CAD$1.2 Million Bad Beat Jackpot Hit on $1/$2 NLHE Table at Montreal’s Playground Poker Club

In a typical No-Limit Hold’em cash game played at $1/$2 stakes, players can realistically hope to drag a few hundred dollars in a big hand – if the cards cooperate.

But on August 17, when the deck delivered a dastardly beat to crack Elphege Delarosbil’s four of a kind, the Canadian cash game player collected an astounding CAD$460,149 (USD$366,462).

The epic pot was contested between Delarosbil and Shane Galle at Playground Poker Club in Montreal.

The two players, along with a third interloper, saw the flop come down Jc-6h-9s – which hit Delarosbil’s Jh-Jd perfectly for top set. Galle, meanwhile, held Qs-10s for nothing but a gutshot straight draw.

The action checked around to bring the Js on the turn, improving Delarosbil to a seemingly unbeatable four of a kind in jacks. But the turn also gave Galle a single out, as the 10s on the river would complete a runner-runner straight flush.

Of course, that exact card happened to hit the felt on fifth street, sending the Playground Poker Club into a frenzy when Delarosbil and Galle showed their hands down.

By overcoming a hand ranked at quad eights or higher, Galle had triggered the venue’s long-standing bad beat jackpot – valued at CAD$1,210,989 (USD$964,431) after a six-month stretch without hitting.

As a reward for holding the losing end – in a pot that appeared to contain about CAD$50 or so – Delarobsil was awarded 40 percent of the jackpot total for a CAD$460,149 (USD$366,462) score.

Galle took home a CAD$230,088 (USD$183,242) prize for applying the bad beat.

The pair weren’t the only winners, however, as Playground Poker Club generously allots 20 percent of its bad beat jackpot as a “table share.” This sent payouts of CAD$32,870 ($USD26,177) to each player seated at the table alongside Delarobsil and Galle.

And to cap off the festivities, every player actively seated in the room when the climactic confrontation occurred earned CAD$1,224 (USD$974) as part of the 20 percent “room share.”

Confetti rained down from the ceiling as onlookers crowded around the table to see the rare sight for themselves. For a few minutes, Playground Poker Club resembled a raucous nightclub rather than a card room, as players celebrated the rare feat – and their own financial good fortune.

Using a progressive system, Playground Poker Club begins its Primary Bad Beat Jackpot with a seed of CAD$250,000 (USD$199,100).

At that point, the minimum losing hand needed to qualify stands at four of a kind in aces, and that threshold lasts over a four-week period. From there, if the jackpot hasn’t been hit, the qualifying hand moves down in rank to quad kings.

Every four weeks without a winner sees the qualifying hand downgraded by one rank, and after 25 weeks the quad eights level is reached. At that point, quad eights remain the standard until the correct cards and in-game criteria are met.

According to Playground Poker Club representatives, the bad beat jackpot had been stuck on quad eights for several weeks – meaning it had been at least 30 weeks since being hit.

The Stars Group CEO Outlines Strategy to Push “Sharks” Out of PokerStars in Bloomberg Profile

In a profile published August 11 by Bloomberg, the chief executive officer of PokerStars parent company The Stars Group confirmed the worst fears of many professional players.

Rafi Ashkenazi was named interim CEO of The Stars Group – a Canadian iGaming firm which was formerly known as Amaya Inc. – in March of last year, before officially taking on the position last November.

Ashkenazi offered quotes for the Bloomberg article, titled “Poker Site Wants Card Sharks to Fold So the Rest of Us Can Win,” while speaking with author Sandrine Rastello. In doing so, Ashkenazi seemed to support Rastello’s introduction to the growing divide between PokerStars and pros:

“PokerStars has a stern, and unusual, message for some of its most passionate clients: Quit winning so much.

PokerStars says these gamblers – semi-professional types who play hand after hand day and night – became a problem after they grew too numerous and have taken advantage of the thousands of novice bettors who account for the lion’s share of all wagers made on the world’s largest poker website.”

Sick of being dominated, the amateurs cut back on the hands they play. So for the owners of PokerStars … driving out the sharks is a crucial step in their effort to jumpstart growth in a business that has been sputtering.”

