online poker California Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson will be none too happy to learn an online poker bill has advanced out of committee in California. (Image: AP/haaretz.com)

Online Poker is legal only within the borders of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, but that short list could soon include the mammoth State of California. The most populated of the 50 states, the California Assembly Governmental Organization (GO) Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to move Assemblyman Adam Gray’s (D-District 21) legislation forward and one step closer to ending prohibition of the card game online.

Gray’s Assembly Bill 2863 would legalize Internet poker and create a regulatory environment to license intrastate interactive operators. After years of state legislation failing to adequately satisfy the various invested sides including tribal leaders and the horse racing industry, AB 2863 seems to have found the sweet spot by way of $60 million.

That’s the figure the racing community stands to receive on an annual basis for supporting the proposition. While it won’t actively participate in online poker, the first $60 million generated from online poker by Native Tribes would be forfeited to support the dissolving horse racing segment.

“After countless revisions and meetings with stakeholders and consumer advocates, there remained two key issues raised by opponents: horse racing and suitability,” Gray said in a statement. “Today we put forward language that settles the horse racing component, and negotiations over suitability continue.”

Sustained Affairs

While most attending the GO hearing on Wednesday supported AB 2863, a divide remains on determining the satisfactory criteria of licensee applicants.

Montreal-based Amaya paid nearly $5 billion in June of 2014 to buy PokerStars, the most active and most known Internet poker network in the world. However, PokerStars is also widely known for its criminal actions in the United States between 2006 and 2011.   

Certain tribes believe California would be best served to block any iPoker platform with rogue histories regardless of whether its parent company has since undergone a takeover.

The other argument is that PokerStars would likely boost revenues stemming from online poker legalization, as it has quickly done in the isolated New Jersey market.

“We have taken the time necessary to thoroughly understand and respond to the concerns put forth by stakeholders,” Gray explained. “Through this process, we have created a coalition that is willing to acknowledge the problem and support a comprehensive solution. . . We still have more work to do.”

Las Vegas Gag

The most vocal critic of AB 2863 at the GO hearing was Rev. James Butler, the executive director of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. Butler has ties to Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands billionaire who is the most outspoken antagonist of online poker and Internet gambling.

This week longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith resigned from the media outlet for an alleged ban on writing about Adelson. Through a subsidiary company, Adelson purchased the Review-Journal for $140 million late last year, pocket change to a man worth over $30 billion.

“If I can’t hold the heavyweights in the community to account, then I’m just treading water,” Smith told NPR in an interview. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but there was no other decision to make.”

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma online gambling

The Ioway Casino, one of three gambling facilities operated by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, will soon be complemented by an online casino that will cater to international customers. (Image: jandbgraphics.net)

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma will join Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in the legal online gaming market beginning August 1, 2016.

Though the sovereign Native American group won’t be allowed to cater to US or even Oklahoma residents, US District Judge David Russell’s decision to allow the tribe to run an interactive betting website is a giant step forward for iGaming proponents and has the potential to singlehandedly revolutionize the Internet casino industry in the United States.

After acquiring the PokerTribe.com domain in late 2015, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma moved to enter the online poker realm but was quickly thwarted by the state government.

An arbitrator agreed upon by the tribe and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) ruled that its encompassing of the Internet “is merely using technology to . . . increase Tribal revenues” and therefore not in violation of its gaming compact.

In late February, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma field a motion seeking clarification from the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, and it received the verdict it was looking for this week.

Ruling’s Impact

Though Oklahoma doesn’t have any commercial casinos, it’s home to over 50 gambling venues all owned by Native American tribes.

Russell’s agreeing with the arbitrator’s findings in that Internet gambling conducted by the tribe is permissible “as long as the games are controlled and operated by a computer server located on tribal lands” would seemingly extend to the nearly 40 other federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma.

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Chairman Bobby Walkup said after the arbitrary findings, “Every tribe has the same opportunity . . . to engage in Internet gaming. We look forward to moving forward and launching the site as soon as possible in 2016.”

