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Archive for July, 2018

Poker Buddies Antonio Esfandiari and Kevin Hart to Meet in the Boxing Ring

After some clashes at the poker table, poker pro Antonio Esfandiari and popular comedian turned avid poker player Kevin Hart are set to storm the boxing ring, Esfandiari himself told a TMZ Sports reporter over the weekend.

Delighted to be recognized by paps and asked about “some real juice”, Esfandiari said that he and Hart played poker the other day and “somehow boxing [came] up.” The two made a bet and agreed to step into the boxing ring to test their strength and will. The boxing match will take place “in March, around March,” Esfandiari told the TMZ reporter.

The poker pro refused to unveil how much money was on the line, but given both his and Hart’s estimated net worth, it should be expected that they have made quite a hefty bet.

Esfandiari further said that he is getting 35-1 odds in the upcoming bout, because his opponent is “in much better shape, he’s an athlete, he’s fast as hell”. However, at nearly 6 feet tall, the Magician, as Esfandiari is also known in the poker community, he has an important height/reach advantage. Hart stands at around 5’4″.

Esfandiari and Hart’s Careers

With three gold bracelets from the World Series of Poker and two WPT Main Tour titles, Esfandiari is one of the big stars of global poker. The player boasts live tournament earnings of over $27.6 million. That amount includes his first-place prize of $18,346,673 for taking down the 2012 $1,000,000 BIG One for ONE DROP and outlasting some of the world’s most seasoned pros, including heads-up opponent England’s Sam Trickett.

It is also interesting to note that he had been a professional magician before he started playing poker for a living, hence his nickname The Magician.

As for Kevin Hart, while he cannot boast with as many poker accomplishments as Esfandiari, he is one of the world’s most successful and praised comedians in the world. With estimated net worth of around $58 million, Hart ranks 39th in the Forbes 2018 Celebrity 100 Earnings list. His The Irresponsible Tour has been the biggest comedy tour so far this year with 1 million tickets sold, from which Hart grossed over $30 million.

Earlier this year, Hart became a brand ambassador for online poker room PokerStars, following his multiple appearances in different poker tournaments in 2017 and this year. The comedian and the globally popular poker brand said that they hope their partnership will change the face of poker.

Esfandiari and Hart excel in their respective fields, but it is to be seen who will emerge victorious in their upcoming boxing match. This will not be the first time poker players are clashing in the ring. Bouts have taken place between Bertrand Grospellier and Lex Veldhuis as well as between Brian Rast and Sorel Mizzi in the past few years.

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EGBA and LOGiCO: Italy’s Gambling Advertising Ban “Will Have a Counterproductive Effect”

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and the Italian Online Gaming Association (LOGiCO) sent a joint letter to Italian ministers in hopes to overturn a proposed and much-supported blanket ban on all forms of gambling advertising in the country.

The letter, published on EGBA’s official website, arrived ahead of today’s planned debate on the proposed prohibition. The ban is part of the so-called Dignity Decree, a legislative piece introduced by Italy’s newly-sworn Deputy Prime Minsiter Luigi Di Maio. Minister Di Maio has previously said that the main purpose of a full ban on gambling advertising would be to protect vulnerable people from being overexposed to gambling.

The Minister has also recently said that the proposed crackdown on adverts would be the first step in a larger-scale initiative against the proliferation of gambling in the country. The Dignity Decree was approved by the Council of Ministers earlier this month and legislators are now working on its many provisions until a final version is produced and adopted.

EGBA and LOGiCO have been among the staunchest opponents of the proposed gambling advertising ban since day one and their joint letter from this weekend comes as another manifestation of their efforts to prevent Minister Di Maio’s proposal from taking effect. Here it is important to note that the blanket ban is expected to partially take effect from January 1, 2019 and to come fully into force from 2020.

Arguments against the Ban

In their joint letter, the full text of which could be found here, EGBA and LOGiCO point out that while they understand and support the responsible gambling and customer protection concerns behind the proposed ban, they believe it could actually produce the exact opposite effect.

