Archive for September, 2017

Golden Nugget Owner Tilman Fertitta Buys Houston Rockets for $2.2 Billion

 Golden Nugget Owner Tilman Fertitta Buys Houston Rockets for $2.2 Billion

The Houston Rockets NBA franchise announced this week that it has been purchased by Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels. Though the team did not disclose details of the transaction, a source close to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that Fertitta paid $ 2.2 billion for the club.

In a press release issued by the Rockets, Fertitta said:

I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets. This is a life-long dream come true. Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. He has the heart of a champion. Lastly, out of respect for the NBA’s approval process, I can say no more other than I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.

“I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman. He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court,” said current Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”

Alexander is making a pretty penny off of the sale. He originally purchased the Rockets in 1993 for $ 85 million. Fertitta was in on the bidding, coming up just short with his offer of $ 81 million.

The $ 2.2 billion purchase price was well above the $ 1.65 billion valuation Forbes magazine placed on the franchise this year. According to Wojnarowski’s sources, there was a bidding war for the Rockets, as Alexander received multiple offers starting at $ 2 billion.

This is not Fertitta’s first foray into professional sports in the United States. He was one of the original investors in the Houston Texans, the NFL team which was established in 1999 and began play in 2002. He was required to sell his portion of the team in 2008, though, because of his gambling business. Though the NFL makes tons of money because of gambling, the league’s rules stated at the time that no staff member of a team could be associated with gambling.

In 2003, Fertitta bought the naming rights to the Crawford Boxes section of the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park, an area of seating beyond the left field wall. The section was renamed “Landry’s Crawford Boxes,” taking on the name of Fertitta’s massive restaurant company, Landry’s Inc., which actually owns Golden Nugget.

Tilman Fertitta also has a history with the Houston Rockets beyond his previous bid for the team, serving as an advisory director during the team’s back-to-back NBA championships in the 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 seasons.

Houston clearly has more important things to think about right now than what billionaire owns one of its sports teams, but the Rockets did acknowledge this in the announcement, saying, “This process started back in July, and it is truly unfortunate that this announcement is occurring amidst the aftermath of one of the biggest tragedies in the history of our great City.”

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Malta Gaming Authority Launches New Online Licensing System

 Malta Gaming Authority Launches New Online Licensing System

Last week, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced that it is launching a new Licensee Relationship Management System in order to better facilitate communications between existing and prospective licensees and the regulatory body. The system, developed by Microsoft, is designed to simplify the licensing processes and keep them – as much as possible – online via a dedicated web portal.

At the outset, the MGA is launching three online services: applications for remote (read: internet) gaming licenses, dynamic seal URL requests, and submission of players liability and gaming tax reports. Part of the idea here is to allow operators to take control of their licensing and regulatory requirements, rather than have the MGA constantly push requests downstream and wait for a response. Now operators can do things like check on their licenses and keep track of what sorts of deliverables they need to submit (admittedly, I’m presuming this based on deduction and my past life in IT consulting – I haven’t seen the system in action).

“The Malta Gaming Authority is taking another step towards achieving efficiency and innovation in the way it conducts its function as a regulator by applying information technology in regulatory processes,” said the MGA’s Executive Chairman, Joseph Cuschieri, in a press conference. “This project further aids the Authority in providing a top end service to its licensees and practitioners alike. Our main objective remains; that of exceeding the expectations of all our stakeholders at large. This portal goes a long way in achieving that.”

Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri added:

Today, the MGA is launching a new system by which it will be facilitating the communication with clients applying for a gaming licence on our shores. This system will function via an online portal improving the efficiency of the Authority’s regulatory process. This project forms part of the government’s vision for the improvement of our gaming jurisdiction. With similar initiatives, the Authority is excelling in the service given to those wishing to invest in our country, whereby said service always exceeds the expectations of the vast majority of operators.

Frankly, it is a little surprising that a system like this was not put in place until now, but better late than never, as they say. I am also not exactly sure how the Malta Gaming Authority had been doing things, but I can imagine things like phone tag, faxes, and waits in line at a licensing office as possibilities. When I had an addition built on my house nine years ago, one of the subcontractors had to go to a county permitting office several times to take care of some busy work. It seemed like a huge waste of time and it would have been nice if he could have at least submitted plans and scheduled inspector appointments online. I wouldn’t be surprised if the MGA had been working in a similar way.

The next phase of the MGA’s new system is to expand it into land-based gambling operations.

The MGA licenses hundreds of operators. Most nobody has ever heard of, but some of the more recognizable names include Betsson, bwin.party, Evolution Gaming, GTECH, Microgaming, Relax Gaming, and Tain.