Ashkenazi shifted the focus somewhat in the quote that immediately followed, casting PokerStars’ plans as catering to recreational players, but he didn’t deny the author’s premise of a pushback against pros:

“(They) want to enjoy the game as a fun entertainment experience that offers many winning moments and the dream of the big payout.”

Severin Rasset, who serves as director of operations and innovation for The Stars Group, was less nuanced in his assessment of PokerStars’ ongoing shift:

“We were starting to have too many professional players for what we could maintain for a good, healthy ecosystem.”

The former Amaya acquired PokerStars in June of 2014 at a cost of $4.9 billion, and since that time, the company has pivoted many of its traditional business and marketing models away from the previous focus on pros.

As part of an overall strategy to remove the company’s reliance on that small community of high-volume customers, PokerStars announced a series of overhauls to its VIP program in November of 2015. Among the reforms which went into effect in 2016 were the replacement of Frequent Player Points (FPPs) with a new rewards system known as Stars Coin.

By capping the level of FPP rewards at 30 percent, PokerStars also stripped down its once vaunted Supernova and Supernova Elite VIP tiers. This effectively devalued the heavy volume of play professionals like PokerStars Team Pro Luca Moschitta once used to famously “purchase” a pair of high-powered Porsche sports cars in 2012.

In an interview with PokerNews published shortly after Moschitta’s 8 million FPPs were exchanged for 350 horsepower, the Italian pro described how the previous system served to incentivize nearly constant play at up to 24 tables simultaneously:

“When I decided to become a Supernova Elite player, that year I started with 80,000 VPP in May and made 920,000 VPP in eight months playing €100 heads-up Sit-and-gos! I was playing around the clock, multi-tabling 9-to-12 heads-up sit-and-gos — it was crazy! That year I made tons of VPP, still made profit and became the youngest Supernova Elite in the world ever.

There are just about 300 Supernova Elite in the world of 50 million total accounts on PokerStars. Being a Supernova Elite is like getting a poker license. Of course, it’s also about earning €100K every year of bonus with FPP as extra profit.”

Those changes to PokerStars’ VIP programs, coupled with a wider emphasis on luck-based lottery-style products like the Spin & Go tournament, prompted immediate backlash within the pro community.

Two boycotts were organized, with players abstaining from major tournament series, and former Team Pro Isaac Haxton resigned his position with the company. Haxton posted a statement to the 2+2 poker forum in which he accused PokerStars of pulling the proverbial rug out from under Supernova and Supernova Elite players:

“I believe PokerStars is behaving unethically.

There’s a lot not to like about these most recent changes and the way they’ve been communicated, but there’s one aspect that I just can’t accept.

Announcing in November that players who earned Supernova and Supernova Elite status in 2015 will not receive the benefits they had expected in 2016 strikes me as dishonest and unfair.”

PokerStars continues to tinker with its VIP program, and Haxton is currently castigating his former employer via regular Twitter feeds, but as Ashkenazi made clear in the Bloomberg piece, PokerStars hasn’t blinked.

Australian Senate Makes Online Poker Ban Official; PokerStars Set to Depart in September

Despite an ongoing inquiry into the matter, on August 9 the Australian Senate used a simple voice vote to complete a federal ban of online poker.

The Senate voted to authorize a legislative package known as the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB) of 2016, which also prohibits online casino gaming and “in-play” wagers placed during live sporting events.

The IGAB was introduced last November by Mitch Fifield, who serves as Minister of Communications, after governmental inquiry titled Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering. The report concluded that offshore iGaming sites in Australia were flouting restrictions against certain advertising practices, while offering in-play wagering which is already banned under federal law.

In response, Fifield’s IGAB sought to amend that law – known as the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001 – by clarifying statutory language regarding iGaming regulations and associated enforcement.

Lawmakers also took aim at internet casinos, arguing that the original IGA specified sports betting as the only legal form of online gambling. However, in doing so, they crafted the new amendments to cover all non-sports related wagers, effectively including online poker in the IGAB’s ban.

