Archive for the ‘online poker’ Category

Poker Stars Making it in Italian Online Market

Monday, May 9th, 2011

The door may be shut—for now—to Poker Stars in the US, but it the door for Poker Stars in the Italian online gambling market is wide open. Not only is the world’s largest online poker site alive in well outside of the US, it is thriving in Italy.

This past March saw the limited opening up of the Italian online gambling market. Italian gaming officials opening up its online poker market which was previously limited only online tournament was meant as a way to boost revenue for the European country through taxes on online gambling operators’ revenue. Now, with a license from the Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS), the Italian gaming regulation body, a select number of online gambling operators can offer citizens cash poker games, which the Italians are eating up.

Along with the limited expansion of online poker, the AAMS also allowed video lottery terminals and slot machines to be installed in certain locations. The new video lottery terminals and slot machines are being blamed to the 11.3% drop in online bingo. Analysts are not concerned at this point as this is the first quarter for the terminals and believe that once the new wears off a return rise in online bingo will occur. Online poker figures did not suffer with the introduction of the terminals and slot machines, but that is believed to be a result of the new allowance of cash poker games.

But Poker Stars is not stopping with offering cash online poker games to the Italians. They have a new feature, added to their European offerings this past January, which allows players on the site to create private online poker clubs. These private online clubs are started by a player creating a club and then inviting friends and family members to play with and against each other.

With their license from the AAMS to operate with in Italy, Poker Stars is dominating the Italian market with their cash poker games and private online playing clubs. Sure they might be out of the US market no thanks to the intimidation tactics of the Conservatives, but Poker Stars is thriving in Italy.

US Poker Players Looking to Move to Canada

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

With the Black Friday of Poker and the indictment and seizure of three major US facing online poker sites, online poker players in the US are looking at their options to continue generating their income through professional play.

One solution is to simply roll over to a land casino and play poker there. This solution is not viable for everyone though. Not every state is home to land casinos, and even those who do allow land casinos, the drive to them may not be possible. As for those now former online poker players who do have a land casino nearby, they may find that playing poker in a land casino differs from playing in a casino online. For one thing there is no anonymity; players see exactly who they are playing against. Also, playing styles are different, which was seen shortly after Black Friday when attendance in land casinos went up.

But there is another solution that US professional online poker players are looking at: Canada. As in moving to it. The idea is simple: pack up, immigrate to Canada, start playing again. Once in Canada, players would be able to play on the same online poker sites they used to, including Poker Stars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker. They would also have the world of online casinos opened up to them. All that these players would need is a physical address and bank account in Canada as well as be able to prove that they were physically in Canada when playing.

Sounds easy, right? But hopping the border to Canada may not be as simple as US online poker players think.

For starters simply moving into Canada does not make you a citizen; this is not like hopping states, people. Canada and the providence you move into must accept you. If you are not a citizen you cannot stay indefinitely in another country, and that includes Canada. Canada makes its decisions on who to accept into their country based on contribution. In other words, what are you doing that is going to benefit Canada. If you are medical professional or an engineer right now then you might have some pull because those are professions that are in demand right now. However, you would have to get a company to hire you and sponsor you for a work visa, and then you would actually have to work in that profession which undermines time playing online poker.

Another way in is a temporary tourist visa issued by the Canadian government. This type of visa would allow Americans to take up residence temporarily and to open a Canadian bank account. However, an American on such a visa would not be able to work in Canada, and they would have to return to the States once their visa was up.

Canada is not looking to be a haven for US online poker players looking for a quick and easy solution to the challenge of playing in the States. They want citizens who are sincere about becoming Canadian so listing ‘online poker player’ as your occupation will not get you far in the immigration process.

How the Fall of the Poker Sites Happened—Part II

Monday, April 25th, 2011

This is also the part where his Generation Y ‘Nothing can touch me’ attitude really kicked up. As one friend in Brisbane, who wished to be unnamed, said, “I do not think his personal maturity matched his intellectual maturity. He could have channeled his wits into an honest living. He got greedy. He saw others making a fortune and helped himself on the way through.”

