Posts Tagged ‘Following’

William Hill Closes Czech Player Accounts Following New Gambling Law

 William Hill Closes Czech Player Accounts Following New Gambling Law

Prominent online gambling site and sports book William Hill has withdrawn from the Czech Republic market as the result of new internet gambling laws that took effect at the turn of the New Year. In an e-mail to affiliates last week, William Hill indicated that it may ramp back up in the Czech Republic sometime in the future.

Here is the e-mail, as sent to William Hill affiliates:

We would like to inform you, that following recent regulatory developments in The Czech Republic, William Hill will cease to accept business from customers in The Czech Republic. This means, that none of William Hill’s products will be available in The Czech Republic, though players will be able to withdraw from their existing account balances. Furthermore, affiliates are required to remove all marketing materials from their websites (including banners, text links, etc.) that relate to Czech Republic bettors. We value your cooperation and contribution and though William Hill is obliged to cease to accept business from customers in The Czech Republic, for the time being, we are confident that we will have the opportunity to work together in the future. In the meantime, if you require any help or assistance on this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact your affiliate manager…

The “regulatory developments” likely have to do with the new gambling law, signed by Czech President Miloš Zeman in July 2016, which require operators based in the European Union to acquire Czech online gaming licenses in order to offer their services to Czech residents. As William Hill does not have one – there seem to be only eleven operators that do – it decided not to run afoul of the country’s new law. The letter quoted above seems to imply that the company feels confident that it will obtain a license at some point.

It is entirely possible, though, that William Hill and other major operators won’t seek licenses, though, as the tax structure implemented by the new gambling law is extremely punitive. Licensed internet gaming operators will now be taxed 35 percent of gross gaming revenues from any game that uses a random number generator. Naturally, this includes poker in addition to casino games like blackjack and roulette. Sports betting and lottery revenues are taxed at 23 percent. On top of that, the operators still have to pay a 19 percent corporate income tax rate.

Many, if not most, operators will find this taxation way too prohibitive to make it worth getting back into the country. The tax rate was no accident, either. Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the man who originally introduced the new online gambling bill in 2014, is very anti-online gambling, but rather than try to ban it and leave players without protections and the government without the tax revenue, he decided to just tax the industry out the wazoo. His idea was that such a high tax rate will keep operators away and he will get his wish of no internet gambling, anyway.

Of course, it could backfire on him and just encourage residents of the country to frequent unregulated sites, increasing their risk and keeping money out of the government’s coffers, anyway.

Poker News Daily

Players Air Issues with European Poker Tour Following Barcelona Event

 Players Air Issues with European Poker Tour Following Barcelona Event

For 13 seasons, the European Poker Tour has arguably provided one of the best tournament experiences in the industry. Lavish parties, well-run tournaments and other entertainment has been the hallmark of the EPT since its creation back in 2003. According to several players, that has all gone away since the ownership of the circuit changed hands, bad enough that they have actually begun to voice their displeasure.

The €5000 Main Event in Barcelona, Spain (which ran at the end of August) was the kickoff to the Season 13 schedule for the EPT, but there was a wealth of other side events that ran in coordination with the EPT Main Event. Over the 12 days that the poker festival was conducted, 64 tournaments were run with buy-ins beginning at €100 and ranging up to the €50,000 Super High Roller. While some might have liked the variety, some in the tournament poker world didn’t think that jamming through five tournaments per day (on average) was good for the game.

Starting the fires of discontent was Irish poker pro Dara O’Kearney, who frequents the EPT as well as other tournaments run by the PokerStars contingent. He starts his blog post with an analogy, discussing how his parents once frequented a small local grocery store in his hometown. Once the curmudgeonly but likeable owner sold the store, the parents went to the “big” store a little further away from his home, but they never got the same service as they did at that “mom and pop” store. They eventually wouldn’t return and the small store shut down.

O’Kearney then brings his analogy full circle in discussing the current state of the EPT. Noting his experience at the MPN Poker Tour in Talinn, Estonia – saying that the overall event was “very cheerful” and that the personnel involved were working “flat out to provide as much cheer as a presumably quite limited budget allows” – O’Kearney then compares the experience with the Amaya Gaming owned PokerStars stop in Barcelona and notes it used to be more like the MPN experience, but not anymore.