When it became clear that the new law would outlaw online poker, Senator David Leyonhjelm – the sole member of the libertarian-inspired Liberal Democratic Party to hold a Senate seat – called on his colleagues to reexamine the law’s purview. Leyonhjelm argued that online poker was a game of skill, rather than gambling as referred to by the IGA, and pointed out that the Senate never intended to ban online poker when writing the bill.

Working alongside a grassroots lobby group formed by players called the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), Leyonhjelm compelled the Senate to hold an inquiry into the issue, with the public invited to submit written testimony as to their views of online poker.

On August 1 the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee commenced a hearing to investigate the online poker ban, but eight days later, the debate was ended via voice vote – before that hearing had even produced its findings.

AOPA spokesman Joseph Del Duca issued a statement in response to the Senate’s sudden change of course:

“The Australian poker community should be very proud of how they have held themselves through the campaign.

We have rallied together as a strong community. The inquiry has received so many submissions from people who want to save our game that they haven’t been able to keep up with the work load.”

Del Luca also urged his fellow online poker players to continue the fight to preserve their iGaming rights in the future:

“Whilst it was unfortunate that the government did not wait for the Senate Inquiry findings to come through, we urge Australian poker players to not give up hope. Our game is not dead and we will continue to campaign for safe, legal online poker when the Senate Inquiry is handed down.

Our call for a safe, regulated online poker market in Australia is still the only option that provides freedom for players, revenue for the government and protection for those in need.”

Even as major operators like 888 Poker have already fled the Australian market, industry leader PokerStars has held firm, waiting to see if the AOPA’s last-ditch effort produced results.

On the latest news, PokerStars sent an email to its Australian player base to confirm that the site would indeed be withdrawing its real-money services:

“We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade.

We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again.

We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.”

The mid-September date is based on the 30-day enforcement window called during the Senate’s passage, which would see online poker made illegal on September 9. However, the IGAB must still receive royal assent to become the law of the land, so that timeframe remains flexible.

PokerStars will continue to offer play-money versions of its games to players in Australia, and all player account funds will remain available for withdrawal.

Looking Ahead to NFL Futures Odds for the NFC Championship

As the NFL preseason rolls onward, the football world turns its collective attention to the real deal – when 16 games and a grueling postseason will send two teams to Super Bowl 52.

One of those teams will represent the NFC as conference champions, and based on the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada, it really is anybody’s race to win.

As of today, the last four teams left standing in last season’s NFC championship bracket – the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, and Dallas Cowboys – are all favorites to repeat their respective runs.

The Packers lead the way at (+400), but they’re trailed closely by the Seahawks (+500), Falcons (+600), and Cowboys (+650).

Last time around, Green Bay couldn’t keep up with the high-octane Atlanta offense, falling 44-21 in a conference championship blowout. But in the wake of Atlanta’s shocking Super Bowl collapse – in which the Falcons infamously blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead to the New England Patriots – Bovada gives the Pack a slight edge given the “hangover” expectations.

To make that matchup happen, the Packers and Falcons defeated the Cowboys and Seahawks, respectively – but both teams are in the mix to make another playoff run.

Interestingly enough, the Cowboys didn’t see their odds drop off after breakout running back sensation Ezekiel Elliott was recently handed a six-game suspension for off-field conduct.

The number for “America’s Team” stood at (+600) when opening lines were released in late July, and it’s barely budged on the suspension news. This is possibly due to Elliott’s pending appeal, but with the young star still expected to sit for at least four games, Dallas may see its odds fall a bit further before Week 1.

In Seattle, training camp reports of discord between defensive superstar Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson, and head coach Pete Carroll haven’t impacted their chances in the books’ view. In fact, they’ve improved slightly from July’s (+600) mark through today.

The only other team offering better than 10 to 1 odds is the New York Giants at (+900).

The boys from Big Blue made the playoffs last year, only to suffer through a bad 38-13 blowout at Lambeau Field – and subsequent questions about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s “boat party” snafu. Beckham Jr. has been putting on a show during training camp, and with two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning calling plays, he should have plenty of passes with which to redeem himself.

After that, the NFC is quite muddled at the moment, with no less than six teams bunched together between (+1400) and (+2000).