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PokerStars to Restrict Satellite Winners to One Prize Package Per Live Event

 PokerStars to Restrict Satellite Winners to One Prize Package Per Live Event

PokerStars has made yet another significant change to its online poker room policies, eliminating the ability for players to earn multiple seats into live tournaments via satellites. This is a massive departure from tradition, as many players (though not “many” relative to the total poker playing population) found satellites to be profitable endeavors past the initial tournament seat.

On the PokerStars blog, PokerStars Poker Operations Manager Mike Jones hearkened back to the 2003 World Series of Poker, which was famously won by amateur Chris Moneymaker, who also famously qualified for the WSOP Main Event via a $ 39 satellite on PokerStars. While satellites existed before then, they really weren’t all that popular as a means to gain entry into a bigger, more expensive tournament. Moneymaker’s success changed all that, though. Once amateur players saw what Moneymaker did, online satellites- not just at PokerStars – exploded. Now they are commonplace, woven into the fabric of online poker rooms.

Pokerstars, though, has seen the negative of satellites. Jones continued:

While recreational players dream of winning the poker experience of a lifetime with PokerStars, a fortunate and skilled few win multiple packages and seats to our live events, when they can only use one of them. These players have taken advantage of a system that allowed them to profit from winning against recreational or less experienced players. While this hasn’t been against the rules, it doesn’t make for as enjoyable experience as we would hope. The practice has, in fact, been off-putting for many, as we are seeing an increasing number of recreational players not even attempting to qualify for live events. This means that they are as a group less likely to experience the excitement that comes from playing live and the further investment in the poker world that comes from playing in a major live event.

The reason players continue to qualify for live events via satellites even after winning a seat is because they can convert the additional seats into cash. Say, for example, a person two prize packages for the WSOP Main Event via Stars satellites that pay for the $ 10,000 seat plus $ 2,500 in spending money for hotel and flights (I am just ballparking the prize package value). That player might use the first prize package to play in the Main Event, but since he is obviously just one person and can only occupy one seat, PokerStars gives him $ 12,500 for the second seat.

Many poker pros have taken advantage of this system over the years, often finding satellite fields to be softer than those of normal tournaments. Some pros win these things repeatedly, turning their seats into cash time after time.

PokerStars has seen the problem with this for recreational players, so starting with the satellites for PokerStars Festival Dublin, players can only win one prize package into the live tournament. No more playing in loads of satellites to win multiple seats.

“This limitation will, we hope, make sense to the majority of you and stand to reason as being fair,” wrote Jones. “We believe the change will create a more level playing field for all that want to visit our lower buy-in Festivals or experience the glitz and glamour of one of our bigger Championship events.”

PokerStars Festival Dublin runs September 25th through October 1st. Satellites are currently active at PokerStars.

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America’s Cardroom, WPN Hit by DDoS Attack Again

 America’s Cardroom, WPN Hit by DDoS Attack Again

It had been a while, but America’s Cardroom seemed due for another cyber attack. Yup, leading into the Labor Day weekend, ACR and its network, the Winning Poker Network, were hit with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, something that is unfortunately not a unique event for either the online poker room or the network.

The attack began Thursday evening, affecting, among many other games, ACR’s Online Super Series (OSS) Cub3d. Problems continued all the way through Saturday.

America’s Cardroom initially tweeted about the issues at about quarter after eight Thursday night, writing, “We are currently experiencing a DDOS attack, all running tournaments have been paused. Will keep you updated.”

A half hour later, ACR announced that it was cancelling all tournaments in progress and providing refunds per the site’s terms and conditions. At about 9:00pm, the site was back up, but the DDoS attacks continued, causing poker client interruptions less than two and a half hours later. Problems continued well into Friday morning until ACR and WPN finally got things under control (temporarily) close to noon.

The pattern continued that evening, with games going down after 6:00pm Friday and then resuming, and going down again after 7:00pm. Finally, around noon Saturday, ACR’s techs seemed to get a handle on things “for good.”

In a Distributed Denial of Service attack, the attacker (or attackers) floods a server with millions of communications requests at once. It’s not a virus or a hack or anything malicious like that, but the communications overwhelm the server and grind it to a halt. Think of it like the traffic jam to end all traffic jams.

It wouldn’t be THAT big of a deal if the attack was coming from one source, but since it is “distributed,” the attacker arranges it so that it originates from literally millions of IP addresses. It makes defending one’s network insanely difficult. To use another brilliant illustration, if you are trapped in a house and a zombie horde is coming for your juicy brains, it’s scary and awful, but if all the zombies decide to come in through the front door, you can probably handle it if properly equipped. If they surround you and just crash in through every door, window, and mouse hole like in Night of the Living Dead, might as well develop a taste for human flesh because you’re screwed.