And that is exactly what Tzvetkoff did. In 2009 two of his Intabill clients, Poker Stars and Full Tilt, began complaining that Intabill owed them money. But when Sciacca looked at the books, it showed that both accounts were up to date and paid off. Full Tilt was so sure that Intabill owed them money that they took them to court. Sciacca was so sure Full Tilt was wrong that he hired a forensic auditor to go through their accounts. This was when it was discovered that Tzvetkoff had skimmed millions of dollars off the tops of the accounts.

Those millions of dollars were to support a lavish lifestyle that Tzvetkoff was living in Las Vegas, a lifestyle that included, but certainly was not limited to, an $80,000 driving course, a $70,000 golf club membership as well as another new Lamborghini. Again, I said ‘not limited to.’ Intabill fell apart. Liquidators had nothing left to really disperse, although they did note that $50 million had been transferred to Tzvetkoff and were classified as loans from Tzvetkoff’s own company to him.

The discovery of the money laundering to feed his greed gained Tzvetkoff a $100 million lawsuit from Sciacca on the grounds of falsified accounts and inflated profits. Poker Stars and Full Tilt turned him in for money laundering. Now he was in some serious trouble in the US. And yet, in a perfect example of ‘Nothing can touch me’ Tzvetkoff showed up in Vegas where he was promptly arrested on the grounds of orchestrating a $540 million racketing operation.

Naturally, in a show of extreme emotional maturity [cough, cough], Tzvetkoff tattled to US authorities about the three online casino slash online poker sites, that they were the ones benefiting from his money laundering scheme. There is a certain ironic poetry here except the informing was done in a childish attempt to drag others down with him. Even still, it is unlikely that Tzvetkoff will ever find himself at the top of the IT industry again. As it is Sciacca wants his money, the poker sites will want their money, and Antigua is very angry with the US right now because of the online poker site shutdown.

And that, my online casino loving friends, is how the three largest online poker sites in the US fell, all because of one little man’s greed and inability to comprehend what consequences are. But I bet he is beginning to comprehend…the hard way.

How the Fall of the Poker Sites Happened—Part I

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Like any good story there is always a back story. And while we here at cannot call the seizure of three online poker sites ‘good’ news, it was still a good-sized piece of news. As such there is a back story to the fall of the three largest online poker sites that operated in the US; and it starts with an IT genius from Generation Y who got just a little too greedy.

How greedy? Try $540 million greedy. That was here the trouble of Daniel Tzvetkoff started. The Australia has the IQ of a genius and it shines in his IT skills. Do not get me wrong, I do not think the world of this guy. For one thing he was the reason Poker Stars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker were taken down; and for another he is a perfect example of Generation Y: those who think everything should come easy and who think consequences are not real and do not matter.

Tzvetkoff’s climb to IT fame—and fortune—began in 2000 when he developed online software for processing payments on the Internet that he was calling Intabill. Four years after that he needed someone to sell his product for him, causing him to hire Sam Sciacca, an Australian lawyer. By the time 2008 had rolled around Tzvetkoff’s software, Intabill, was being used by five thousand clients in seventy countries. And the money started pouring in by the millions. And he was only in his mid-twenties.

In Tzvetkoff’s case, money brought possessions and that increased the greed. At the height of his career, Tzvetkoff had $28 million water front house, a $7.5 million super-yacht, multiple sports cars, of which his Lamborghini Gallardo—with its “BALLER” license plate—was the prize. He also opened a $3 million club in his home town of Brisbane, Australia. This was all in 2008. By 2009 Tzvetkoff would be broke and in a heck of a lot of trouble. And this is where the story really picks up.

But to hear the end of the story behind why the three largest online poker sites fell you will have to check back this afternoon, friends, for Part Two of this story.

DC Bill May Still Encounter Opposition

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

While DC was the first jurisdiction to pass an online poker bill, the bill may still encounter some opposition from Congress. Although Congress has much bigger issues on their plate such as, oh say, the country’s budget.