The consequences could be significant, especially if tribes in other states take similar steps. The judgment is also momentous in that it to some degree goes against current federal law.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) made it illegal for banking companies to facilitate Internet transactions related to gambling for US citizens. Of course, American Indians are citizens of not only their reservations but also the United States of America.

Finally, Russell’s position also seems to be under the assumption that the tribe will be able to properly block US and Oklahoma residents from accessing the online poker and gambling network. Geo-location technological abilities have long been a leading issue of concern for legislators against the expansion of online casinos.

Play Money, Then Stakes Raised

According to the PokerTribe.com website, free play gaming will launch on May 17, with real money play to follow on August 1. The site has also revealed its plans to take the platform to the skies by bringing an international “in-flight real money play online casino” to airplanes.

The third component of the Iowa Tribe’s entry into iGaming isn’t expected to commence until January 9, 2017. It’s unclear whether the in-flight Internet casino will be available on domestic flights soaring above states where online gambling is banned, or whether it will only be offered during international trips.

New Jersey online gambling revenues

New Jersey online gambling revenues benefited from the arrival of PokerStars, as total iGaming earnings soared nearly 18 percent in March. (Image: onlinewagerreview.com)

The New Jersey online gambling market is budding with promise as the warmer spring air descends on the region.

Though gambling revenue was down 1.7 percent at land-based casinos in Atlantic City, online the figures went the other way significantly.

Per data provided by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), total Internet Gaming Win was up 17.8 percent in March 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Digital operators collected $15.5 million in iGaming revenues, a $2.3 million jump year-over-year and the most ever for a single month since New Jersey legalized Internet gambling.

The Borgata maintained its market stronghold, as the resort’s interactive platform led the way with $4.2 million in revenue. Caesars Interactive and Tropicana each garnered $3.16 million, the Golden Nugget collected $3 million, and Resorts rounded out the five operators with $1.87 million.

No Fault in Our Stars

PokerStars’ parent company Amaya is currently engulfed in scandal surrounding its CEO David Baazov who has since taken a paid leave. Baazov is being accused by financial securities regulators in Quebec of aiding insider trading deals by providing confidential information to outside parties and investors.

The charges against the Amaya founder have raised speculation as to what impact it might have on the company’s license in New Jersey and whether PokerStars might be removed. However, on April 1, the DGE renewed Amaya’s operating licensing, though only for a second six-month term.

Unless the criminal investigation extends to Amaya itself, it would seem unlikely that the DGE would void the Canadian gaming company’s license as it’s become quite clear PokerStars is having a positive influence on New Jersey’s online poker returns.

In March, gross income for iPoker soared 10.5 percent to $2,461,064, the highest number since April 2014 when the market generated $2.59 million.

PokerStars’ return to the United States online poker market was projected to renew interest in New Jersey, but by most accounts it has exceeded analysts’ expectations.

Officially launched on March 21, PokerStars was only fully operational for 11 days and yet the market grew by $466,999. That’s definitely positive news for regulators and state officials, as well as players who have voiced frustrations over inadequate player pools in recent months.

Others Suffer Slightly

As regulators and players hoped, PokerStars New Jersey seems to be attracting a new crop of players and not simply poaching from the other two rooms currently in operation. While their revenue didn’t increase with the March bump, it also didn’t fall drastically.

Borgata reported peer-to-peer iPoker revenue of $1,033,380 in March, while Caesars, responsible for the WSOP/888 room, reported $830,007.

Those figures are roughly where the two rooms have been hovering over the last several months, though they are slightly sliding. Borgata recorded $1,198,539 and $1,061,706 in January and February, and Caesars came in at $952,693 and $932,359.