The Arizona Cardinals (+1400) and Carolina Panthers (+1400) are veteran-laden teams with their championship window on the verge of closing.

The Minnesota Vikings (+1600) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1600) are essentially mirror images of one another, after the Vikes were praised as last season’s upstart squad. Unfortunately for Minnesota, a season-ending injury to young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ended those hopes in a hurry, but he’ll be back this season looking to rebound.

This season’s “it team” is Tampa Bay, as head coach Dirk Koetter and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston look to take the leap in their third year together.

The New Orleans Saints (+2000) and Philadelphia Eagles (+2000) are each coming off disappointing 7-9 campaigns, but both have talented enough rosters to give them a puncher’s chance in the playoffs.

Check the table below for every NFC team’s current odds of representing the conference in Super Bowl 52:

Team NFC Title Odds on 8/15
Green Bay Packers +400
Seattle Seahawks +500
Atlanta Falcons +600
Dallas Cowboys +650
New York Giants +900
Arizona Cardinals +1400
Carolina Panthers +1400
Minnesota Vikings +1600
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1600
New Orleans Saints +2000
Philadelphia Eagles +2000
Washington Redskins +2500
Detroit Lions +2800
Chicago Bears +7500
Los Angeles Rams +7500
San Francisco 49ers +10000

 

 

Looking Ahead to NFL Futures Odds for the AFC Championship

With NFL preseason action underway, the time has come for bettors and books alike to look ahead at the eventual conference championships.

Only one team from the AFC can play their way to Super Bowl 52, but before securing a spot in the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet, first they must claim the conference crown. And that’s no easy feat, requiring survival through a brutal 16-game regular season, a wild-card berth or division title to make the postseason, and two or three hard-fought playoff victories to pull it off.

According to the latest odds posted by the online sportsbook Bovada, the 2017 AFC conference title race is a one-horse affair – as the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are placed far ahead of the pack with (+175) odds. That gives bettors backing Brady and Belichick to make a historic eighth Super Bowl run less than 2 to 1 on their money.

The Patriots would’ve likely been overwhelming favorites as it is, but following a preseason which saw several potential challengers bitten by the injury bug, their juggernaut status has only been inflated.

An AFC East upstart was devastated by the dreaded starting quarterback injury, when the Miami Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill to a non-contact knee injury – his second season-ender in less than a year. And while emergency replacement Jay Cutler’s familiarity with head coach Adam Gase’s offense will be useful, Bovada dropped the Dolphins from (+2500) opening odds in July to (+4000) entering the regular season.

The Indianapolis Colts haven’t lost their quarterback quite yet, but Andrew Luck has extended rehab on his injured throwing shoulder much longer than had been anticipated. His status for Week 1 remains murky, leading the Colts to drop from (+1400) to (+1800).

Joe Flacco, the leader of a Baltimore Ravens team that has been the only consistent rival to Patriots playoff runs, finds himself nursing a back injury. Accordingly, the Ravens are ranked eighth among the pack of contenders to dethrone New England at (+2000).

As for the teams that seem to have a shot, at least according to the books, the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers are both offering (+600) – making them the only other two teams better than 12 to 1 against.

Oakland looked like a powerhouse in the making last season, only to see their playoff hopes derailed by a late-season injury to quarterback Derek Carr. With the emerging star signal-caller back in the fold and fully returned to form, the Raiders have reclaimed their swagger heading into 2017.

Pittsburgh had a chance to win the AFC back in January, but the Steelers simply couldn’t compete with the Patriots during a 36-17 romp in the title game. The roster returns largely intact, putting Pittsburgh in pole position for yet another AFC Championship Game appearance.

A trio of perennial playoff teams to consider as potential dark horses can be had at (+1200), as the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Houston Texans all occupy the same rung on the odds ladder.

The Broncos and Texans have quarterback questions to settle, with second-year starter Paxton Lynch and rookie Deshaun Watson at the helm, respectively. And the Chiefs are forced to ask if check-down artist Alex Smith has already reached the peak of his potential, following an embarrassing 18-16 defeat to the Steelers, who used six field goals to surpass Kansas City’s offensive output.