“Stars used to be very good at this,” O’Kearney states. “In the early days they treated live events as marketing and budgeted accordingly. Over time they decided they didn’t want to spend money on this anymore, and the goody bags got meaner, the parties less impressive, the hotels simultaneously worse and more expensive, the tournaments simultaneously faster and more raked. In Barcelona I was told that Amaya no longer want to break even from live events; they want to make as much money as they can from them. And boy does it show.”

“The 10AM starts also make for a lot of tired grumpy players and dealers,” O’Kearney continues. “One of the features of the EPT and Stars events in general used to be that you had the best and friendliest dealers in the world. Some of the same faces remain and are as friendly and professional as ever, but many have left, and most of their replacements are sullen and unsure of the latest rule changes. It seems clear that customer satisfaction is no longer a priority, and may not even be included as part of the training.”

These thoughts from O’Kearney were echoed by Doug ‘WCGRider’ Polk on the Two Plus Two forum. In a thread there, Polk detailed how the EPT now was going to pay out 20% of the players in tournaments, seriously reducing the overall win for the eventual champion but sending more players home happy with a cash. “I think this is a good firm step in the wrong direction, decreasing the skill in events for the players,” Polk commented in starting the thread.

This has been a long debate in the tournament poker world. There is a faction that believes the larger payout brings more glory and, as a result, brings in more players. There is another faction, however, that believes the more people paid, the happier players are overall. Even this year’s World Series of Poker adapted the latter, paying out 15% of the players at the world’s most prestigious events.

For their part, Amaya – which took over the EPT when they purchased PokerStars from the Scheinberg family in 2014 – has stated that there have been no changes to the quality of the product they are putting out with the EPT. There will be a change as of next year, with Amaya Gaming changing the name of the EPT to the PokerStars Championships, but they seem to expect to carry on the same quality.

The debate will continue regarding whether there has been a decline in the quality of the EPT. It is obvious, though, that players are looking for the best value for their tournament dollar and will go to the events that provide that “bang for the buck.”

Poker News Daily

Las Vegas Review-Journal Writer Leaves Paper Following Restrictions on Sheldon Adelson Content

 Las Vegas Review Journal Writer Leaves Paper Following Restrictions on Sheldon Adelson Content

I got into the poker industry and the writing part of it, specifically, by a happy accident back in 2005. In the eleven years since, I have generally been able to write what I want on my own terms. There have been those rare times, however, when I have been told to stay away from a certain topic or perhaps adjust the way I wrote an article, whether it was to add some sort of mention, remove something, or alter the tone. Only a handful of those times did the request from someone up above truly frustrate me, but hey, it comes with the territory. Not every day is great in any of our jobs; I wasn’t about to quit just because someone pissed me off one day. But then again, I’ve never had a serious journalist role like columnist John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

On Tuesday,  Smith resigned from Nevada’s largest newspaper because he was instructed to no longer write about casino barons Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and billionaire Republican string-puller, purchased the Review-Journal in December 2015 for $ 140 million, an amount that seemed exorbitant. The prevailing opinion at the time was that he bought the paper in order to use it to exert political influence, but the paper’s publisher, Jason Taylor, said that Adelson would have no influence on editorial content.

Taylor was replaced on January 28th by Craig Moon, who reported directly to the Adelson family ownership. Prior to his installation, there was a disclosure in the paper about Adelson’s ownership; after his hiring, that disclosure was deleted. It was that day that Smith was instructed to stop writing about Adelson, a fact that remained largely a secret until this past Saturday.

On Saturday, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas hosted a public Society of Professional Journalists meeting during which Review-Journal editor J. Keith Moyer (who joined the staff in February) was interviewed. During the interview, he for some reason revealed that he had told Smith not to write about Sheldon Adelson. This jaw-dropping admission was live-tweeted by several journalists, including those from his paper, who were in attendance.

Moyer explained (or tried to explain) that Smith had a legal history with Adelson and therefore “it was a conflict for John to write about Sheldon.”

In 2005, Adelson sued Smith in response to a book he wrote about the CEO. That lawsuit was dismissed by a judge. A similar lawsuit for a similar reason was brought against Smith in 1997 by Steve Wynn. That suit was also dismissed.

When asked about the Wynn lawsuit, Moyer admitted he knew nothing about it. According to Jon Ralston of Ralston Reports, Moyer told Smith on Monday to stop writing about Wynn, as well.

It sounds like that was the last straw for Smith, who resigned Tuesday. Before leaving he explained his reasons via a letter he distributed around the office, saying, in part, “….if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that “commentary” tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.”