The two associations explain that the ability to advertise their products and services across Italian media is among the main advantages licensed operators have over their black market counterparts. With regulated companies being prevented from promoting their offering, the black market is only expected to grow and lure customers. Local players and bettors will thus be exposed to questionable practices by some black market operators and their activities will not be overseen by gambling regulators and providers of health care, the letter reads.

Instead of implementing a full ban on gambling adverts, EGBA and LOGiCO propose a crackdown on “irresponsible gambling advertising” so that customers are protected effectively. The two associations believe that in this way minors and vulnerable people will be prevented from being overexposed to gambling but the “counterproductive effect” of a blanket ban would be avoided.

The introduction of measures against socially irresponsible advertising should be “based on scientific studies and research” the two organizations advise, citing the UK Gambling Commission’s Young People and Gambling report as an approach that could be adopted in Italy.

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Boracay Casino War Rages On: President Duterte Says ‘No’ to $550-Million Plan

There will be no casino on the island of Boracay, a spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, following recent comments by gaming and leisure company Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC) that their planned $550-million casino resort in the popular tourist hub was on track for 2021 opening.

LRWC partnered last year Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group for the development of the planned casino resort on the island. They received this spring a provisional gaming license from PAGCOR, the local gambling regulator. However, President Duterte ordered Boracay be closed for a six-month environmental cleanup at about the same time. The country’s top official also said multiple times that he would not allow casino gambling on the island after the completion of the rehabilitation process. Boracay was shuttered for business in late April and is expected to be reopened in late October.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said during a Monday briefing that President Duterte has remained firm in his decision to prevent the construction of casino resort on Boracay and that no private entity should be testing the political will of the country’s highest ranking official.

Mr. Roque further elaborated that Galaxy and LRWC only have a provisional license, which means that certain requirements should be met before the companies are able to operate casino gambling on the island. However, these requirements can never be fulfilled as President Duterte has previously said he would not allow that.

Casino On Track for 2021 Opening

Mr. Roque’s comments came in the wake of comments made by LRWC Vice President for Legal Affairs Katrina Nepomuceno regarding their joint project with Galaxy. Ms. Nepomuceno said over the weekend that they believe they will be able to launch the resort as originally planned in 2021, despite the island’s closure.

The official told media they were yet to decide on a groundbreaking date, but expressed confidence in the eventual materialization of the project. Ms. Nepomuceno further noted that they have been working closely with the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as with the special task unit responsible for the rehabilitation of the popular tourist hub to make sure that their plan would be implemented in full compliance with any future environmental requirements

The LRWC official said that they managed to complete an important phase of their project before Boracay was shuttered, which further boosted their confidence in the resort plan’s eventual realization. The local gaming and entertainment company and its Macau-based partner acquired a 23-hectare portion of land in the Barangay Manoc-Manoc area where they plan to build the $550-million casino resort that would aim to attract high roller casino patrons and non-gambling customers from the Asia-Pacific region.

It is yet to be seen who will emerge as the winner in what now seems very much like a war between the two gaming and leisure companies and President Duterte. Earlier this year, the top official ordered that PAGCOR place a moratorium on the construction of new casinos in the country to prevent the proliferation of gambling. However, it became known last week that Hong Kong-listed integrated resort developer and operator Landing International Development has been granted a provisional gaming license by the Philippine regulator to build a casino resort in the Manila Bay area.

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Casino Giant MGM Partners GVC, Boyd Gaming for Larger Cut of US Sports Betting Pie

Gaming and hospitality giant MGM Resorts International announced today that it would look to capitalize on the nascent US sports betting market and extend its US presence with a duo of key partnership deals.

In separate press releases from minutes ago, the major gambling company announced that it has formed a joint venture with Isle of Man-headquartered online gambling operator GVC Holdings and with its fellow US gaming and hospitality operator Boyd Gaming to position itself more strongly in its domestic market at a time when multiple states are taking advantage of the recent annulment of the long-standing federal ban on sports betting.

