobby organization working on behalf of the casino and sportsbook industries – in late January of this year. In total, a main sample of 1,200 adults was polled by phone, along with an oversample of 400 “avid sports fans” who were polled online.

The survey framed its questions around the concept of sports betting legalization, which it defined as repealing the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992, and allowing individual states to authorize their own regulated sports betting industry.

In an April 24 report entitled “Legalizing Sports Betting: A Winning Wager,” the research firm informed the AGA that 72 percent of avid sports fans support legalization – putting frequent sports viewers at the top in terms of groups polled.

Avid sports fans were defined as those who self-reported a higher frequency of game viewership and/or attendance, along with other factors like regular purchases of memorabilia.

Casual sports fans support legalization by a 54 percent to 36 percent margin, and even respondents who identified as non-sports fans support overturning PAPSA at a 45 percent to 42 percent clip.

Overall, 55 percent of average Americans support legalization, while 35 percent prefer PAPSA’s status quo, and 10 percent consider themselves to be undecided on the issue.

In the report’s introductory section, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research provided a concise appraisal of the survey’s sum results:

“Support for expanded sports betting has gained traction in recent years in the legal system and among key stakeholders including league officials and elected officials.

A national survey of American adults confirms that this momentum extends to the public as well: by a 20-point margin, Americans support changing PAPSA to allow individual states to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting in their own state.

Support for legalization extends across lines of party, race, gender, and geography, and includes both sports fans, who enthusiastically support legalization, and non-sports fans, a plurality of whom support changing the law.”

The survey revealed several demographical divergences between various groups, such as a wide gap between the support of men (65 percent) and women (46 percent).

In terms of age, 62 percent of respondents under the age of 50 support legalization, while only 47 percent of those 50 and up held the same view.

Youth isn’t a surefire predictor of sports betting support, however, as the highest level of favorability came from the 30-39 age group at 65 percent, just beating out the 40-49 demographic at 62 percent.

On the other hand, senior citizens aged 65 and up expressed the strongest level of opposition to legal sportsbooks at 45 percent.

In fact, the 18-29 demographic was third among the five age tiers, with 59 percent of teens and twenty-somethings supporting legalization.

Predictably, religious preferences played a major role in respondents’ views on the issue. Forty-four percent of those who reported “regular religious activity” oppose legalization – second only to senior citizens. Even so, 46 percent of the regular religion demographic came out in support of legalization, once again showing that PAPSA’s popularity has waned considerably even among ostensible allies.

When asked if they would begin betting on sports should their state legalize the industry, 12 percent of Americans reported that they’d be “more than likely” to place wagers in the future.

That figure equates to 28 million American adults potentially visiting legal sportsbooks in the event of a PAPSA repeal.

WSOP Partners with Poker Central for Expanded Live Coverage on ESPN; November Nine is No More

In an exclusive partnership announced on May 15, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has joined forces with Poker Central to provide same-day coverage of the entire Main Event.

Poker Central’s acquisition of global television and digital media rights is set to last four years, during which time broadcasts of the WSOP will remain on ESPN and ESPN-2.

Among the major changes highlighted in a press release announcing the deal is the abolishment of the “November Nine” concept.

Under the controversial November Nine format – which debuted in 2008 at the behest of former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollock – the Main Event final table was suspended for nearly four months, before resuming at the Rio casino in Las Vegas for a nearly live broadcast.

This built-in delay is unlike any other in poker, and has routinely been assailed by pros, fans, and media members as an affront to the game’s World Championship and its 48-year history.

Under the terms of the Poker Central agreement, the WSOP will now broadcast the Main Event in sync with its actual schedule, using a nearly live format that follows the 30-minute time delay mandated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).

Thus, viewers following along on ESPN, ESPN-2, or Poker Central’s live streaming outlets can catch Day 1A action beginning on July 8, followed by semi-daily broadcasts over the next two weeks.

Once the final table has been set on July 17, the remaining nine players will take a two-day break, before reconvening to play out the final in three phases between July 20-22.

Full scheduling information has yet to be finalized, so fans should visit the Poker Central, WSOP, or ESPN websites for full information before coverage kicks off on July 8.

Ty Stewart, who serves as executive director for the WSOP, commented on the importance of maintaining a lasting connection with ESPN:

“ESPN has been our home since 2002, and we’re delighted to extend the relationship into the next decade.

Having every day live coverage of the WSOP Main Event is truly a huge commitment on behalf of ESPN and Poker Central, and we look forward to delivering to our faithful audience wall-to-wall action from the outset for the very first time.”