But Congress did get their digs in to let DC officials know that they are not out of the woods just yet. The bill could still go under review but the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGRC). According to a statement made by the spokesman for the HOGRC, Frederick Hill, “That is not how Congress reviews controversial legislation passed by the District of Columbia.” Hill went on further to say, “If the commit has a concern that a practice is either illegal or not in the best interests of the federal taxpayers who support the District of Columbia, the committee could certainly raise a concern.”

But on the other had is the revenue that DC needs and the fact that DC residents already play poker online through offshore sites. “We know that many of our residents are currently engaged in online gaming, but are doing so with offshore companies. Our goal is simply to regulate the business in the District and to ensure that the District receives its fair share of the financial benefits produced by online gaming,” said DC’s mayor, Vincent C. Gray.

Gray also believes that what DC Council Member Michael A. Brown is trying to do is innovative. Brown is the official who proposed the online poker bill back in December; the DC online poker network would start as no-stakes moving into real money in September, which would bring online poker to DC quicker than many thought. The bill was then passed as a part of the 2011 DC budget since it has the potential to bring in $13.1 million in two years through the fees for entry into a game and taxes on revenue generated. Gray signed it into law in January. There was then a thirty day waiting period to see if Congress would raise a fuss over the bill or not. When the thirty day period expired without a word from Congress, DC officials moved forward in planning the DC online poker network.

Now it seems Congress is proverbially shaking a fist out the window at DC officials since they are too busy fighting over the federal budget to step on the DC online poker bill. And indeed the HOGRC is busy upholding their larger rolls in Congress; Hill has said that the committee does not have any plans to create any legislation to block the bill or to call a hearing over it.

But these are politicians and me personally I do not trust every word they utter. Even though Hill says there are no immediate plans to give the bill a hard time or to try to squash it, that does not mean it is not in the back of their minds. DC officials will not be out of the woods until the network is up and running. July 1 cannot come soon enough in the nation’s capital.

Online Poker to Hit DC Sooner Than You May Think

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

DC lawmakers are quite happy with the passing of their bill to regulate online poker within the District of Columbia. They also like that they quietly snuck from the out of nowhere and took first place in the regulation race. But there was speculation as to how fast DC would set up their online poker network, with guesses that it would not be ready until 2012.

I should not be surprised that DC is surprising us all again. The city is looking to have a no-stakes online poker network up and running by July 1. As for real money online gambling on the DC network, the Executive Director of the DC Lottery, Buddy Roogow, said that they are eyeing September 1 as the launch of dozens of online gambling hot spots within the city.

That is the other aspect of their plan to introduce online poker to DC: online poker hot spots. Officials do not want to go whole hog with their new found pan to generate revenue; they understand that they are the first in the nation to try regulated online poker, and that there is a concern for limiting the gambling to DC only as well as concern for increased gambling addictions. Rather than turning an online poker network loose in the nation’s capital, officials say they will create twenty to thirty gambling hot spots in places such as hotels, clubs and bars.

No hot spots have been named yet as city officials are still examining what criteria they want to put in place for a location to be eligible to be an online poker hot spot. Roogow is hoping that the DC Convention Center would be one of the named hot spots: “That would be an ideal kind of location for a hot spot. So are hotels. There is only one Convention Center. There are many hotels.”

Those who wish to play would have travel to the hot spot and bring their own computer, and the network would be limited to those hot spots. The reason behind the hot spots is so city officials can make sure that they can limit the access to the network to DC only, but there is intention to open the network up once they ensure that its access is limited to DC. Officials hope to open up the network by the end of this year. Now that is some speedy planning. Of course they have to implement it, but the pace of their planning is encouraging.

California Bill Now Looking at Five Licenses

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Sometimes it is necessary to modify what you are working on. Evolve it, let’s say. Such is the case when it comes to California’s online poker bill, bill SB40.

