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In this edition of our PokerGuru Gaming Report we bring you important updates from the gaming and gambling circuit.
We start with New Jersey where The Stars Group (TSG) has extended its partnership with the Resorts Casino Hotel to include online and mobile sports wagering through its BetStars brand. Even Fantasy sports provider DraftKings has introduced a new mobile app DraftKings Sportsbook allowing New Jersey residents to place sports wagers for the first time in the state.
Next up, Apple Inc has removed 38 unlicensed gambling apps from its App Store in Norway in compliance with the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA)’s diktat.
Meanwhile, the mediocre performance of the Wynn Macau resulted in a decline in the shares of the casino hotel company Wynn Resorts even as the Suncity Group announced further delay in completing the purchase agreement for an ambitious casino resort project in Vietnam.
We wrap up this report with news on iNinja Poker Tour making a comeback under new ownership after a year of remaining shut.
Residents of New Jersey can now use their smartphone devices to place sports wagers from any point within the state’s boundaries. After the U.S. Supreme Court gave its nod to legalize sports betting, gaming setups have geared up to bring online sports betting to the state in a big way.
Taking the first step to introduce mobile sports betting in the state, Fantasy sports provider DraftKings has launched a new mobile app, DraftKings Sportsbook allowing users to bet on the go. At the same time, PokerStars’ parent company The Star Group (TSG) has announced an extension of its existing business partnership with state’s first casino hotel, Resort Casino Hotel to jump into sports betting.
Both the companies have tied up with Atlantic city-based Resorts Casino Hotel, since New Jersey law mandates mobile gambling providers to tie-up with a casino or a racetrack in the state that currently operates a sportsbook.
TSG is already in a partnership with Resort Casino Hotel for online casino games and poker under the PokerStarsNJ brand. The partnership will now include online and mobile sports wagering through TSG’s BetStars brand.
TSG will soon release a new app allowing users to place sports wages from New Jersey and provide a wide range of betting products that include in-play wagering, bespoke accumulators and live-streaming. Alongside, TSG will offer an ecosystem of free-to-play products, promotions and sports content for dozens of sports including professional and NCAA football, basketball, baseball, horse racing, hockey, soccer, tennis and other sporting markets.
Senior VP, TSG Strategy & Operations, USA, Matt Primeaux explained the Group’s vision behind the move. “We believe The Stars Group is uniquely qualified with the experience and insight needed to make sports betting a success in New Jersey.” He added, “Working with our longstanding partner, Resorts, we are really excited to introduce a brand-new consumer experience by bringing New Jersey fans closer to the sports and the teams that they love.”
Meanwhile the DraftKings Sportsbook mobile app was released last Wednesday and offers different types of betting. To log onto the mobile platform, current DraftKings users can use the same registration information used for the company’s other offerings. The app is currently in its soft-launch, invite only period.
While DraftKings and TSG have already entered the New Jersey sports betting market, they’re certainly not the last. More apps are expected to follow as many stakeholders including casino operators, bookmakers and professional sports setups are racing to launch competitively positioned sports betting platforms.
Online gambling operators currently do not have the license to operate in Norway and in line with the recent diktat of the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA), tech giant Apple Inc has blocked access of 38 unlicensed gambling apps for Norwegians.
Sites that faced the punch of the NGA’s online gambling blockade include, The Netherlands, Betsson, NordicBet, Coolbet, Comeon, LeoVegas, Mr Green, Unibet and Norway’s Automation.
Lauding Apple’s decision to remove the unlicensed gambling apps, Frank Hoff Hana, Senior Advisor to Norwegian Lottery Authority said the move “will contribute positively to reducing the illegal gaming offer aimed at Norwegians.”
Gambling operators do not agree. “The Lottery Authority should also look at how to regulate the gaming market. For 18 years, there have been games online, and there have become more problem players,” Morten Klein, Chairman of Swedish gaming company Cherry AB said.