Dan Ochs, director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, echoed that sentiment while noting poker’s position as a sport:

“The World Series of Poker has been a longstanding staple of ESPN programming. We are pleased to reach an agreement to continue to carry the sport’s most prominent event and modernize our coverage with the new same day live coverage throughout July each year.”

Poker Central’s chief digital officer J.R. McCabe praised his company’s expansion as the exclusive provider of WSOP media content:

“We are thrilled to add the preeminent poker brand, the World Series of Poker, to our growing portfolio of poker-related content.

We have major plans to reinvent the WSOP offering to greatly expand how, when and where fans of the game of poker can watch and engage with the game.”

Poker fans can look forward to Main Event coverage expected to span 40 hours, along with 130 hours of additional Poker Central-produced original programming.

In an exclusive interview with Frank Op de Woerd of PokerNews, Stewart outlined the planned scope of that non-Main Event content:

“We’re going to be one of the summer’s ultimate binge-watch programs on the No. 1 sports channel in the world and that definitely falls under the header of “good for poker.”

But we also have a commitment to produce 16 edited shows beyond the ‘mini-series’ stunt which will air around 100 times around the year on ESPN and ESPN2. So we’re not walking away from the gold standard episodes, we’re just layering on a material increase in live coverage for the Main Event.”

National League Pennant Betting Futures

At this point in the year all 15 members of the National League have completed at least 30 games, putting almost one-fifth of the regular season in the books.

Accordingly, the NL pennant race has been clarified by fast starts and faceplants. Six clubs have staked themselves to an inside track, while the rest of the NL has fallen flat to begin the summer.

At the moment, online sportsbook Bovada is playing things close to the vest, installing the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs (+200) as the clear favorites.

The Cubbies haven’t lived up to their curse-busting run of 2016 – compiling a middling 17-17 record to find themselves in fourth place in the NL Central – but Bovada likes Chicago to rebound while riding horses like Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Kyle Hendricks back to the promised land.

They’ve only dug a hole of 2.5 games thus far, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Cubs reclaim the Central lead by the All-Star break, or even before. That seems to be Bovada’s guess too, as the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals (+700) offer pennant odds that are 3.5 times worse.

The Washington Nationals (+350) appear chosen to challenge Chicago for the pennant, and with a 22-12 record, their 5.5-game lead in the NL East puts them on the fast track to the postseason.

The only other team in the East capable of making it a race would be the New York Mets (+1000), but while Bovada still likes their chances, a 16-17 record and constant team turmoil suggest that the Nats’ path to a division title will be unimpeded this year.

The division race in the NL West is a bit more heated, with the upstart Colorado Rockies (+900) sitting 2.5 games up on the Los Angeles Dodgers (+450). Once again though, Bovada doesn’t seem to believe in the sustainability of hot starts, giving the Rockies and their NL-leading 23-13 record doubled pennant odds compared to the 20-15 Dodgers.

The only other team pegged at better than 28 to 1 is the Arizona Diamondbacks (+1600). Coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign which saw the Snakes finish 69-93, Arizona has been buoyed by a managerial change – with Red Sox alum Torey Lovullo taking the reigns – while the return of All-Star centerfielder A.J. Pollock has solidified the lineup.

From there, Bovada’s current assessment of the NL is of a league in shambles.

Playoff teams from last year like the San Francisco Giants (+3300) and the aforementioned Mets have sorely disappointed.

In fact, the Giants have posted the worst winning percentage in all of baseball at 12-24 for a .333 clip. Bettors in search of a viable longshot may consider the boys from the Bay, however, as the return of ace Madison Bumgarner from a freak dirt bike injury, coupled with manager Bruce Bochy’s steady presence, could foretell a second-half surge.

And on the other side of the spectrum, Bovada has already virtually written off four teams, with the Milwaukee Brewers (+10000), Philadelphia Phillies (+15000), San Diego Padres (+15000), and Atlanta Braves (+15000) all offering 100-1 odds or worse.

As such, the lineup of pennant contenders has been thinned out, leaving only five teams with better than 10 to 1 odds of winning the NL.

2017 National League Pennant Odds

Team NL Pennant Odds on 5/12
Chicago Cubs +200
Washington Nationals +350
Los Angeles Dodgers +450
St. Louis Cardinals +700
Colorado Rockies +900
N.Y. Mets +1000
Arizona Diamondbacks +1600
Cincinnati Reds +2800
San Francisco Giants +3300
Pittsburgh Pirates +3300
Miami Marlins +5000
Milwaukee Brewers +10000
Philadelphia Phillies +15000
San Diego Padres +15000
Atlanta Braves +15000