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GiGse provokes fights and fraud

24th April 2013 8:00 am GMT
You can argue whether she was right or wrong but star of day one at GiGse was undoubtedly Caesars’ Jan Jones. The former mayor of Las Vegas laid into an uncowed Jon Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) over the issue of whether PokerStars should be allowed to operate in a regulated US market. Pappas was speaking for the players, you understand, not for PokerStars but he did a good job of standing up to Jones’s withering invective. The confrontation boiled down to differing opinions over the interpretation of UIGEA and whether that means blocking PokerStars from the US market is legitimate. “PartyGaming pulled out. 888 pulled out. Not one US company would operate because it would imperil their licence,” stormed Jones. “You can call it grey if you like. I call it black.” Pappas’ response was that competition is good for the consumer. Consumers want choice and between 92 and 97 per cent of poker players in Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois have said they want to be allowed to play on PokerStars, according to PPA research.Pappas cannily quoted the American Gaming Association (AGA) literature that states: “Congress has enacted no legislation that makes iGaming illegal.” Despite being an influential player within the AGA, the Caesars lady hit back, stating that every single congressman except Barney Frank would take exception to that. This was a good, old-fashioned ding dong of a debate. Seminole Hard Rock management board member Michael Rumbolz was just relieved to be sitting to one side rather than between the two combatants. The former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board sat calmly, occasionally imparting some wise, dispassionate words to calm proceedings. The current chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board AG Burnett caused a stir earlier in the day when he stated fairly unequivocally that he is preparing for the possibility of other games besides poker to be allowed online. That shocked at least one attendee, who later told me that there is not a cat in hell’s chance that the smaller Nevada casinos will allow casino games online because they are so scared of cannibalisation. Time after time, the point was made that online should not lead to cannibalisation. It is a marketing tool but it clearly remains a big fear for America’s land-based casinos. They needn’t worry about slots in California, according to California Gambling Control Board commissioner Richard Schuetz. “If there is going to be an iGaming experience in California it will be poker only,” stated Schuetz. “I don’t anticipate seeing slot machines on the internet in my lifetime.” But that’s okay, according to Schuetz, because California will have the best online poker ever ever ever in the history of the planet. And Schuetz knows this ‘cos California has Hollywood and Silicon Valley and amazing tribes and card rooms and....no bill, as one wag in the crowd pointed out. Schueltz took the well-intentioned gag in his stride and responded that California gaming is not in crisis. There is no rush to get the revenue from iGaming. “We can be very deliberative,” argued Schueltz. The day began with chairman Lloyd Leveson of law firm Cooper Leveson telling us that this would be the last theoretical GiGse before the rollout of real life iGaming in the US. As such, it was appropriate that he introduced some of the industry’s most important figures. The panel of online gaming executives and former online gaming executives seemed fairly confident in their ability to adapt to the new challenges presented by a regulated US. “Land-based casinos will be successful because they will be teaming up with bwin.party, IGT, Amaya or 888,” half-joked bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger referring to his co-panelists. Minor disagreement broke out over the social versus real money debate and whether social player can convert to real money. Amaya CEO David Baazov argued that social players and real money gamblers are completely different types of players attracted to different things. Former 888 CEO Gigi Levy retorted: “The reality if you look at the databases of social and real money gambling, the behaviour is almost exactly the same.” The way they engage and the amount of time they spend online is almost exactly the same, argued Levy. He said that timing is the key to conversion. Offer players real money while they are doing well and you will be astounded by conversion rates. Teufelberger is up for the challenge. He announced that bwin.party will be launching “the first credible sports betting offering” in the social medium within the next few weeks.    From the credible to the incredible. The final session of the dwindling day was illuminated by the revelation of one US casino executive, who shall remain nameless (because I don’t want to embarrass him more), who claimed that there are only 2,000 slot machines in the whole of the UK. I think this, er, “fact” was given as evidence that you shouldn’t take all that you hear from Europe as gospel. Now....where shall we begin? I’m not counting them all because such a ludicrous claim hardly deserves the effort Google would need to expend to find the correct answer. However several in the crowd believed him, so can I just point out that every single one of the UK’s 8,000+ bookmakers has at least three or four machines.... that makes over 30,000 machines before we even talk about casinos. Yes, it’s still a tiny number compared to the rows and rows of slots on the typical US casino floor but be careful. Not everything you hear from the stage is god’s honest truth.sah@gamingintelligence.com
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