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Television network ESPN, which earlier this week nixed several major online poker shows from its schedule following the federal indictments associated with Pokerstars, Full Tilt and UB, is more selective when it comes to the biggest poker event of them all, it appears.
ESPN executive Andrew Feldman used Twitter to advise all and sundry on Tuesday that his network would continue to screen the World Series of Poker live championships, an enterprise owned by Las Vegas land gambling group Caesars Entertainment.
NBC Sports reported that Feldman tweeted: “I’m relaying a very important message from the poker team at ESPN. Just so that its clear, ESPN will still be covering the WSOP.”
Feldman's message was confirmed by WSOP spokesman Mike Soltys, who told USA Today: "Plans have not changed."
Nevertheless, industry observers have pointed out that the withdrawal from the USA of the world's biggest online poker providers, and the impact that this will have on sponsorships and satellite qualifiers, is likely to be considerable.
Former WSOP champ Greg Raymer told the daily newspaper USA Today that the 2011 WSOP, a series of 58 events, starts May 31 in Las Vegas, with the main event commencing July 7.
Explaining the importance of big money sponsorships, promotions and satellites run by the major internet poker companies through multi-million dollar budgets, Raymer noted that the main event had attracted 7,319 entries in 2010. This was likely to be lower following the federal busts, he opined.
"If I was actually putting a number to bet on, I would say more like somewhere in the low 5,000s," Raymer said. "If you made me pick a number because you were going to bet either over or under … it would be something like 5,250."
These numbers are in stark contrast to the 8,773 entries in the 2006 WSOP, which was held prior to the passage of the UIGEA. In 2007 entries fell to 6,358, but have been slowly escalating as industry confidence returned.
Raymer predicted that the current situation would make it more difficult for players to compete, due to financial restrictions and the federal actions against key supporting companies like the online poker sites.
"The government shouldn't have anything to do with morality in general," said Raymer. "The government should be protecting us here. That's why they should be creating a law to license and regulate online poker, the same way they protect us from bad food. These people are saying, 'Please, pass the law, give us a license and then we'll be happy to pay taxes.' "
Speaking to Forbes magazine in a follow on interview to his earlier explanation of the Pokerstars-Wynn Resorts deal, company owner Steve Wynn echoed Raymer's comments, saying: “This reminds me of the Volstead Act during prohibition. It said you can't drink beer. Well, people drank beer anyway. And poker's about as American as apple pie.... The situation cries for regulation so that states can get money at a time when they need money and the federal government can get some money at a time when it could use the money. It seems like an intelligent thing to sit down and regulate.”
Wynn Resorts called off its Pokerstars deal due to legal concerns when the federal indictment was unveiled last Friday.
Author and internet freedom activist Joe Plummer, writing in the Activist Post, was scathing in his assessment of the federal government action, observing:
"No doubt, everyone in America can rest more easily now knowing that the government is “protecting them” from the unspeakable dangers of online gambling. (An "unspeakable danger" that nobody asked to be protected from. In fact, the legislation that made this possible was so unpopular that, after years of failing, Congress rammed it through under a PORT SECURITY bill!)
"As a result of the government’s actions, these enormously popular multi-billion dollar companies, and the millions of customers they served, are now met with (a) DOJ message when they try to access the former websites.
"It's just the government doing what it does. (Using its "regulatory power" to destroy businesses and people engaged in non-violent and voluntary activities while ignoring enormous REAL crimes. …Using its power to benefit the "few" at the expense of the many.)
"Not to worry. After they're done destroying all the competition, they'll launch their own profitable "legal" online gambling sites. (Or, they'll dole out licenses to the well-connected for a nice fee and a slice of the action.) Either way, once they’re in a position to get their cut, the horrible "dangers of online gambling" will scarcely be heard of again.
"Cynical? Yes. But sadly, it’s par for the course."
Two licensing jurisdictions, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and the Isle of Man, have issued statements regarding the federal activities in the United States against online poker companies and associated executives.
The KGC noted:
“Our principal concern is that players are not adversely affected by the actions taken by US authorities. The KGC is presently engaged in discussions with its licensee concerning the status of player accounts. Upon completion of its review, the KGC will determine what steps may be required and will issue a further statement at that time.”
UB carries a KGC licence. To date there have been no public statements on the indictments from the site or its owners, Blanca Gaming.
The Isle of Man, where Pokerstars is based, commented:
"Following developments on Friday 15th April, the (Gaming) Commission is aware of documentation issued by authorities in the USA which makes allegations against PokerStars and some of its personnel. While we are discussing the matter on an ongoing basis with PokerStars and watching developments, we can confirm that PokerStars’ licensing status in the Isle of Man remains unchanged.
"We are aware that PokerStars have (sic) suspended the availability of cash-play games in the USA and we are currently endeavouring to ensure that any player who wishes to withdraw money from their account can do so."
Source: InfoPowa News