SB40 was put forward by Senator Louis Correa. Now he amends it in terms of how many licenses the bill would allow. Originally Correa’s bill was only going to allow for one site to receive a license to operate an online poker site in California. Naturally this was rather upsetting to the sovereign nations in California who felt that knocked them out of competing in the state’s online poker area.

As a result the California Online Poker Association (COPA) pushed for an amendment that would increase the total number of licenses up to five. For those who are not entirely up on the who’s who in the California gambling sphere, COPA is led by the Morongo tribe. And there is your connection between a bunch of upset Indian tribes who are concerned about their ability to compete with the draw of online poker and COPA.

The five licenses in SB40’s amendment would not all happen right away if all five ever are given out. The amendment would allow for three licenses to be awarded at the onset of the bill with the tribes being able to work with an online gambling operator, thus enabling the sovereign nations to compete in the California online poker arena. The other two licenses of the total five would only be issued within three years of the bill’s passing, and only then if the California Gambling Control Commission declared that the market had the room for up to two more operators.

With the amendments, SB40 has more backing now from COPA, the California Gaming Association (CGA) and the mighty, mighty California Nations Indian Gaming Association than the other online poker bill in the state, SB45. Currently SB45 is only a proposal, but if SB40 moves forward and receives even more backing SB45 may never see more than its proposal state.

Iowa Unlikely to See Online Poker Anytime Soon

Monday, April 4th, 2011

And score another for the conservatives. We can add Iowa to the list of states that will not see any form of online gambling in the near future. That is not to say that Iowa, or another state for that matter, will not eventually find some happy ground with the conservatives and those that are pro-online gambling. But it will not be Iowa.

Iowa’s SF458 bill for online poker did not make it through the legislatures’ funnel session. In short, this is the fun name for how Iowa’s lawmakers reduce the number of bills that they seriously consider in later sessions as opposed to how other states look and discuss each and every bill at length. Iowans believe that this makes for less work for them because only the bills with any real meat to them make it to later sessions for the nitty gritty discussions. So while the online poker bill make have made it through the Senate Government Committee, it did not pass the muster in the full Senate.

Naturally, the conservatives were at the forefront of the opposition. Their points were from a moral ground, which I am not going to repeat because we have heard the same moral reasons in arguments against repealing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and in the arguments for the New Jersey online gambling bill. In short, gambling is bad for us and we are going to go to hell; as least that is the underlying message.

However, bravo to the bill’s opponents for making real constructive criticism. While such criticism might appear negative on the onset, it does provide the bill’s sponsors with its weak points so that they can return the bill to the proverbial drawing board to improve it and strengthen it before sending it back through lawmaker’s hands. One such weak point was whether or not the online poker bill could keep minors from gambling. Senator Jack Hatch was one such opponent. He said, “The lack of absolute security that an underage person couldn’t obtain the code of the parent [is] my biggest objection.” Fine, so security is an issue in terms of keeping minors off of a state regulated online poker site. That is fair criticism, and something for the bill’s sponsors to work on.

Time spent on reworking portions of the bill is also time that will be used to work with the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. It was suggested that a study be done so that the bill’s sponsors could find other ways to improve the bill and strengthen it, but also how it will impact in-state brick and mortar gambling—which was another concern of opponents.

The goal of the online poker bill in Iowa is to legalize the online casino game and to create an infrastructure that would regulate it in order to protect the estimated 150,000 state residents who currently play online poker on unregulated sites, and to generate more revenue for the state to fill in holes in the budget. It is already estimated that a state regulated online poker site could generate close to $30 million in a year for the Iowa coffers.

The bill’s sponsors at this point are looking to fine tune the bill in order to bring it back to legislatures. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Jeff Danielson, said, “I don’t think they’re ready in this session to legalize it. I just think people need a clearer picture of the evidence.”

So for now Iowa is out of the running as the first state that could legalize some form of online gambling on a state level. Those still in the running are California, Florida, Nevada and Hawaii. But even in those states progress is slow. Despite the nation’s reputation for being a forward-thinking country, the United States runs very conservatively, and it will take time to warm most of the country up to the idea of online gambling. As Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler said, “Bills of this significance sometimes takes two or three years to garner support.”