The financial disclosures prove that PokerStars is indeed welcoming a new base of customers, as the $165,159 January to March cumulative drop by Borgata and Caesars is still a net positive for the overall iPoker market.

daily fantasy sports Alabama Tennessee

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange declared this week that daily fantasy sports has no lawful grounding in the state, and his legal colleague to the north in Tennessee agrees. (Image: Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser)

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has already been declared illegal by numerous state attorneys general, and this week two additional chief legal advisors joined the opposition to the online contests.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued opinions Tuesday on the emerging and popular sports wagering Internet platforms, and both made their positions clear that DFS constitutes illegal gambling under their respective current laws.

Online and land-based commercial gambling is prohibited in Alabama and Tennessee.

“Paid daily fantasy sports contests are in fact illegal gambling under Alabama law,” Strange declared. Slatery echoed that position by saying in his own statement, “‘Gambling’ in Tennessee means ‘risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance’ . . . Fantasy sports contests fall within the broad definition of ‘gambling.'”

Though the two attorneys general agree in principal, only Strange issued cease and desist letters against the two market leaders, DraftKings and FanDuel. The two companies have until May 1 to terminate operations.

11 states have now ruled against DFS or banned residents from participating in the contests.

Mad Skills

The legality conversation pertaining to DFS essentially comes down to determining if skill or chance players a more vital role in winning the contests. Operators argue players must use data and talent to regularly win the pot.

Strange doesn’t much care about whether there’s skill involved, as he feels there’s certainly some element of chance and that immediately classifies the offerings as forms of gambling.

“There is, of course, a measure of skill involved in creating a fantasy roster,” Strange said. “But in the end, contestants have no control over the performance of the players on their rosters.”

Slatery agrees. “While participants may use skill to select players for their teams, winning a fantasy sports contest is contingent to some degree of chance,” the Volunteer State attorney general declared.fantasy sports

Another component to the two opinions is the fact that DraftKings, FanDuel, and other DFS operators collect fees for orchestrating the contests. That’s an important difference to traditional season-long fantasy leagues typically competed among friends through free online sites.

FanDuel is urging Tennessee residents to back a DFS bill that has been approved by the state senate. “The state should be a home for this growing industry, but the legislature has to act.”

DFS: Where We Stand

It seems every morning another daily fantasy sports headline pops up, so to help you determine where your state stands in regards to the emerging industry, we’ve compiled a list of the legislative action.

Legal: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington

Legislation Pending: California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Contested/Illegal: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont

Don’t see your state listed? That’s because you’re living in one of the 13 states that hasn’t yet released an opinion or introduced legislation to legalize or prohibit DFS.

As always, CasinoOnline.com isn’t a legal resource and you should proceed at your own discretion.

casino money laundering FinCEN SAR

FinCEN Director Jennifer Calvery is a strong proponent of financial institutions filing suspicious activity reports, but the practice might be giving rise to casino money laundering. (Image: Allison Joyce/Reuters)

Casino money laundering has been on the front pages of newspapers around the world over the last several weeks after $46 million was successfully swindled from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and laundered through two casinos in the Philippines.

In total, the online hackers were able to transfer some $81 million from the Bangladesh account in Manhattan before their criminal operations were discovered due to a spelling error on one of their withdrawal requests. They had planned to steal nearly $1 billion.

Funneling money both domestically and internationally has long been a concern for American authorities responsible for protecting the security of the country, but a rise in activity is now being accredited to the US government’s own anti-terrorism policies.

Banks that suspect fraudulent activity are rapidly closing suspicious accounts, forcing lawbreakers to take the money into their own hands and find new avenues to move the funds. With locations spread around the globe, the land-based and online casino has become a preferred vendor for criminal enterprises.

“The whole flow of money goes underground, and that becomes counterproductive to the original purpose of being able to track it,” World Bank economist Dilip Ratha told the Wall Street Journal.

SAR Czars

A suspicious activity report, or SAR, is when a financial institution alerts the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to possible money laundering or other potential criminal misconduct on the part of a banking customer. The self-reporting program is required under the United States Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) passed in 1970, but was first introduced in 1996.

