Posts Tagged ‘Date’

Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

 Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

In a case that is now dragging on into its second year regarding a transaction from 2014, former Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov now has a date set for his trial on insider trading charges.

In proceedings held last week in the Quebec Court, Judge Claude Leblond scheduled the start of Baazov’s trial for a November 20 start date. Counting in holidays, the lawyers concluded that the trial will take about 13 weeks as the prosecution plans an extensive case. The attorneys for the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the province of Quebec’s equivalent of the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, have called the case against Baazov and two defendants the “largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history” and plan to call around 50 witnesses.

Other than the sheer number of witnesses (including some that potentially could testify via videoconference), there are other problems that are lengthening the potential trial. The trial will be conducted in French (Quebec’s provincial language) because, as explained by the Toronto Globe and Mail, the case is a penal proceeding under Quebec’s securities act. Leblond has stated that an attempt to seat a bilingual judge will be taken and that the case will have all proceedings translated as close to simultaneously as possible. The evidence in the case, strangely enough, will be presented in English.

There is no list of witnesses at hand, but employees from Amaya’s investment bank, Canaccord Genuity Securities, are expected to be called. Additionally, at least one “informant” not named previously in court documents will be called to testify, although there is no information as to whether than informant will testify anonymously or not.

The case dates back to 2014 in what was – and still is – the largest online gaming transaction in the industry’s history. The #1 online poker website in the world, the privately owned PokerStars, was approached by Amaya Gaming and Baazov early in the year about a potential buyout of the family ownership behind PokerStars, the Scheinbergs. Negotiations moved quickly and, by June, the $ 4.9 billion transaction was complete for the online operations and all other pertinent properties.

What the AMF were concerned about was the period prior to the actual completion of the transaction. In unveiling their case a year ago, the AMF alleged that Baazov and two other men, Benjamin Ahdoot and Yoel Altman, utilized the information they had regarding the potential deal to make stock trades “while in possession of privileged information.” Along with the trio, three companies – Diocles Capital, Sababa Consulting and 2374879 Ontario – are also charged with insider trading and attempting to alter the fair market price of Amaya’s stock. Baazov also faces a communication of privileged information charge along with the other two charges.

There seems to be at the minimum smoke where the alleged fire is located. Prior to the sale, Amaya Gaming stock was trading around $ 7.50 per share on the NASDAQ boards but, as the information emerged that the deal was imminent, the share price soared over $ 35, nearly a five-time increase. Even today, the stock for Amaya is still trading around $ 15 ($ 14.50, to be exact).

Baazov has had a tumultuous history since the allegations came out in 2016. Since the charges were brought against him, Baazov has looked to stay in charge at Amaya Gaming before eventually taking a “leave of absence” that became permanent at the end of last year. He has also entertained the notion of buying PokerStars from Amaya Gaming and taking it back into private ownership. In December, that potential deal fell through, even though Baazov and his investors were offering more than what the stock was worth at that time ($ 24 per share, a 30% increase over its board price).

Even with the trial date set, there is still the potential for the AMF and the defendants to strike a deal and avoid any court proceedings. This is a fact that isn’t being ignored by either side as the attorneys are not making any statements to the press regarding the case that could affect any deal discussions. If convicted of the charges they face, Baazov and company would face stiff fines and potentially lengthy jail time.

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Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re-Vote at Future Date

 Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re Vote at Future Date

It was a weird day in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tuesday as legislators voted on whether or not to legalize online gambling, including online poker, in the Commonwealth. It was generally thought that Tuesday would be a close win for the online poker community, but it strangely wasn’t. The conclusion, though, is yet to come.

Rep. John Payne introduced HB 649, a bill which would legalize and regulate online gambling, in February of last year. One would have thought that it would be this bill that the representatives would vote on, but instead, up for a vote were two amendments to a different online gaming bill, HB 1925.

The two amendments, A7622 and A7619, are quite similar, save for one major difference. A7622 includes language – in addition to online gaming – that would permit non-casinos to have video gaming terminals (VGT’s) on their premises. VGT’s are video slot, poker, and other video gambling games most of us have seen at casinos. In some states, places that are not casinos are permitted to have them. Sometimes they can pay out in cash, though in many circumstances, only payments in store credit are permitted.

A7619, which Rep. Payne says is essentially his bill in duplicate, does not include the authorization of video gaming terminals. Both of these amendments were put to a vote and both were defeated, A7622 by a vote of 66-122 and A7619 by a vote of 81-107.

According to industry expert Steve Ruddock of, it got a little nuts after the votes. Payne was listed as the author of both amendments, but actually voted against A7622, the one that included VGT’s. As it turned out, A7622 was actually created by Representative Mark Mustio – the inclusion of Rep. Payne’s name was some sort of clerical error. But because Payne’s name was on it, many legislators who were in favor of VGT’s voted against A7622 because they just assumed that it was the amendment that did not include VGT language. They knew Payne was not for VGT’s, so naturally they figured that an amendment written by him (again, this one was not) did not include VGT’s (which this one did).

