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Archive for November 1st, 2018

New York Jets Join Forces with Casino Giant MGM in “First-of-Its-Kind” Deal

The Jets pen landmark deal with casino operator MGM Resorts International shortly after 888 advertising tie-up

The New York Jets and MGM Resorts International today announced a “first-of-its-kind” integrated gaming partnership that makes the casino and hospitality operator the official gaming partner of the NFL team.

The announcement about the Jets/MGM tie-up arrives shortly after reports emerged that the team has joined forces with online gambling operator 888 Holdings in a sponsorship deal that is yet to be announced officially.

In addition to a traditional casino sponsorship, the Jets’ deal with MGM also involves the I Called It mobile game which allows fans of the NFL team to answer questions about Jets games. The game is sponsored by MGM’s mobile app Play MGM and is available exclusively in the Official New York Jets App. It is free to play and provides Jets fans with the chance to win different prizes. However, it does not allow them to wager money on Jets games.

As part of the deal, MGM will be designated as the official gaming partner of the NFL team. In addition, the casino operator will sponsor and be offered access to the Jets 360 Production Studio, where the team films dedicated digital media and television content. The Jets’ home stadium, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will feature MGM signage.

Jets season holders and members of the Jets’ rewards program will be treated to entertainment experiences and hotel rooms at MGM resorts around the nation, including Atlantic City’s Borgata, as part of the newly penned partnership between the football team and the gaming and hospitality giant.

888 Partnership Draws Ire

It also became known earlier this week that the Jets have secured a sponsorship agreement with online gambling operator 888. While an official announcement about the tie-up is yet to be made, 888 banners can now be spotted at MetLife Stadium.

The NFL changed its advertising policies in early September to allow teams to join forces with casino companies and thus boost their advertising revenues. However, under the new rules, the sponsorships should not promote and involve sports betting in any way.

888 currently offers online casino, poker, and sports betting services, and its wagering offering was what drew criticism as the company’s tie-up with the Jets was unveiled. Supporters of the partnership have pointed out that it does not violate the NFL’s advertising rules as 888’s sports betting business is not directly promoted. However, opponents have argued that the deal definitely crosses the line.

The New York Jets are not the only team to have partnered with gambling companies since the NFL relaxed its rules. The Dallas Cowboys joined forces with WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma in early September, while the Baltimore Ravens inked a deal with Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.

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Super High Roller Bowl V Lands at ARIA Casino in December

Super High Roller Bowl makes December a permanent home, promises multiple surprises for players

The fifth edition of the highly successful Super High Roller Bowl poker series is set to take place on December 17-19, organizers announced Tuesday. The major live tournament event has traditionally taken place in May ahead of the World Series of Poker. However, the days leading up to Christmas are now set to turn into a permanent home of the Super High Roller Bowl, Poker Central said in a press release.

The high roller event first took place in 2015 when US poker pro Brian Rast topped its field for a hefty first-place prize of $7.525 million and the prestige that goes along with winning a tournament of this scale.

As usual, the Super High Roller Bowl will take place at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. And as in its previous editions, it will once again feature a cap of 48 players. The Super High Roller Bowl has featured a $300,000 buy-in fee in all but one previous editions and organizers will keep that fee for its fifth edition. This means that the event will feature a prize pool of $14.4 million and the winner will take home the amount of $5 million in a first-place cash prize as well as the Super High Roller Bowl championship ring, known to have become one of poker’s most coveted trophies.

All players who are interested to take part in the event will have to make a $30,000 deposit by November 26. Of all 48 spots available, 25 will be determined by a live lottery that will be drawn on November 27. There will also be 18 seats reserved for ARIA VIP guest entries. Last but not least, five seats will be awarded to those occupying the top five spots in the High Roller of the Year leaderboard.

Previous Super High Roller Bowl Winners

As mentioned earlier, it was US poker pro Brian Rast who bested the field of the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl in 2015. The player collected $7.525 million from the prize pool and the champion’s ring after he managed to outwit some of poker’s most seasoned players.