Over the last 20 years, SAR filings have grown exponentially.

According to a compilation of data by the Wall Street Journal, 62,388 reports were filed by US banks in 1996. Two decades later, more than 906,000 SARs were registered in 2015.

The BSA initially only applied to financial institutions, but the rise in criminal use of banking services offered inside casinos led to the Act being amended and cages being included in the law.

Casinos have 30 days to file a SAR from the initial date of detection for any cash transaction exceeding $10,000. Representatives detail the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the incident and file the account with FinCEN.

FinCEN Backs FinCEN Strategy

SAR informs the US government to potential illegal money laundering, and backers of the system say it’s critical to ongoing operations to combat fraud and terrorism.

“It’s one of the most important sources of data being used,” FinCEN Director Jennifer Calvery said.

But critics also claim the delayed timeframe gives criminals plenty of time to create a complicated web while also erasing any sort of money trail.

It’s likely why SARs continue to increase in the casino sector. SARs filed by casinos and card clubs grew 69 percent between 2013 and 2014 from 27,520 to roughly 47,000.

Calvery remains committed to the program. Her office reached an $8 million settlement with Caesars in September for lax anti-money laundering protocols used with high rollers at its properties both domestic and abroad.

During her remarks at the 2015 Bank Secrecy Act Conference in Las Vegas last summer, Calvery told casino attendees, “Criminals will always look for new and innovative ways . . . Each of you has the challenge and opportunity to help ensure that your casino or card club is doing its part to stay one step ahead of them.”

Amaya David Baazov trading charges

Amaya CEO David Baazov’s grand vision certainly didn’t feature the criminal trading allegations he’s being accused of by financial regulators in Quebec. (Image: twitter.com)

Amaya CEO David Baazov has enjoyed a storied run over the last two years. Though he founded the Canadian gaming company in 2004, he became an international power player in online gambling in 2014 when his then-small Quebec enterprise managed to buy the Rational Group, parent company to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, for an eye-opening $4.9 billion.

The 35-year-old has been called the “King of Online Gambling” by Forbes, but financial and securities regulators in Quebec are alleging he might be more appropriately labeled as the king of insider trading.

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) named Baazov this week on five counts of trading charges. The governmental regulatory body said in a statement that Baazov aided outside investors with privileged information in an attempt to “influence the market price of the securities of Amaya.”

Building up to Amaya’s June 2014 buyout of Rational, Amaya’s stock price on the Toronto exchange became a bull in a china shop as speculation of the takeover mounted. However, AMF investigators suspect it wasn’t all just sound investing on the part of shareholders, but also Baazov enticing capitalists by distributing confidential information.

In addition to Baazov, two others and three corporations are named in the AMF filing for a total of 23 charges.

“Pursuant to which these proceedings are filed, offenders are liable to stiff fines as well as prison sentences,” AMF President Louis Morisset said.

Baazov Denies Allegations

On Wednesday, Baazov took to his public relations firm to defend his name.

“I have always been proud of my reputation for personal integrity and ethical business conduct,” Baazov declared. “While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF’s decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges.”

Baazov is currently trying to take his company back private along with a group of unidentified investors. Though the AMF investigation into possible trading criminality at Amaya began back in December of 2014, Baazov’s expected forthcoming bid to regain full control is thought to have raised supplementary examination.

Amaya quickly came to the defense of its CEO, the company saying in a statement that Baazov has the full support of its independent board members and explained Amaya’s own internal investigation into executive activities leading up to the $4.9 billion purchase found no breaches of law.

Family Affair

If the AMF allegations are proven true, David won’t be the first Baazov to be convicted of a crime.

His brother Josh scammed seniors through a telemarketing scheme promising valuable prizes in the late 90s. The Federal Trade Commission ordered Josh to pay $777,000 in restitution.