Those representatives then voted against A7619, thinking that if both were struck down, both would be reconsidered and the vote could be redone. Both amendments will, in fact, be reconsidered, we just don’t know when.

Pennsylvania has one of the fastest growing gambling industries of any state in the U.S. and is one of the reasons why Atlantic City has struggled to draw visitors in recent years. Those in Pennsylvania who wanted to gamble – particularly those in the eastern part of the state – used to have to head across the border into New Jersey for the gaming entertainment. But now with resort-style casinos in Pennsylvania as well as neighboring Maryland and Delaware, there are many more options for residents of all these states.

New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling, so it is only natural that Pennsylvania would want to compete in this area, as well. It’s not that people are necessarily going to cross state lines just to play online poker, but by legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania, the state could keep even more gamblers within state borders as well as convert online gamblers into visitors to the state’s casinos.

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PokerStars Announces Launch Date for New Jersey Online Poker Site

 PokerStars Announces Launch Date for New Jersey Online Poker Site

Despite having several obstacles thrown in their path – and getting through each of them – it was announced late Thursday that PokerStars, the #1 online poker site in the international poker industry, would once again be allowed to play on U. S. shores, albeit only in the state of New Jersey at this time.

Amaya Gaming chairman David Baazov made the announcement that many in the online poker community in the United States had been waiting for – that PokerStars would go “live” for New Jersey residents on March 21. “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,” he stated during the announcement of PokerStars’ return. “We are honored and excited to now bring these experiences to New Jersey.”

The full-online gaming market of New Jersey has been awaiting the addition of the PokerStars juggernaut for some time now. As a new addition to the Garden State’s online gaming industry, it will not only bring the valued PokerStars name to the shores of the U. S., but it will also bring the full casino gaming outlet – slots, blackjack, table games, etc. – under the PokerStars brand through Amaya’s other properties. As were the other sites in the New Jersey industry, there will be a “soft” period for a couple of days as the site’s activities are watched by gaming regulators but, by the end of the week (March 24 or 25), the PokerStars site should be fully active and ready for customers.

The long journey to that March 21 opening day has been an arduous one for PokerStars, however. Forced out of the U. S. market when the dark days of “Black Friday” struck in 2011, PokerStars long had tried to find a way to get a linchpin into U. S. gaming, be it live or online. They fought the U. S. government over its indictment of founder Isai Scheinberg and fiscal officer Paul Tate for quite some time until, in 2012, deciding to settle with the federal government for a $ 731 million fine while admitting no wrongdoing.

In 2013, the company saw their golden opportunity come when New Jersey joined Nevada and Delaware in regulating online gaming and/or poker outlets. At that time owned by the Rational Group (and the Scheinberg family), PokerStars attempted to gain entrance to the New Jersey market by ownership of a casino (as each online site had to partner with one of the then-dozen “brick and mortar” casinos in Atlantic City to be able to operate). In late 2013, PokerStars tried to purchase the Atlantic Club, but that deal fell through amidst accusations of improper negotiations on both sides.

With the deal to own a casino now dead, PokerStars and Rational partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel with the hopes of being “live” by the midpoint of 2014. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, however, had other plans, deeming that the continued involvement of the Scheinberg family in the day-to-day operations of PokerStars and the Rational Group (which was supposed to cease under the agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice) wasn’t acceptable and tabled their licensing.

Enter Amaya Gaming and Baazov. In 2014, Amaya put together a stunning $ 4.9 billion deal to purchase PokerStars from the Scheinbergs and continued to drive forward with the New Jersey licensing procedures. By the fall of 2015 (and after another extended investigative period by the DGE over Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars), New Jersey officials finally approved PokerStars for operation and it has taken to this time for Amaya to feel comfortable with launching in the state.

The question will be what effect will the launching of PokerStars Casino (with Resorts) have on the New Jersey online gaming industry. Although the casino side of the equation has been thriving with New Jersey residents (averaging about $ 10 million per month in 2015), poker has lagged far behind. Revenues are down in year-to-year comparisons with last year at this time and, overall, the poker revenues have hovered around the $ 2 million mark through 2015. Add into the mix that there are only two players in the online poker game in New Jersey – Borgata/Party and Caesars/888 – and PokerStars’ arrival in New Jersey will either bring a wave of new players to the market or (as many think) the PokerStars arrival will see them poach players off from the other poker sites as the online casino tries to find a foothold in the Jersey market.

It will take a bit before we can get a full look at what might happen. With their testing and “soft” openings, the April revenue information will be the first one where we might see what effect PokerStars/Resorts is having on the New Jersey online gaming scene. For now, however, U. S. poker aficionados are glad to welcome back an old friend in PokerStars.

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