PokerStars Looking to Move into Nevada

Friday, March 25th, 2011

While things in New Jersey seem to have stalled and Iowa cannot make up its mind, Nevada seems very determined in their course. How determined? Determined enough to snag the attention of the online poker giant PokerStars, who has made significant moves in the last week to position themselves for entrance into the potential Nevada online gambling scene.

Those significant moves can be broken down into two different moves. The first of which was to hire two big names from the Nevada gaming sphere: former Nevada Gaming Control board member Randall Sayre and former Nevada assembly speaker Richard Perkins. Both of these fine gentlemen have proven themselves in the gambling arena; and both have shown on more than one occasion that they stand on the side of Nevada moving into the online gambling sphere even if the United States is not ready on a federal level.

Hiring Sayre and Perkins to be consultants is likely to signify that PokerStars is positioning themselves to be ready to move into the Nevada online gambling market should it open up. “I see Internet gaming as the next extension of how Nevada reinvents itself. This is the growth vehicle for the gaming industry worldwide,” Perkins said. Sayre also had to comment on their hiring and on PokerStars interest in the Nevada market: “We can stand on the beach and let it wash over us, or we can recognize the potential economic opportunity for the state. PokerStars is a significant company that is looking to advance its agenda.”

The other big move on PokerStars’ part was to announce a “strategic relationship” with Wynn resorts. Wynn has a large foothold in Vegas, and a partnership with them would give PokerStars a good foothold in the online poker market should the online poker bill go through in Nevada and brick and mortar casinos find themselves on the hunt for online poker portals to partner with. While I am sure there will be no shortage of portals for casinos to fight over, aligning with a major casino name was a good move on PokerStars’ part.

Both companies are excited about the potential their duo could bring. Should the Nevada bill go through PokerStars and Wynn Resorts would create a portal together called with the intention of generating revenue and creating jobs. PokerStars chairman Amd Mark Scheinberg said, “We are excited about the opportunities that partnering with Wynn, a pioneering leader and innovator in gaming, will present for PokerStars in the United States.”

Sayre has a point in his beach analogy. Online poker and online gambling are coming like it or not, and while the US legislatures seem content to stand there with their mouths open waiting to be overtaken by a wave and scrambling, some states like Nevada are getting their surf boards out and are looking to ride the wave. More power to them.

Full Tilt Launches New Poker Tournament Format

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The online poker site Full Tilt, the main competitor of the well-known PokerStars online poker site, launched a new tournament format for their online poker tournaments. They are calling this a matrix format and believe it will give them an edge when it comes to their competitiveness in the online poker world. After all, it is always Full Tilt versus PokerStars.

Full Tilt is calling its new tournament format a matrix format in which players earn points for both staying alive in the tournament and for eliminating another player. Full Tilt explained how points are awarded to players in a statement, saying, “Players will earn one Matrix point for each opponent they outlast, Survival Points, and two points for every player they knockout at each table, Knockout Points. Each player’s point for individual tables will be listed by match under Score by Match in the Tournament Lobby. Total points for the entire tournament will be listed under Matrix Score.”

I know it does not sound like the simplest of explanations, so Full Tilt also gave an example of a nine player online poker tournament in which each player buys in for $11. Then each table would have the following prizes for first, second and third places respectively out of an $18 prize pool for each table: $9, $5.40 and $3.60.

I know. That does not really explain how the points work but Full Tilt thinks that this is a fine example of their new Matrix point tournament format despite the lack of points in that explanation. But perhaps this is Full Tilt’s way of explain that up to eight players will be able to play against the same up to eight other players at up to four tables at the same time. In that way I can see how this would allow players to have more online poker tournament action.

Full Tilt is very proud of their new matrix format for their online poker tournaments. While I personally think it sounds a tad over complicated, I have no doubt that Full Tilt fans will be quite pleased with the new format.