Germany’s Rainer Kempe won the 2016 edition of the tournament. The player was awarded $5 million for his feat. It is also interesting to note that Kempe faced another German poker star heads-up. He played against Fedor Holz for the title. Holz eventually collected $3.5 million for his runner-up finish.

The third edition of the Super High Roller Bowl saw another German poker pro walk out with the title and the first-place prize of $6 million. That lucky player was Christoph Vogelsang. He was crowned the victor after three days of quality poker action and a heads-up duel against Jake Schindler, who took home $3.6 million for his runner-up finish.

Justin Bonomo is the reigning Super High Roller Bowl champion. The player won the tournament this summer for a first-place prize of $5 million. It is important to note that Bonomo actually won most of the major high roller tournaments on the 2018 poker calendar, scooping more than $20 million in earnings in the process and overtaking Daniel Negreanu on the all-time money list.

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William Hill Makes £242-Million Offer to Buy MRG ahead of Major UK Gambling Industry Disturbances

William Hill looks to expand European presence, diversify revenue mix, improve online performance with MRG marriage

William Hill today announced that it has made a cash offer to acquire Malta-headquartered online gambling operator Mr Green & co AB (MRG) as the British bookmaker is seeking to bolster its digital arm and amid tumultuous times for the UK gambling industry.

William Hill has offered to buy the online gambling company, which is based in Malta but hails from Sweden, for SEK69 per MRG share or a total consideration of SEK2.8 billion (approximately £242 million).

Assuming approval by Mr Green shareholders, the deal is expected to be finalized in January 2019. In a statement from earlier today, MRG has notified that its Board of Directors has unanimously recommended that the company’s shareholders accept the offer.

The transaction will extend the international footprint of William Hill’s online business and will help it establish presence in new markets. MRG’s online gambling brands Mr Green and Redbet currently operate in 13 markets, including Italy, Denmark, and the UK. The Malta-based gambling group has also applied for a license in Sweden.

In a statement from earlier today, William Hill has lauded both MRG’s sports betting and casino products and has pointed out that pairing with the company would allow it to strengthen its digital business, improve its revenue mix, and reduce its exposure to the UK gambling market, which is set to go through massive regulatory disturbances next year with the expected cut of the maximum FOBT stake and the implementation of a remote gambling duty hike.

Commenting on the offer, William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock said today:

“This proposed acquisition accelerates the diversification of William Hill – immediately making us a more digital and more international business. MRG will provide William Hill with an international hub in Malta with market entry expertise and strong growth momentum in a number of European countries. William Hill will move from a single brand to a suite of brands that can maximise growth opportunities moving forward in new and existing markets.”

The British bookmaker expects the deal to be accretive to earnings from year one of ownership before synergy benefits. It also anticipates synergy benefits of no less than £6 million per year. The synergy benefits are expected to be achieved progressively, with full delivery being anticipated by the third year after the completion of the acquisition.

Second Wave of Merger and Acquisition Deals

The UK gambling industry is facing massive regulatory challenges as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that the government will look to offset the losses from the planned cut of the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2 with an increased Remote Gambling Duty rate. Both changes will take force in October 2019 and come as part of Chancellor Hammond’s new Budget. Online gambling operators currently pay a 15% tax on gross gambling yield, but after the announced hike they will be required to contribute 21% of their GGY to the nation’s coffers.

Both the looming crackdown on the highly controversial FOBTs and the recently announced tax hike will hit William Hill’s profitability significantly. The British bookmaker owns one of the nation’s largest chains of betting shops with FOBTs, but its digital business has only shown mediocre performance over the past several years.

The introduction of the 15% Point of Consumption tax in 2014 sparked an unprecedented wave of merger and acquisition deals in the gambling industry. As a result, six of UK’s largest gambling companies paired to better position themselves in the changing landscape. The FOBTs clampdown and the new tax rate could certainly unleash a second wave of M&A activity and William Hill could become the main initiator of that wave.