All told, the AFC appears to be stratified according to the usual structure – with the Patriots reigning supreme, and everyone else simply hoping for an upset opportunity.

Check the table below for every AFC team’s current odds of representing the conference in Super Bowl 52:

Team AFC Title Odds on 8/15
New England Patriots +175
Oakland Raiders +600
Pittsburgh Steelers +600
Denver Broncos +1200
Kansas City Chiefs +1200
Houston Texans +1200
Indianapolis Colts +1800
Tennessee Titans +1800
Baltimore Ravens +2000
Los Angeles Chargers +2000
Cincinnati Bengals +2500
Miami Dolphins +4000
Jacksonville Jaguars +4000
Buffalo Bills +6600
Cleveland Browns +10000
New York Jets +10000

 

Questions Remain After National Indian Gaming Association Joins AGA’s American Sports Betting Coalition

Two months after the group was formed, the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC) has brought the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) on board.

The ASBC was launched by the American Gaming Association (AGA) in June to lobby for the legalization of sports betting on the federal level – specifically through repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992.

Charter members of the ASBC include a wide range of sports betting stakeholders, including the AGA’s Illegal Gambling Advisory Board, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In adding the NIGA – which represents 184 gaming operator tribes nationwide – the ASBC broadens its base of support.

Ernie Stevens Jr., who serves as chairman of the NIGA, issued a statement announcing the new alliance.

“We are pleased to announce that the National Indian Gaming Association will be joining the AGA’s Coalition on Sports Betting, which will enable us to coordinate with and provide feedback to the AGA with regard to tribal gaming concerns as the coalition advances its policy objectives.”

But Stevens Jr. was quick to note that the NIGA isn’t necessarily joining the ASBC out of support for sports betting regulation, but rather to remain at the center of any federal reforms that would impact their own gaming ventures:

“Of chief concern to NIGA is to ensure that tribal interests are protected, particularly avoidance of any negative impacts on existing compacts and exclusivity clauses.

As one of the key stakeholders in these discussions we want to ensure that if legalized, our members have the opportunity to offer this activity as part of their overall entertainment package and as an additional source of revenue for tribal government gaming to promote tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

For his part, AGA president and chief executive officer Geoff Freeman pointed to the NIGA as an important factor in tipping the scales towards a PAPSA repeal:

“We have a window of opportunity to get this done and the National Indian Gaming Association is critical to making it happen.

Tribal engagement will help to move the needle forward and as the industry further unites, we will be able to end the failing ban on sports betting and allow our industry to grow.”

While the newfound support of the NIGA is noteworthy, the group doesn’t represent every tribe with gaming interests.

In total, 480 gambling venues across 29 states are operated by 244 tribes – leaving 60 tribes outside of the NIGA’s purview.

Several well-known gaming operators – such as the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots of Connecticut, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California – are counted as AGA / ASBC supporters.

But the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), a coalition consisting of 31 tribes, has come out against any expansion of legalized gambling.

And the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), which encompasses 25 tribes, is currently studying the issue before deciding on an official stance.

Opponents of PAPSA repeal claim that legalizing sports betting – which isn’t covered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 – would violate state gaming compacts.

These divisions prompted Legal Sports Report to ask the AGA how its ASBC intends to form a consensus among tribes, to which spokesperson Steve Doty responded with the following pledge:

“We want to work with the tribes, Ernie Stevens and NIGA to find a solution that works for everybody.”

Scores Strip Club Launches Online Casino in New Jersey

The online gambling industry in New Jersey continues to grow, as Manhattan-based gentleman’s club Scores launched its casino platform earlier this month.

ScoresCasino.com became the 16th iGaming brand to be established in the Garden State, but it’s the first to be backed by a company with no prior affiliation to gaming.

The strip club – which operated a venue in Atlantic City between 2013 and last year – joined forces with Pala Interactive to create what is essentially a “skin” of the latter’s existing iGaming sites.

Pala Interactive – which encompasses online casino, poker, and bingo sites – is owned and operated by the Pala Band of Mission Indians, a tribe based near San Diego, California. PalaCasino.com was launched in 2014, before an associated poker room opened midway through last year.