As with other DDoS attacks, the network was contacted by the aggressor, who demanded a ransom of some sort. WPN CEO Phil Nagy went on Twitch and said he refused to cave to any demands. He even posted a brief series of messages from the attacker, who said he was doing it on behalf of a competing poker room (all spelling mistakes what-not his):

this is my job
anouther site give me money
for doos you
and i ddos you
icon biggrin America’s Cardroom, WPN Hit by DDoS Attack Again
this is my job

Nagy said that he hoped that by at least making it public that it may be another site responsible for the DDoS attack that it will make someone nervous that they could get caught and the attacks will subside.

WPN first experienced a major DDoS attack in December 2014, during its Million Dollar Sunday tournament, when it caused disconnections, lag, and registration problems. It happened again in September 2015 and again in October 2015.

The network will be re-running many of the tournaments, including the OSS and MOSS, and will cut the buy-in of the million dollar guaranteed OSS tourney in half as well as add an extra Sunday Million.

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Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Poker Room – The Next Big Florida Poker Destination?

 Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Poker Room – The Next Big Florida Poker Destination?

Ever since the state legislature removed the limits imposed on its poker rooms, the poker industry in Florida has exploded. Those previous rules limited what stakes could be played for and limited how much could be on the table. In 2009, however, the legislature “uncapped” the poker rooms to allow them to play for pretty much any stakes they wanted. The result was a gold rush to the Sunshine State by poker players of all ilk.

Along with the major tournament circuits like the World Poker Tour (who now conducts their final three events in the state) and the World Series of Poker Circuit, expansion of poker rooms not only in tables but in ACTUAL number of rooms has been the norm. As of 2017, there are 24 poker rooms in the state, some associated with thoroughbred horse racing tracks, some in the Seminole Indian casinos and a couple (like bestbet Jacksonville) that stand alone while offering simulcast wagering on the ponies. In 2016, these rooms generated $ 147 million in revenues (a 231% increase over 2006 revenues); by comparison, the poker rooms in Nevada generated $ 117 million in revenues for the year.

If people are flocking to your business, it is only natural to want to update those surroundings. The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa isn’t as acclaimed as its brethren in Hollywood, FL, but it is making a name for itself as a poker destination. First came a massive renovation that saw the poker room move away from the casino floor into a special area of the casino. Those renovations were completed in January and they have made a great difference in the potential future success of the room.

Walking into the room on a Friday night around 7PM, I was expecting about half the 46 tables around the room to be in action. Imagine my surprise when every table – even the two tables in the “High Roller” lounge – was full of action. Sure, there was a tournament going on – a $ 200 buy-in event with a $ 10,000 prize pool guaranteed that eventually fielded around 70 entries – but there was no other explanation for the room to be as packed as it was. Walking to the board to pick a game, I saw why the tables were packed.

The Hard Rock Tampa spreads a list of games, with Texas Hold’em (limit and no limit) as the most prevalent game but Omaha has a strong presence. If there were to be a call for some Stud games, I got the impression that they would spread that, too, IF there were enough people calling for it. There was also a wide array of stakes, from the $ 1/$ 2 for No Limit Hold’em to $ 2/$ 2 Pot Limit Omaha, a $ 2/$ 5 spread game (Hold’em) all the way up to what looked like a $ 30/$ 60 game (this was going on in the separate “High Roller” room). Having a game for everyone’s bankroll is key to bringing in the players, a fact not missed by the Hard Rock Tampa poker room staff.

Everything about the Hard Rock Tampa poker room was top notch. From the chairs at the table (plush and comfortable) to the amenities around the room, you could certainly tell that the Seminole Indian tribe spared no cost in improving its offerings. And it isn’t like they’ve jammed a bunch of tables into a room and put everyone elbow to elbow. The Hard Rock Tampa poker room has a full-service bar, a snack bar (burgers, sandwiches, and other offerings) and 40 HDTVs arranged around the room. Waitress service is quick and there’s even massage service for the players grinding away on the felt.

The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa has hosted some WPT DeepStacks events in the past, but they are deserving of a higher profile tournament schedule. Perhaps a WSOP Circuit roster of tournaments or maybe even a full-fledged WPT Main Tour stop (and where the hell are the smaller tours like the Heartland Poker Tour and the CardPlayer Poker Tour?) would be well-served to come to the poker room for a spell. The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa poker room is a must-play stop for players who come to Florida; with the wide array of games and stakes, the plush surroundings, and its ease of access (Tampa International Airport is nearby), the poker world is really missing something special.

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