He added that the app blockade will only lead to more problem gamblers while creating false hopes for Norwegian politicians and organizations fighting game addiction.
“The situation now is untenable and it must end with a regulation. As long as Norway is part of the EU/EEA regulations, it is fully permitted for Norwegians to play on these pages.”
Currently, Norsk Tipping holds a gambling monopoly in Norway while gambling operators Coolbet and ComeOn that are licensed under the EU Free Trade Zone continue operations in the country.
A year after entering a purchase agreement to acquire a resort project in Vietnam, the Suncity Group is yet to complete the purchase. If the company’s latest report filed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is to be believed, the group will be unable to close the deal before August end.
The Suncity Group is run by Macau investor Alvin Chau Cheok Wa and first entered the purchase agreement in July 2017 as a follow-up step to the 2015 agreement between Suncity, Vinacapital and Chow Tai Fook Group Golden Yield Enterprise.
At the time, the group announced that it would be investing $76.8 Million for a 34% stake in the project. The company delayed the deal closure first in December 2017, and then twice this year. The state reason for delay is approval from the lending bank that is still to be cleared.
The ambitious resort project is to be built in Hoiana area in central Vietnam and will be carried through seven phases of construction, with phase one including a casino with 1,000 slot machines and 140 gaming tables along with a hotel and a golf course.
Midwest poker tour iNinja Poker that was briefly mired in financial trouble and controversy is now making a comeback under new ownership. World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace owned Next Level Poker Tours LLC has acquired the iNinja brand and plans to resurrect it.
Wallace seems confident of reviving the excitement and popularity of iNinja. In an official statement issued last week, Wallace said, “We look forward to awarding millions more to poker players around the world and bringing some of the fun back to poker rooms at a lower price point than many of our competitors.” While no events have officially been announced yet, in a revamped avatar, iNinja promises to be “a new line-up of card rooms and two completely new and unique tournament formats.”
Poker regular from Minnesota – Brian Soja is also named as an owner while Jordan Handrich is listed as a co-owner on the company website.
Introduced by Isaac Tucker, the iNinja poker tour offered low buy-in tournaments with multiple starting days. The tour became ragingly popular but owing to a conflict between the ownership and a group of sponsored players, it was shelved for more than a year. Tucker had announced on Twitter that iNinja was officially done. Obviously it wasn’t.
“The excitement generated by iNinja was incredible,” Wallace recalled, “I have never seen a tour grow so quickly and I have never seen people have so much fun in a poker tournament.”
Wallace’s bid to revive the tour has just begun but the tour is sure to face stiff competition from existing operators including the WSOP Circuit, MSPT, Heartland Poker Tour and Poker is Fun Tour.
Wynn Resorts recently had dip in share prices after a poor showing at Wynn Macau, which is the company’s largest market. While the sales for Wynn Macau rose 9% during the second quarter of 2018, but by the final quarter the company was only able to rake in $1.61 billion, which was short of the $1.67 billion expected by analysts.
In due course, the casino giant’s shares fell as much as 9.7% in trading, since shares that were projected to earn $1.92 each from Wynn Macau casino, only produced earnings of $1.53 each. The reason behind the decline in revenue for Wynn Macau by 15% was largely due to a decrease in high-roller bets. At the same time, the company’s second Macau casino on the Cotai Strip saw an increase in sales by 57%, leading to concerns that the new operation could be stealing customers from the flagship Macau casino. Wynn Resorts also saw revenue decline at its Las Vegas operations, dropping 6.1%.
Wynn CEO Matt Maddox stated, “Wynn Macau had a tough VIP environment on lower volumes from several junket operators as several competitors got back into the game with new rooms and more credit. Wynn Macau won’t compete on price.”
Casino operators in Macau all suffered losses this week on U.S. exchanges, incited by the announcement that betting revenue in July had grown less than anticipated. They were further affected by the announcement from Caesars Entertainment that its room revenue for the current quarter will be less than previously estimated due to competition from rivals and a reduction in events being held in Las Vegas.