ScoresCasino.com utilizes the same software as Pala Interactive, meaning players have access to the same menu of more than 220 table games and slots. And just like Pala Interactive, the new site is operated under the Borgata’s interactive gaming license.

The Borgata license group now includes eight destinations, with ScoresCasino.com joining BorgataCasino.com, Borgatapoker.com, NJ.Partypoker.com, PalaCasino.com, PalaBingoUSA.com, PlayMGMCasino.com, and PlayMGMPoker.com.

The latter two are recent entrants to the market, as PlayMGM was also launched last week.

Rather than risk entering New Jersey’s crowded iGaming space on its own, Scores elected to set its online casino up as a direct affiliate of Pala Interactive.

Jeremy Clemons, who serves as chief marketing officer for Pala Interactive, told NJOnlineGambling.com that the affiliate structure would capitalize on both the Pala and Scores brands:

“The affiliate relationship is deep in that it provides players acquired by Scores to have a customized user experience featuring the well known Scores brand through the user journey and throughout the gaming platform.”

Despite the site’s name, ScoresCasino.com isn’t designed to offer the same risqué vibe as its namesake. Instead, users are greeted with a standard iGaming layout, one which essentially mimics the look and feel of Pala Interactive’s previous entries.

The site features more than 100 virtual slot machine titles, along with four blackjack games, eight video poker variants, and six table games including roulette, craps, and baccarat.

At the moment, ScoresCasino.com is limited to casino games, but given the launch of Pala Poker last year it’s likely that a poker component will be added at some point.

ScoresCasino.com is available through an in-browser version, or via mobile app on the iOS and Android operating systems.

In terms of bonus offers and other enticements, ScoresCasino.com sends a $30 no-deposit bonus to new players – consisting of $10 for the casino, $15 in “bingo bucks,” and $5 more with no strings attached. In addition, new players receive a free spin on a special game with a shot at winning $1 million.

When making an initial deposit, new players also receive a 100 percent match bonus up to $500. This welcome bonus requires a 10x “playthrough” before the funds, and associated winnings, can be withdrawn.

Unfortunately, players who already have a Pala Interactive account are not eligible for these ScoresCasino.com bonuses, as their accounts have already been transferred over to the new platform.

While most of New Jersey’s iGaming brands are associated with Atlantic City casino operators, ScoresCasino.com isn’t breaking new ground by joining the fray as an out-of-state entrant.

Pennsylvania’s Sugar House Casino launched PlaySugarHouse last September, under the Golden Nugget’s interactive gaming license. The Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun casino also linked up with Atlantic City’s Resorts AC to launch a site in 2015.

Per the latest revenue reports released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the state’s iGaming industry generated more than $20 million in revenue in the month of June – up almost 30 percent year-on-year.

MGM Lends Name to iGaming Platform for First Time as PlayMGM Launches in New Jersey

For the first time in the company’s history, casino titan MGM Resorts International has attached its name to an online gambling site.

Beginning on August 1 with a five-day “soft launch” period, the PlayMGM platform joined New Jersey’s real money iGaming industry.

The site is operated under the Borgata’s interactive gaming license, which also includes the Atlantic City icon’s Casino and Poker platforms, along with PartyPoker and the Pala Interactive family of brands.

In June of last year, MGM Resorts International completed a buyout of Boyd Gaming’s 50 percent stake in the Borgata, paying $900 million for full control over the property – and its collection of iGaming licensees.

PlayMGM is powered by GVC Holdings, which acquired PartyPoker parent company bwin.Party in a billion-dollar deal in February of 2016. The same software has been used successfully by the Borgata online casino, spreading more than 200 online slot titles, a dozen video poker variants, and several table games including blackjack, craps, roulette, and bingo.

The GVC-owned software used by the popular PartyPoker online poker room has also been co-opted to power the PlayMGM poker room, which will share its player pools with BorgataPoker.com and NJ.PartyPoker.com.

