Poker News Round-up
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Poker News Round-up: Week #19
Following on from Barny Frank’s recently introduced bill to try and make internet wagering legal, another state representative has stepped in to help counter the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has introduced a bill that calls for a year long study of internet gambling and for the identification of the correct manner in which the US should be dealing with it. Although Berkley has previously voiced her opposition to the UIGEA she claims that this bill does not take any particular stance towards it, rather that it is just an honest study of how internet gambling affects America.
Frank believes that Berkley’s bill complements his own, although whatever the findings, there are no guarantees that the government will do anything other than what suits them at the time. Take for example their recent response to a ruling from the World Trade Organisation. In a dispute which has been running for over two years, it was declared that the US was in violation of WTO rules in stopping its citizens from placing bets with offshore sites. So how best to deal with an unfavourable ruling on a global agreement the US happily signed up to in 1995? Simply refuse to comply with it seems to be the government’s answer, and as a further kick in the teeth to fellow WTO members it will be seeking to avoid making any compensation payments eligible to them for this breach of the rules. Prime candidates who might wish to make a claim against the US are Antigua, whose economy is strongly supported by revenue from internet gambling, and the UK where several companies saw billions of pounds wiped from their market value by US actions.
The repercussions from this threaten to extend far beyond the subject of internet gambling as in the history of the WTO no country has ever used the process being invoked by the US to raise additional barriers to free global trade in response to a lost trade dispute. By ignoring this ruling the America is jeopardising the credibility of the WTO and setting a dangerous precedent.
As a final note for now on the subject of online gambling, Barny Frank has found an enemy in the form of the professional sports associations. An email to the financial services committee written by Martin Gold of the NFL and countersigned by representatives of other sports states that they very strongly oppose any effort to legalise any online sports gambling – the argument being that it protects the integrity of their sports. However, it goes on to say that they would also oppose any legislation that would legalise and regulate any non-sports gambling online. Not entirely coincidentally Gold was a former counsel to Senator Bill Frist who helped push through the UIGEA without debate moments before congress adjourned last year. One of the lesser publicised points of the UIGEA is that it made exception for online gaming in the form of fantasy football leagues which, again entirely coincidentally, generates millions of dollars of revenue for the NFL.
It seems that for the first time since 1986 this year the first prize for the World Series Of Poker main event will be smaller than that of the previous year. The number of entrants for this year is the subject of debate due to the abolishment of third party registrations, but regardless of how many show up, the prize structure has changed in such a way as to reduce the top prizes. After several players commented last year that they had played for long periods only to receive a small return on their entry fee when they cashed, it seems that Barry Greenstein contacted WSOP staff to suggest a revised payout structure. Whilst the total percentage of players that will be paid does not change, the new flatter structure in all events means that the top few prizes will be paid less and the majority of players at the lower end of the scale will receive relatively larger payouts.
Just as this year’s WSOP approaches, the enquiry into the extra chips that appeared at last year’s main event has been closed. The 8,773 entrants should have meant that there were 87.73 million chips in play although by the latter stages of the tournament it became evident that there were in fact 90.14 million on the tables. Various reasons have been put forward to explain the appearance of an extra 2.41 million chips including rounding up of values and staff errors during colouring up of chips, although it seems unlikely that either of these would account for such a large discrepancy. Alternatively there are stories of entrants being given the incorrect start date during days 1a to 1d meaning that their stacks were blinded away into play but then new stacks introduced when the mistakes were rectified. A more unsavoury answer is that it is simply the result of players cheating by removing chips from smaller buy-in events earlier in the series and then returning them to the table at the main event. In truth it could easily be a combination of all of these, although none reflect particularly favourably on organisers Harrah’s who have declined to release their findings other than to say that there will be no prosecution.
Despite being removed from the WPT tour, the Grand Prix de Paris still managed to draw in some big names for the €10,000 event and at the time of writing Ram Vaswani is well positioned going into the final table in third place behind Will Ma and the very experienced Jeff Lisandro. It is highly unfortunate that Ram will be denied a chance to win his first WPT bracelet due to wranglings over the proposed filming of the tournament, but there is a first prize of €423,000 for the winner to look forward to nevertheless. Good luck Ram!
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