The AMF says it has reason to believe that Josh played some role in David and Amaya’s valuation buildup that allowed the company to be in a position to attract hedge funds and banks to assist in its Rational pursuit.

Regulators say in addition to those charged, search warrants and court orders have been obtained for 13 individuals who allegedly used privileged information possibly dispensed by Baazov to gain more than $1 million.

PokerStars officially launched in New Jersey this week. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement didn’t mention Josh’s name or his crimes in its exhaustive and nearly two-year-long investigation into Amaya and its associates.

Sheldon Adelson Donald Trump 2016

Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is prepared to back Donald Trump should the Republican frontrunner secure the party’s nomination for the 2016 general election. (Image: Steve Mack/Getty Images)

Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam donated roughly $100 million in 2012 when Republican Mitt Romney was challenging incumbent President Barack Obama for the White House.

With an estimated fortune of $30 billion and a loyal supporter of the Grand Old Party, landing Adelson’s support has been seen as the holy grail of conservative candidates in years past.

Of course, this primary season has been anything but traditional.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has a commanding lead on remaining challengers Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich though Kasich has been mathematically eliminated due to the 1,237 required delegates.

Adelson has unexpectedly largely avoided the public political limelight thus far in 2016, but behind closed doors at his Las Vegas Sands casino empire, the general assumption was that Adelson favored Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

In addition to being a strong proponent of strengthening the US-Israeli alliance, Rubio was also attractive to Adelson for backing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the anti-online gambling legislation.

Anyone But Hillary Clinton

With Rubio out and his campaign wallet still overflowing, Adelson’s decision on who to support in the 2016 general election is apparently rather cut and dry.

In comments made last month that were recently revealed by Israeli political blogger Tal Schneider, Adelson says any Republican would be “better than what we have today, better than what the opposition has.”

And regardless of Trump’s neutral stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, an issue near and dear to Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization in which he serves on the board, the casino magnate would back the New York businessman.

“Why not?” Adelson asked reporters. “Trump is a businessman. I am a businessman.”

40 rabbis answered that “why not?” this week by saying they plan to boycott Trump’s speech next Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “Jewish history teaches that when hatred is unleashed, it takes on a life of its own,” Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, one of the boycott organizers, told the Washington Post.

RIP RAWA

Rubio’s departure from the 2016 race is favorable news for online gambling advocates. The junior Florida senator co-sponsored RAWA along with the bill’s lead author, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) when it was reintroduced last June.

The legislation has resided in both the Senate and House of Representatives since 2014, but over the last two years, it’s been about as popular as raising taxes.

RAWA was the brainchild of Adelson’s political clout. The Venetian and Palazzo owner has made it a moral crusade to combat against online gambling as he believes the market preys on society’s most vulnerable citizens.

With the November general election shaping up to be a clash between Trump and Clinton, two candidates who seem rather doubtful to make online gambling a federal concern, the odds seem to be dwindling for RAWA’s chances of becoming law.

Little has been accomplished in Washington, DC, since Republicans took control of the Senate and total power of Congress during the 2014 election. That’s yet another reason why it might be time to stop giving print space to RAWA.

Jason Chaffetz RAWA Marco Rubio

Former candidate for Speaker of the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz seemed to take another position on geolocation technology recently, and the flip-flop could hamper what little chances the Restoration of America’s Wire Act maintained. (Image: Zach Gibson/The New York Times)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is the leading proponent of refurbishing the Wire Act to its interpretation before the Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in five years ago and said transmitting money through wire communications for wagering activities only applied to sports betting and not online gambling. The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel decision in 2011 effectively granted states with the right to authorize Internet casinos.

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), introduced to the House by Chaffetz, would override that opinion and force Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware to stop offering casino gambling online.

During a RAWA hearing in December in the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee (OGR) in which Chaffetz chairs, the Utah congressman said the DOJ has no right to “just unilaterally change the law,” and that “if somebody wants to come in and pass a piece of legislation … then introduce a bill and pass it.”