When plans for PlayMGM were announced in May, MGM Resorts International’s chief operating officer Corey Sanders issued a statement to mark the historic nature of the branding agreement:

“This is a historic moment for MGM Resorts to be launching real money online casino and poker under the MGM brand for the first time.”

PlayMGM has rolled out the usual enticements to attract new players, beginning with a $25 free-play offer for newly registered players. This bonus doesn’t require a deposit, and the $25 can be used on any casino game, but players must meet a 20x “playthrough” requirement before any associated winnings can be withdrawn.

Casino players can also claim a match bonus of 100% on their first deposit, up to $2,000, with the same 20x playthrough requirement in place.

As for the PlayMGM poker room, new players have a $10 no-deposit free-play and $15 in free tournament dollars at their disposal. Upon depositing for the first time, the same 100% match bonus with a $2,000 cap applies.

Preliminary plans for PlayMGM called for cross-branding with the company’s land-based properties. Accordingly, players can enter a weekly sweepstakes for a chance to win a three-night stay at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This promotion also includes a choice of $1,000 in spending cash or $1,500 in funds deposited to the player’s online account.

Based on the latest revenue reports released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the launch of PlayMGM may provide a badly needed boost for the Borgata’s group of established iGaming licensees.

Combined revenue for PartyPoker, Borgata Poker, and Pala Poker totaled $585,970 for the month of June, ahead of the Caesars-licensed WSOP.com and 888 Poker brands ($470,027), but well behind the Resorts AC-licensed PokerStars platform ($679,637).

In terms of casino revenue, the Borgata licensees fared worse, generating $3,301,270 to finish third in a five-way race. Tropicana / Virgin ($3,479,393) narrowly beat Borgata out, but the Golden Nugget / Betfair ($5,576,526) sites continued to dominate the casino sector.

Those figures represent a role reversal for the Borgata’s iGaming licensees, which combined to capture much of New Jersey’s early market share following legalization in 2013.

The launch of PokerStars.nj in March of last year effectively ended the Borgata / PartyPoker reign, and the Golden Nugget online casino has outpaced all competitors since adding Live Dealer play last August.

Pennsylvania Punts on iGaming Until Fall Session; Passage Still Likely

For the second time in as many years, promising online gambling legislation in Pennsylvania has been put on hold, with lawmakers unable to agree on a budget plan and associated revenue package.

In May, the Senate passed an omnibus gambling expansion bill – which expands land-based offerings while legalizing and regulating iGaming options like casinos, poker rooms, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) – and the House approved the measure in June.

But with Pennsylvania mired in an ongoing $2 billion budget deficit crisis, Governor Tom Wolf declined to sign the bill until the legislature agreed on the funding portion of the state’s recently authorized $32 billion budget.

On July 27, the Senate finally authorized its preferred plan to close the budget gap. The proposal involves a combination of tax hikes, borrowing over $1 billion against a multistate tobacco industry settlement, and $200 million in licensing fees and other revenue generated by gambling expansion. Wolf has come out in favor of the plan, but the Republican-controlled House refused to even consider a solution predicated on tax hikes.

Thus, despite consensus agreement between the House and Senate on a gambling expansion bill, and a clear need to launch the iGaming industry immediately to begin generating revenue – lawmakers in Pennsylvania are once again locked in a stalemate.

Despite the budget funding debacle now extended until September 18 at the earliest, when the upcoming legislative session commences, gambling expansion is not expected to be lost in the proverbial shuffle.

Asked about the fate of iGaming in the Keystone State, Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa (D- Allegheny) told Legal US Poker Sites that the revenue package passed on to the House didn’t include gambling expansion:

“Our gaming conversations continue and were not passed as part of the budget revenue package that the Senate sent to the House for consideration.

We anticipate discussions around the issue to continue in the fall.”

John Pappas, who serves as executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) lobby group, observed that iGaming’s financial viability would ensure its survival into the next session:

“While there has been little to give us hope that a deal is imminent, most political observers agree that a budget funding package will get done this summer and that it will include iGaming.

It is the least controversial way to raise revenues without raising taxes, yet other highly-charged issues are sucking out the political good will to get a deal done.”