Questions and comments about the plausibility of a marriage between William Hill and MRG have emerged immediately after the British bookmaker announced its intentions earlier today. While many would consider William Hill’s decision to acquire MRG a bit unexpected and its £242-million offer a bit too high, it should be said that the latter company has performed more than well over the past year. It has strengthened its position in the lucrative Nordics, has improved significantly its gaming product and has diversified its offering with a sportsbook, and has thus improved its financial performance.

William Hill will thus benefit from the addition of more brands to its portfolio and of revenue from European markets. It is also important to note that the proposed acquisition of MRG comes at a time when the British bookmaker is looking to cement its position in the recently liberalized US sports betting market.

William Hill has begun to gradually expand its sports betting presence beyond Nevada, where it has been operating sportsbooks for many years, and in other states where sports betting has become legal following the mid-May SCOTUS ruling that annulled a long-standing wagering ban. The company recently struck a deal with US casino operator Eldorado Resorts to lock up access to 23 million customers across the US. The deal has also made the British company Eldorado’s exclusive sports betting and online gambling partner across its 26 casinos in 13 states.

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Shuttered Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino Still Out of Luck, Gets Zero Bids at Foreclosure Auction

Primary lender assumes ownership of failed Lucky Dragon casino resort; property receives no offers at foreclosure auction

The unfortunate Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino was released back to its primary lender after it got zero bids at a Tuesday auction in Las Vegas. Located in the northern part of the legendary Strip, the property filed for bankruptcy this past February after a little over a year of operation.

Lucky Dragon opened doors in November 2016, featuring Asia-themed hotel, casino, dining, and entertainment facilities. The property includes two buildings, one of which accommodates its hotel portion, while the other is home to the gambling venue.

Signals that the property had serious financial issues were there from the start. However, those issues seem to have grown rapidly, trapping Lucky Dragon in a downward spiral that eventually forced its owners to shutter the casino and dining facilities in January. The property faced foreclosure not long after and then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. The nine-story hotel closed doors early this month to seal the troubled resort’s quick demise. According to analysts, the Lucky Dragon’s failure to turn into a profitable operation was the swiftest one to have occurred in Las Vegas in decades.

Tuesday’s foreclosure auction saw Snow Covered Capital LLC, a company linked to California developer Enrique Landa and beneficiary of the failed property, assume ownership of Lucky Dragon. The 2.5-acre, 203-room hotel and casino resort was valued at $35-million as the bidding process began, but no offers were made above that initial price.

Property to Reopen Someday

Commenting on the outcome of the Tuesday auction, Mr. Landa told local news outlet the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Lucky Dragon was “a very well-built” property, but it was operated under the wrong business plan. The businessman went on to say that the resort could be very successful if in the right hands. Mr. Landa expressed confidence that Lucky Dragon would reopen one day but could not provide estimate when exactly that was going to happen.

According to Snow Covered Capital consultant Michael Brunet, the Tuesday outcome was quite unexpected as the sale of the property was “marketed very extensively” ahead of the auction. More than 80 prospective buyers had signed non-disclosure agreements, it has become known.

Popular blog about everything Vegas-related Vital Vegas recently tweeted that the plan was all along for the primary lender to acquire the failed property. In a separate tweet from yesterday, Vital Vegas said that Snow Covered Capital can now sell Lucky Dragon “on its own terms”.

The hotel and casino resort was the first to be built from the ground up on the Las Vegas Strip in many years. It was heavily promoted as a property that aimed to cater to Asian high rollers by offering them authentic Asian experience. However, it failed to attract the desired clientèle and that paired with heavy financial troubles from the outset, caused the property’s swift demise.

Upon filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Lucky Dragon had nearly $50 million in loans from Snow Covered Capital and nearly $90 million raised by 179 foreign investors who sought US residency by participating in the so-called Immigrant Investor Program.

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