iGB Diary: The Rock's ablaze, leave the small time!, PS Cali deal, French bashing, er, French-style

25 April 2014

The Rock’s ablaze and New Jersey wants in on the action. This week the Diary reviews some alternative igaming jurisdictions for you, it's finally official Poker Stars go west and as it's Friday we'll have a bit of Gallic-bashing.

Made redundant 
New Jersey: With the state’s igaming ambassador Senator Raymond Lesniak and his sidekick Joe Brennan intent on turning NJ into the new Alderney, this could be an option for some seeking post-point of consumption tax (post-PoCT anyone?) sanctuary or for a telecoms company or two that don’t immediately shut down during an out of control campfire. Brennan took to Twitter to put forward his case following news of Gib’s fire last weekend:

According to Brennan, NJ is the best and most disaster-proof place to do igaming business (like it, Ed), ignoring calls that the time zone, tax questions and other similar minor issues might prevent operators from setting up shop there. Some may well make the move, but it would be truly amazing if operators in Gib decided to cross Spanish waters to hop over the Pond en masse. 

Alderney: [Ed – I thought we were looking at alternatives? Then again, Jeremy Clarkson could move there (the locals would be delighted)… with Piers Morgan, in an all out survival battle, Hunger Games style… with Paddy Power pricing it up...].

London: written off by Brennan’s Twitter tirade as ‘claustrophobic’ and ‘not in the biggest igaming market’, the Big Smoke wouldn’t be the worst option. Despite being expensive, it’s a travel hub to Europe and the rest of the other regulated gaming markets and the most operators already have large-scale marketing operations there. Sorry Joe, one of the best cities in the world is still on our shortlist.

Manila: if you were worried about fires in Gib, Manila has suffered two massive blazes in the last few weeks alone and floods regularly. One blaze devastated an area of its slums and one ripped through its port (and never mind time zones etc). You’re safer setting up in Oscar Pistorius’s bathroom.

Costa Rica: one of the places where it all began. The weather’s wonderful, it’s not far from the US, as one or two former igaming bosses know only too well, and igaming is woven into the fabric of the place. The football team is in England’s World Cup group in Brazil and will almost certainly beat us. Forget the fact that the FBI and DOJ have more Costa Rican stamps on their passports than days spent with their own families, all that shadiness (well almost) is behind it and it’s time to reclaim the place as our own. Who’s with us… anyone?

California dreaming 
Finally the California deal between PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the state’s (and according to the press release, the world’s) three largest card rooms is official. The press release contained all the usual bumph about consumer choice, player protection, best business practices and so on. But below the polite business talk, a fierce and merciless battle is taking place as the most populous state in the US looks to regulate online poker. If the ‘bad actor’ text is maintained in the two bills that have so far been put forward, as its proponents want to (Pechanga, United Auburn, bwin party, AGA etc), then Stars and its partners will do all they can to stop them, with delays aplenty for the foreseeable future. Conversely, what it would take for the other tribes and their partners to accept PokerStars into the California tent? It’s hard to see where it could go. Nonetheless it should be fascinating to watch how it plays out.

Le ‘French bashing’, moi?
The French love a good moan so it was good to see some of their poker journos take it out on their own this week in response to new ARJEL president Charles Coppolani’s comment about the online poker fad having been and gone. The quote followed ARJEL’s quarterly figures confirming a further drop in the vertical’s fortunes. Coppolani added that after an initial post-regulation boom in 2010, online betting had dropped considerably and was now popular because it was a cultural leisure activity, as opposed to poker being a trend. Never mind that French horse racing is also down, after all PMU is only Europe’s largest tote. And if betting on the gee-gees isn’t cultural, then god knows what is...

Step forward PokerStrategy’s Antoine Lafond: “Not once does Coppolani mention the ring-fencing of the (poker) market, the tax system that applies to operators and the tax authorities’ operations targeting big players. Not a word on the lack of poker variants either...” Coppolani added that the French market “hadn’t met operators’ expectations (...) and that the Internet had not destabilised the gaming world in France.” Phew... as long as FDJ and PMU are ok then... As for most of the market being captured by the licensed operators, that aim overall had been met. “So why launch a campaign against illegal sites at the start of the year?” asked Lafond, “oh wait, because according to France’s drugs and gaming watchdogs, the illegal offers are still very much present! And guess who used to head up the gaming body? Charles Coppolani!” But below the rant, Lafond makes the very valid point that the issues of liquidity sharing with EU neighbours or making the offer more attractive to players are never mentioned, but when it comes spending money on studies and reports that, once again, will ‘reveal’ how addictive and dangerous online poker is... there’s no end of takers. Maybe ARJEL will eventually do like AAMS in Italy and stop publishing industry figures having got so sick of getting in the neck. We’re just glad it wasn’t some Brit carrying out this latest bit of French bashing...