Under the newly penned partnership agreement between MGM and GVC, the two companies will form a joint venture that will operate sports betting and online gambling services across states where the provision of these services is legal. The two gambling operators will each invest $100 million into their 50/50 joint business. MGM said in today’s statement that the venture will increase its and its partner’s speed to market in “an efficient and prudent manner, lowers execution risk, and creates meaningful early mover advantages.”

The joint business will have access across all legal online and land-based gambling sectors across the United States, including sports betting, online real money and free-to-play casino gaming, and land-based poker tournaments and online poker. MGM revealed that playMGM and partypoker will be their headline online brands.

Reports about the partnership between MGM and GVC emerged over the weekend to be confirmed earlier today. This is not the first time the two companies are joining forces. GVC has actually been operating the online casino of the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City since online gambling was legalized in New Jersey five years ago.

The joint venture is anticipated to commence operations ahead of the upcoming professional football season. The launch of the new business is subject to regulatory approvals.

MGM Partners Boyd Gaming

MGM has struck another key partnership to cement its position in its domestic market. The gaming giant and its fellow operator Boyd Gaming have once again joined forces and this time they will offer online and mobile gaming and betting platforms across states where any of the two companies has physical presence and where licenses for these activities are available.

Both MGM and Boyd Gaming will thus expand their presence across 15 states and will have access to approximately 90 million potential customers.

MGM also announced that its joint venture with GVC will, too, benefit from the newly formed partnership with Boyd Gaming, as it will receive extended market access.

MGM and Boyd Gaming previously operated jointly the Borgata, until the latter company sold its 50% stake in Atlantic City’s highest grossing casino to its partner in 2016 for the approximate amount of $900 million.

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Ireland’s Revenue Declares War on Dublin’s Illegal Casinos

Ireland’s Revenue has issued enforcement letters to a number of illegally operating casino facilities across Dublin giving them 21 days to remove gambling machines from their premises, The Times reported earlier this week.

News about the government agency launching a crackdown against illegal operations arrived after an investigation by The Times showed that a number of Dublin-based arcades have used their licenses to operate gambling machines, thus breaching a 1988 citywide ban on the latter devices.

Under the long-standing prohibition, no licenses for gambling machines can be issued to facilities located within city limits. However, The Times reported last month that a number of arcade facilities are violating that ban and are using their arcade machine licenses to operate gambling machines.

According to Revenue definitions, arcade/amusement machines are games that gives players the chance to win no more than an opportunity to play again or a non-monetary prize the value of which is worth no more than €7. The Times found that the gambling machines at some of the arcade premises across Dublin offered players the opportunity to wager up to €2,500 on casino-style games such as video poker, roulette, and blackjack. Such premises now have 21 days to remove all gambling machines or face seizure of those.

Industry Responds to the Looming Crackdown

The Irish Amusement Trades Association (IATA), which represents both licensed and unlicensed arcades, has responded quickly to the pending crackdown, saying that it was considering legal actions against Revenue’s ruling. The association has long been lobbying for the ban on casino-style gambling in Dublin to be lifted.

IATA General Secretary John Roche has previously said that Ireland’s current gambling laws are archaic and are violating directives of the European Union in relation to the provision of gambling services across member states. Ireland’s gambling industry is regulated under the Gaming and Lotteries Act which took effect back in 1956.

Irish lawmakers have been working for years on a piece of legislation that would replace the obsolete regulations, but not much progress has been made so far.

A Revenue spokeswoman has told The Times than any operator of gambling machines without the necessary license or using an arcades license to operate gambling machines would have their machines seized and would be prosecuted. IATA maintains that they can face down the taxman in court and even win, citing recent European Court of Justice rulings, under which any laws restricting gambling to certain areas in a given country should be reviewed if they are applied properly.

According to a 2015 study by Gaming and Leisure Association Ireland the issuance of arcade licenses is cheaper than of gambling machine ones and by favoring the former, the country is thus losing revenue. The study also said that of all 7,559 arcade licenses issued, around 5,000 were actually used for gambling machines that offered cash prizes.

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