Daniel Negreanu is not universally loved but as a high-stakes, visible professional poker player, he's anted up in all the big rooms.
This past week, he posted some thoughts on all of the biggies: Bellagio, Wynn, Aria, Venetian and The Mirage. If you're interested in poker or just curious about how a big-timer sees the various choices, it's interesting reading.
Over the past few days, I've spoken to several journalists about last week's wave of indictments that targeted three major online poker sites. One question that I've been getting is, "Could this benefit brick and mortar casinos?"
My initial answer was no, it wouldn't in the long term. If you look at the numbers of tables and total win from 2002 to 2010, it's clear that, as online poker became more popular, poker in Nevada casinos boomed. That implies that a thriving online market actually helps Nevada casino poker, since more people are more familiar with the game.
Now, you can never prove that the boom in online poker caused the growth in Nevada poker; we all know that correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation. It could be that they both benefited from a bigger upswing in public interest in the game due to the rise of televised tournament poker around the same time. I'd argue that online and televised poker cross-pollinated each other, with a pretty big overlap in their audiences. But even though I can't definitively prove that online poker caused the 2003-06 Nevada boom, it seems the most likely explanation.
So what impact will closing three major websites have? Instead of logging on, will people flock to local cardrooms and casinos? It's definitely possible, particularly in the short term. But in the long term, denying Americans access to online poker will, ultimately, shrink the market for casino poker. With fewer places to learn with training wheels on, it's likely that there will be fewer new live poker players. It's one thing to get the feel of the game by playing for free, then playing for money online; it's another to make the jump from freeplay to a live table.
I was curious (there's a lot of that going around on this site, apparently) about what impact UIGEA's passage had on Nevada revenues, so I compiled a new report, looking at monthly statewide Nevada revenues from January 2004 to February 2011--that, I figured, would give me enough of a set of data to see how significantly UIGEA impacted Nevada gaming. Was there even a small influx of players to Nevada casinos after it passed?
The answer is no, there wasn't. The growth of Nevada casino poker really peaked in the summer of 2006; for the next year, it grew moderately each month. There wasn't any significant change in the rate of that growth in October 2006, when UIGEA was passed, or in the months following. In fact, after a big jump in June 2007 (because the WSOP was moved up by 3 weeks), Nevada poker started to decline pretty dramatically.
It might have been anticlimactic, but the official implementation of UIGEA in June 2010 didn't do anything to stop the decline in Nevada poker either.
To me these numbers suggest that, ultimately, the traditional casino and poker business won't really benefit from online poker prosecutions. I'd guess that either players will find other sites to play on or they'll cut back on their play. And, as I mentioned above, if online play noticeably drops, traditional poker rooms would lose a vast farm system.
So history seems to tell us that the prosecutions won't really be a game-changer for Nevada casinos. Their ultimate impact won't likely be a direct one; instead, it could be that the attention the indictments focus on online poker might spur cash-hungry state legislatures to seriously consider legalizing online poker. Should Congress be persuaded to slightly amend UIGEA to allow interstate play (it already allows intrastate play), we might see a new American online poker industry rise from the ashes of the Black Friday indictments.
But that's a story that hasn't been told yet.
UPDATE: I've expanded the CGR report to include data going back to January 2004. And it's now in landscape instead of portrait orientation.
Word is starting to get around that the FBI has seized the Internet domains of popular online poker sites including Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker.
According to CNBC's Twitter account, the companies have been charged with 'Fraud, Illegal Gambling'.
While some users may still be able to reach the sites in question (Internet DNS changes take time to propagate, especially when they're... uh, unscheduled), that won't last. The domains have been seized by the FBI's Cyber Initiative and Resource Fusion Unit.
This is pretty huge.
We've been talking about online poker and Nevada gaming companies getting into bed with these folks... Well, if they're convicted, I have a feeling we won't be seeing PokerStarsWynn.com anytime soon.
More to come on this and I'll update with more details as they're available.
Update: The US Attorney's press release.
One thing that's not clear at the moment is what is going to happen to customer funds that were on deposit with these sites. As of right now, they're unavailable for withdrawal.
If you want to follow the discussion in the poker community, have a look at these forum posts.
Update: After a bit of a delay, the Vegas papers have stories up:
Our own Jeff Simpson will be a guest on PBS' Nevada Week In Review this evening, talking about online poker and other topics I'm sure.
The show airs locally on Channel 10 at 7:30pm, with repeats Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 12:30pm. The show is also available online and as a podcast (that's how I watch every week).
Jeff's back and we're talking about poker again this time around. Since the last post went up, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has weighed in with a letter to the author of AB258 that makes his position fairly clear.
The letter is available here from the Las Vegas Sun.
What did the mainstream media miss when analyzing this development? Continue on for Jeff's take on how this impacts this issue.
Update: According to Channel 8, an amended version of the bill made it out of committee and is heading to the Assembly floor.
This time around, Jeff dives into the complexity of regulating online poker.
It's an interesting take - be sure to give it a read, after the jump.
A bill currently on the floor of the Nevada legislature's getting a lot of attention. AB 258 would legalize online poker in the state of Nevada and, with the consent of partner states, outside it as well.I thought I'd look at the text of the bill and share my thoughts.
More after the jump...
Liz Benston interviews Bobby Baldwin in the LV Sun. He answers some of the questions we asked during our recent call-in podcast.
"He typically shuns publicity but was keen to address rumors that he might be leaving MGM Mirage - perhaps to join his old boss - after a management reshuffle. Baldwin would have been a natural choice for operations chief at MGM Mirage, a job that went to finance chief and CityCenter's chief idea man Jim Murren. Baldwin says he is impressed by Wynn's growth in Las Vegas and Macau but he's satisfied and challenged at MGM Mirage, at least for now.
The poker whiz from Oklahoma will retain control of CityCenter and the two adjacent resorts, Bellagio and Monte Carlo, while becoming chief visionary in planning projects along the Strip and beyond."
This interesting story in the RJ caught my eye - a well known casino security expert that has trained many in the industry has been accused of colluding to fix high stakes poker games in Atlantic City.
While an integral part of internal controls and even public safety, we don't hear about much of this stuff and that's why I thought it was worth sharing and discussing.
Today the President signed a bill that was primarily directed at port security issues but in it was a very clear attach on online gambling based around restricting the flow of cash into and out of the online casinos.
Many consider this underhanded as politically, voting against the bill would have then been used to show the respective lawmaker as 'weak on security' - stuffing it in with the ports made it hard for people to vote against it.
Online gambling is generally already considered illegal in the US based on bookmaking rules involving communications over telephone lines (Wire Act) but online poker has been able to move around these restrictions. No longer - this will have an impact of some sort, even if the poker companies seem to be planning to accept US customers in the future.
An excellent book on online gambling prohibitions is Dave Schwartz's 'Cutting The Wire'.
I personally see this as short sighted and totally the wrong way to go. Americans should have the freedom to play online poker, blackjack or whatever if they so desire.
Update: Dave Schwartz has written a comprehensive piece on the specifics of the bill:
Technorati Tags: gaming industry
The Las Vegas and Poker Blog fires off an interesting review of the poker room at The Mirage, long considered one of the best in Las Vegas.