Location, Location, Location

Among the concerns Chaffetz presented in December regarding the current quasi-legal federal status of iGambling is that adequate geolocation technology doesn’t exist to prevent someone close to the border of a state with legal online gambling from participating.

“I think it’s naïve at best to think you can put a wall on the Internet,” Chaffetz opined during the RAWA hearing.

But last week Chaffetz seemed to argue against his previous position during an OGR hearing titled, “Geolocation Technology and Privacy.” The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Supreme Court’s “limited clarification in recent years about whether a warrant is required for law enforcement to obtain geolocation information.”

Chaffetz expressed his support of personal privacy, and that today’s GPS and smartphone technology could easily allow government intrusion of time-honored rights protected by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

“These advances make it possible to conduct either historical or real-time prolonged surveillance previously unachievable,” Chaffetz said of today’s geolocation technology. “Just because it’s easier in 2016 for law enforcement to track our location . . . it doesn’t mean those details are somehow less worthy of constitutional protection. I stand with the founders.” 

Rubio Tuesdays 

Chaffetz’s alleged hypocrisy could come back to haunt him should he refocus his legislative efforts on RAWA. But that seems rather unlikely as the anti-online gambling bill has failed to gain momentum since it was first authored in 2014.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is one of the co-sponsors of the Senate version of RAWA. The 2016 Republican candidate would be arguably the worst-case scenario for iGambling advocates, but the junior Senator’s presidential aspirations are now a longshot at best.

Super Tuesday and the subsequent Super Tuesday II were both disasters for Rubio as he won just one of the 15 contested states. His whole campaign now rests on Tuesday, March 15, when Rubio must win his home state of Florida.

RAWA is the least of Rubio’s concerns presently, though it is worth noting that the Senator did recently start following Poker Players Alliance VP of Player Relations Rich Muny on Twitter.

The latest developments with Chaffetz and Rubio might soon signal the official death of RAWA, may it RIP.

 

PokerStars Amaya CEO Baazov

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for PokerStars and Amaya boss David Baazov, and things are only about to get more uncertain as the gaming company’s chief executive begins his planned acquisition. (Image: QMI Agency/ tvanouvelles.ca)

PokerStars was cleared for landing in New Jersey in October, and after tidying up loose ends in accordance with the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) licensing approval, the world’s largest iPoker network has its wheels down for final approach.

A week ago today, PokerStars’ parent company Amaya announced Monday, March 21 would be the day the platform officially launches in the Garden State.

“PokerStars is the global leader in online poker and trusted by its customers for its robust and innovative technology, world-class security and game-integrity,” Amaya CEO David Baazov said. “We are honored and excited to now bring these experiences to New Jersey.”

Once considered a “bad actor” by US authorities for operating unlawfully following a 2006 bill that banned the transmission of money online for gambling activities, PokerStars’ return to good grace in New Jersey is perhaps the greatest comeback story in the history of Internet gaming.

The impact on iPoker revenues in New Jersey is expected to be considerable, however, those pondering an investment in the publicly traded Canadian company should be aware Amaya is suspending its earnings guidance for the coming months.

Amaya Suppresses Forecasts

New Jersey officials and the DGE is hoping PokerStars brings a renewed interest to online poker, as the game has struggled since the state legalized Internet gambling in 2013. Meanwhile, online casino revenues are performing extraordinarily well.

PokerStars could indeed have a tremendous influence on the overall iPoker environment in the Garden State, but as it relates to the multibillion-dollar Amaya corporation, PokerStars’ bottom line from the secluded and limited market will have a miniscule influence on overall earnings.

That’s why you won’t see some substantial bounce in Amaya’s projected 2016 earnings. In fact, you won’t see projected earnings whatsoever. 

On Wednesday, Amaya announced it would forgo releasing future earnings guidance as its CEO proceeds with trying to take the company private through a share buyback. Baazov and a group of unidentified investors haven’t yet formally proposed an offer, but reportedly intend to bid CAD$21 ($15.66 US) per share for a total price of $2.8 billion.