Adding to the pressure faced by hardline Republicans in the House, the state’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a forceful rebuke via an August 3 press release. In his statement, DePasquale made clear that Pennsylvania’s budget woes constituted a crisis, while urging members of the House:

“Today I added my signature to the $750 million line of credit that Treasurer Joe Torsella authorized from Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool (STIP) to prevent the state’s general fund cash balance from hitting zero this month.

The fact the state is running out of money in the second month of the fiscal year should be a wake-up call to every elected official in Pennsylvania.

The House must do the responsible thing and come back next week to address this budget situation. And once they are back, the House and Senate leadership and the governor should immediately lock themselves in a room and work until they figure out a way to provide Pennsylvanians with a balanced budget.”

Further complicating matters, House Republicans are intent on including video gaming terminals (VGTs) in the gambling expansion package, allowing places like bars and airport terminals to offer real-money casino-style wagering.

This proposal has been a sticking point in Pennsylvania’s political realm over the last few years, and the Senate has essentially eliminated VGTs from its version of the bill.

New Jersey Ends Plans to Share Online Poker Player Pool with U.K.

Just over one year after announcing a tentative agreement to share online poker player pools with the United Kingdom, the state of New Jersey has declared the proposal dead.

That pronouncement comes from David Rebuck, who recently became the longest-serving Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE). During an interview with Roger Gros of Global Gaming Business News, Rebuck stated flatly that international player pool sharing wouldn’t happen as planned, because “we just couldn’t pull it off.”

Offering a more detailed explanation, Rebuck outlined the regulatory hurdles that prevented New Jersey from linking its online poker platforms with their U.K. counterparts:

“Our law is very restricted in that the gaming servers – the actual gaming servers that allow for the outcome of the game to be determined – have to be in Atlantic City, and that’s just not a business model that they were willing to adopt.

If those states will not allow their gaming servers for online gaming to be here, we really are kind of stuck, unless there is a legislative change. We’re not in a very strong position to effectuate liquidity with those restrictions.”

Under the 2013 law which authorizes online gambling in New Jersey, regulators there are free to form interstate compacts with other jurisdictions which have also legalized the industry. This provision isn’t limited to American states, which led New Jersey to enter into a preliminary player sharing agreement with the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) in July of last year.

At the time, Rebuck told Global Gaming Business News that the plans were still in their embryonic stage at best, pointing out the complexity of issues which still needed to be sorted through:

“We’d still have to figure out lots of issues: specific regulations, how the tax rate from each jurisdiction would be applied, player ID and geolocation issues, and other things we probably haven’t even considered yet.

But you have to start somewhere.”

Fast forward to 2017, and Rebuck admitted that those issues proved to be a bridge too far:

“We tried. We have three common operators […] we actually had them in the dialogue and you know, the models that they wanted to implement that they felt would be in their business sense, I couldn’t do here in New Jersey.

There are a lot of factors involved in online gaming, and it’s just not a matter of flipping a switch and saying, ‘we’re going to turn on the Internet today.’”

The three common operators Rebuck mentioned are Amaya (which runs the PokerStars.nj platform), along with GVC (PartyPoker.nj), and 888 Holdings (888 Poker). With all three companies currently licensed by both the NJDGE and the UKGC, last year’s announcement regarding player pool sharing appeared to have firm footing.

But as Rebuck alluded to, the New Jersey State Constitution only allows gambling activity to be conducted within the Atlantic City jurisdiction. By maintaining online gambling servers within Atlantic City alone, the NJDGE ensures that its statewide iGaming industry remains constitutional.

The three common operators apparently balked at the topic of relocating gaming servers linked to U.K. platforms to Atlantic City.

Even so, Rebuck is already forging ahead with new plans to link New Jersey online poker player pools with Nevada and Delaware – the other two states which have regulated iGaming in recent years:

“We’re reopening our dialogue with Nevada, which has a compact already with Delaware. (But) if those states will not allow their gaming servers to be here, we’re kind of stuck.

Unless there’s a legislative change. We’re not in a strong position to effectuate liquidity with those restrictions … so we try our best to come to a resolution.”

Nevada and Delaware began sharing online poker player pools in March of 2015.