Just one month after Ultimate Poker named Antonio Esfandiari its ambassador, the company made history by being the first regulated real-money online poker site to go live since the Nevada online poker legislation was put into law late last year. The first cards were dealt at noon ET on April 30. While there were some hitches during the inaugural hours of the event, it was seen by the company and the state as an overwhelming successful launch.
There was a small problem with the Verizon Wireless network while trying to verify players were inside the state, as well as problems with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and its malware detection blocking the download. But by the end of the day, there was an average of 75 players playing at any given time with a peak of 136. The biggest cash-game limits currently being played are $3-$6 no-limit hold’em and $10-$20 limit, but there are discussions about opening up the limits in the future. The biggest tournament games are $100. While Ultimate Poker said it realized it needed to make some adjustments to the site and get some of the issues fixed, it was happy with its first day in business.
The Ante Up PokerCast interviewed Joe Versaci, UltimatePoker.com’s chief marketing officer after the historic hand was dealt. You can hear that interview in its entirety at anteupmagazine.com/pokercast. Also, read the Ante Up publishers column below for their take on this historic event.
MGM, in a statement, said it’s in no hurry to get into the online poker business and will not be an early adopter into this field. CFO Dan D’Arrigo said while MGM has decided to wait to enter this online poker industry it hasn’t ruled it out, either. He said it would be MGM’s preference to have a federal law to work under rather that individual states because of the complexity of having to abide by differing laws for each state.
NEW JERSEY: In mid April, PokerStars applied for its New Jersey gaming license under the newly enacted law allowing online gaming for companies who have a land-based presence in the state. PokerStars was in the final negotiations with the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City to buy the property. There had been some opposition by the American Gaming Association, which filed a legal brief accusing PokerStars owners, Rational Group, of running illegal businesses in the past and that they didn’t want them having businesses set up in the United States.
On May 1, Michael Frawley, COO of the Atlantic Club, released a statement that said the deal had been terminated, but the Atlantic Club was still open to the “opportunities presented by online gaming.” Then just a few days later, PokerStars said it was committed to resolving the situation, which it did in the form of a lawsuit. Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten issued a restraining order to prevent the Atlantic Club from being sold to any firm other than PokerStars, requiring the $15 million sale to proceed. A hearing was scheduled for May 17, after Ante Up went to press. I will continue to follow this story.
ILLINOIS: Gov. Pat Quinn recently said the Internet gaming language was added to a current gaming expansion bill at the last minute and needed to be examined more closely. So, Senate president John Cullerton is considering taking the online gaming portion out of the bill to resubmit it as a standalone bill. While there probably will not be online gaming any time soon for Illinois residents, it is still being discussed by the lawmakers, who will put it up for a vote in the future.
DELAWARE: The state has conditionally approved Scientific Games and 888 Consortium as its primary vendors for online gaming, which is slated to go live by the end of this year.
PENNSYVANIA: State Rep. Tina M. Davis introduced online gaming legislation because surrounding states Delaware and New Jersey have legalized online gaming. She feels it’s imperative Pennsylvania legalizes it to stay competitive.
BITAR: As I reported last issue, the former CEO of Full Tilt, Ray Bitar, settled with U.S. federal prosecutors, pleading to two of the nine felony charges filed against him. We now know what he has been told to hand over to the government. The list is long and expensive. He was forced to forfeit all money in 18 bank accounts around the world in varying financial institutions, multiple homes including a $3 million estate in Glendora, Calif., as well as a reported $400K timeshare in Bermuda. In addition to this, he also has to give up ownership to any and all Full Tilt-related entities. This may not be everything that’s up for grabs, as the government is also looking into other ventures that Bitar has interests in, which may also be included in this settlement.
— Email Joel Gatlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A historic online step
When you look at U.S. history, Americans like to be trailblazers, setting the pace for the rest of the world and leading the way into the future. America won the race to the moon, didn’t it?
But when it comes to safely playing poker on the Internet, America still is woefully behind the rest of the world. So many countries allow their citizens to enjoy our game in a regulated online environment, yet the country that prides itself the most on freedom can’t get its act together in this respect.
So, in true American spirit, the people have gone over the heads of the federal government to take back control of our game on a state level. It took some time, but on April 30 at 9 a.m. PT, UltimatePoker.com in Nevada became this country’s first online company to deal regulated real-money poker on the Internet.
With apologies to Neil Armstrong, that’s one small step for online poker; one giant leap for online poker regulation. Just a tad more than two years since Black Friday, America finally clawed its way back into the game.
And you’ll notice we never said “legal” poker site, because online poker never has been illegal on a federal level, which really is the saddest part of all of this. But this is a day for rejoicing, of taking back what is ours and staying on the poker road to recovery.
Thank you, Nevadans, for remembering the trendsetting spirit that made this country great, for giving us back our poker freedom, and let’s hope it means we will someday be able to enjoy this freedom everywhere. After all, isn’t freedom why we came here in the first place?
We’ll see you at the tables.
— Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long