At the recommendation of the company’s Special Committee, Amaya stated “in view of the potential offer that may be forthcoming from Mr. Baazov . . . Amaya will not be providing guidance with respect to its 2016 financial performance in conjunction with the release of its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2015.”

Smart Play

Amaya withholding projections is sound strategy in getting current investors the best price possible should a Baazov acquisition move forward. Since the CEO is banned from disclosing certain information he’s privy to potential investors, Amaya now clenches the upper hand.

Similar to blackjack, withholding financial guidance forces Baazov’s team to play out their hand before Amaya plays theirs.

In its most recent quarterly filing, Amaya reported a 13 percent earnings downgrade for the year ending 2015. Shares tumbled on the news.

If internally the company has reason to believe additional downturn is ahead before profits soar, Amaya would be smart to keep it to themselves as they likely suspect Baazov greatly desires to take back ownership of the company he formed 12 years ago.

 

Borgata bwin.party GAN online casino poker

Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino has moved on from bwin.party to GAN for its online casino games, and another move for its Internet poker room is expected to come in the near future. (Image: Kathleen Kelly/The Star-Ledger)

The Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City is switching things up online. Following weeks of rumors, it was recently confirmed that the Borgata is doing away with the bwin.party platform for its online casino games in favor of London-based GameAccount Network, now commonly known as GAN.

Beginning sometime in the second quarter of 2016, GAN will take over the interactive gaming duties for the BorgataCasino.com website. In addition to real money gambling featuring slots, blackjack, and roulette, GAN will also debut “Simulated Gaming,” a monetized social casino experience.

“GAN’s experience and capability, combined with the power of the Borgata brand, will enable the successful launch of Borgata’s Simulated Gaming online experience,” GAN CEO Dermot Smurfit commented.

Party Over?

Since GVC Holdings finalized its $1.7 billion acquisition of bwin.party in early February, reports have surfaced that the Borgata would be looking for a new software supplier for its Internet portfolio. Though GAN is already licensed in New Jersey through the Betfair online casino, state regulators will still need to sign-off on GAN teaming with the Borgata.

Should the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) approve the partnership, which it’s expected to do, the Borgata will be one step closer to severing all ties with bwin.

The final step would be to terminate the bwin.party poker client and use another content provider.

The leading candidate is Pala Interactive, a gaming technology provider owned by the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California. In November 2014, Pala received a Transactional Waiver by the New Jersey DGE to offer real money online gambling in the state.

Last June, Pala Interactive CEO Jim Ryan told Calvin Ayre’s Rebecca Liggero that while his company is licensed in the Garden State, it’s waiting to enter the iPoker fray.

“Today, we’re the operator of a casino product. We will offer Pala Poker in the New Jersey market, but we’ll do it after PokerStars launches,” Ryan stated. 

PokerStars parent Amaya received its DGE license last fall and is expected to bring the world’s largest iPoker platform back to New Jersey in the coming months. The timing aligns perfectly for Ryan and Pala to team with the Borgata.

GVC Still Fighting

Though all signs point to the Borgata moving on from bwin, for the meantime Party Borgata continues operating in New Jersey, and new owner GVC isn’t ready to fold.

Some analysts believe GVC isn’t too keen in continuing bwin.party operations in smaller and isolated markets such as New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean it’s simply willing to bow to Pala.

On Tuesday, Party Poker Network Associate Colette Stewart told readers on Two Plus Two, “There is no change to our relationship with Borgata. We are in the process of applying for a New Jersey license and remain focused on securing all the necessary permissions to continue to provide our market-leading online poker and casino offer.”

The Borgata is expanding its physical resort by adding a 3,200-square-foot pool that will be capable of accommodating 1,000 hotel guests and swimmers with chaise lounges, daybeds and cabanas. Online, it appears the casino will also be modifying its appearance through new digital contracts.