Smith’s entire letter is copied below.

Job Opening: Columnist

Dear Friends,

I learned many years ago about the importance of not punching down in weight class. You don’t hit “little people” in this craft, you defend them. In Las Vegas, the quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that “commentary” tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.

It isn’t always easy to afflict the comfortable and question authority, but it’s an essential part of the job. And although I’ve fallen short of the mark many times over the past three decades, this is a job I’ve loved.

But recent events have convinced me that I can no longer remain employed at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a spirited newspaper that has battled to remain an independent voice of journalism in this community. If a Las Vegas columnist is considered “conflicted” because he’s been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it’s time to move on. If the Strip’s thin-skinned casino bosses aren’t grist for commentary, who is?

It’s been an honor working with you all. Your hard work and dedication remind me every day that journalism is better than ever – even if management leaves something to be desired.

Take care,

John L. Smith

Poker News Daily

Moody’s Investors Service Downgrades Amaya Gaming Stock to Negative Following Insider Trading Charges

 Moody’s Investors Service Downgrades Amaya Gaming Stock to Negative Following Insider Trading Charges

After last week’s blockbuster announcement that their Chief Executive Officer and five other men would be charged with insider trading, Amaya Gaming now has to deal with the fact that one of the top stock watchers in the industry has downgraded the outlook on their stock.

Once it was announced that David Baazov, the now-former Chief Executive Officer of Amaya Gaming who has taken a paid “leave of absence” from the company, was facing charges of insider trading in dealings with Amaya Gaming from Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Moody’s Investors Service moved their outlook on Amaya, Inc. and Amaya B.V. and their related assets to “negative.” The AMF is Canada’s version of the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal organization that is charged with ensuring that there is no wrongdoing on the different stock exchanges in the United States.

In announcing that they were moving their outlook to “negative,” Moody’s offered a thorough reasoning for the decision. “The negative outlook considers Moody’s perception of increased credit risk for Amaya,” the statement began. “Moody’s believes these civil charges, along with the legal process that follows, could negatively affect the execution of the company’s operations and growth strategies, particularly given that Mr. Baazov is significantly involved in the development and execution of Amaya’s business strategies. Additionally, the negative outlook also considers the uncertainty with respect to how the regulators will react to any subsequent disclosure regarding the insider trading charges.”

In essence, this is why Baazov “decided” to take a paid “leave of absence” earlier this week. While there may be some truth to the statements that he was looking to prepare to defend himself against the charges that have been brought against him, Amaya could not continue to have him at the helm of the company for the exact impression that Moody’s presented. The additional idea that Baazov is still looking into a purchase of Amaya Gaming – something that was floated at the start of February – may still be on the table, but it looks very unlikely unless Baazov is found to be not guilty of the charges.

The saga for Amaya Gaming – and the potential groundwork for the insider trading charges against Baazov and his cohorts – stems back to the purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker from the Rational Group and the Scheinberg Family in 2014. In April 2014, Amaya stock was running around $ 5.85 on the Toronto Stock Exchange but, as soon as rumors began to emerge that Amaya was looking to make a deal for the world’s largest online poker room, the stock price rapidly increased. By the end of April, the stock price had climbed to $ 6.88 and the best was yet to come.

May 2014 would see the price jump from $ 7.13 to $ 10.82, a more than 50% increase in just a month’s time. When the deal between Amaya Gaming and Rational for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker was actually announced in June 2014, the stock price would almost triple to $ 30 by the end of the month. The price for Amaya stock would peak at $ 38.43 in November 2014 and has been on a rollercoaster since that time.

In December 2014, the AMF launched their investigation into the insider trading accusations against Baazov and five other men intricately linked with the Amaya/Rational deal. The stock price plunged to $ 27.10 by January 2015, but it would gradually fight back through the year. On November 9, 2015, the stock was trading at $ 31.23 but, following a less-than-optimistic financial forecast, the stock price plummeted to $ 19.59. As of this morning, Amaya Gaming stock is trading at $ 16.70, slightly down from its price of $ 16.98 at the close of trading on Tuesday.

Whether the “leave of absence” that Baazov has taken will have an effect on the stock for Amaya Gaming, it will certainly have an effect on the boardroom. Whether Baazov returns entirely depends on the results of any trial – or potential plea bargain – that is decided in the case.

Poker News Daily