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Archive for February 15th, 2019

ESPN, Poker Central Release 50th WSOP Live Broadcast Schedule

While there are still a few months until the World Series of Poker, preparations for a very special edition of the popular poker festival are in full swing

Poker Central and ESPN released on Wednesday their preliminary schedule for live coverage of the 50th edition of the world’s longest-running tournament poker series (full schedule here). The schedule of the two networks includes (but is not limited to) full-day exclusive coverage of the WSOP Main Event, which will take place from July 3 all the way through July 16.

Under a partnership between ESPN and Poker Central, the former will broadcast at least 40 hours of live WSOP coverage and an additional 90 hours of original WSOP-focused content. As for Poker Central, its PokerGO streaming service will air a selection of WSOP tournaments in the weeks prior to the Main Event. PokerGO’s streaming schedule will be announced at a later stage. Most importantly, the service will offer viewers exclusive Main Event coverage that will not be broadcast during ESPN coverage.

WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said in a statement from yesterday that “significant video coverage is one of [their] key cornerstones” and that they are grateful to ESPN and Poker Central for constantly expanding the WSOP reach to contemporary platforms and fueling interest in the series and its champions.

Highlight WSOP Tournaments

The full schedule of the 50th WSOP is yet to be announced but organizers have teased a portion of this year’s lineup of events. The whole festival will take place from May 28 through July 16 at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. The WSOP expects to award more than $200 million in prize money this year.

A special Big 50 tournament with a buy-in fee of $500 will kick off on May 30 to celebrate the 50th edition of the popular poker series. The event will feature a guaranteed prize pool of $5 million, with $1 million going to the champion.

A $1,500 Millionaire Maker No-Limit Hold’em with a guaranteed $1 million top prize for the winner has also found a spot in this year’s schedule of the WSOP festival. The tournament will commence on June 7. A Monster Stack with a $1,500 buy-in fee starting June 21 and the Crazy Eights $888,888 No-Limit Hold’em (with $888,888 for the winner) starting June 28 were, too, among the tournaments revealed by organizers.

As mentioned earlier, the Main Event will run July 3-16. Last year’s World Championship drew 7,874 entries, and it is to be seen whether this year’s edition of the tournament will beat prior attendance numbers.

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Genting’s Tax Incentives Judicial Review Gets May 30 Hearing Date

The High Court of Kuala Lumpur set a hearing date for Genting’s application for a judicial review of its tax incentives agreement with the Finance Ministry

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today set a May 30 hearing for the application of casino and hospitality giant Genting Malaysia Bhd for a judicial review of a decision of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance that will delay the company’s utilization of certain tax incentives.

Local news outlet The Edge Markets reported that the date was set earlier today by High Court Judge Azizah Nawawi. The court will hear further details about Genting’s application on May 30.

The company said late last month that it has been granted a leave for the beginning of a judicial review of the Ministry of Finance’s decision to amend a previous agreement with Genting officials regarding certain tax incentives.

Back in 2013, the casino and hospitality company announced its multi-billion ten-year Genting Integrated Tourism Plan for the “development, expansion, enhancement, and refurbishment of hotels, theme park and infrastructure” at its Resorts World Genting integrated resort. The property is located just an hour’s drive from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian Ministry of Finance approved the plan late in 2014. That approval, among other things, entitled Genting to income tax exemption “equivalent to 100% of qualifying capital expenditure incurred for a period of 10 years.”

Agreement Amendments

In December 2017, the Finance Ministry revised its previous decision and amended the terms of its agreement with Genting. The amendments did not “remove the tax incentives previously granted” but aimed to “effectively prolong the utilization period of the tax allowances significantly”, Genting said in a late January filing to Bursa Malaysia.

The gaming resorts operator filed an appeal with the Ministry last year, seeking to reverse the latter’s decision. However, its filing was turned down in the fall of 2018. Genting is now hoping that the High Court would rule in its favor.

Aside from setting a date for the judicial review, the court also granted a stay on the Ministry of Finance’s decision.

Among other things, the Genting Integrated Tourism Plan also included the addition of the world’s first Fox-branded theme park at the company’s Resorts World Genting resort. However, it became known not long ago that the theme park portion of the refurbishment and expansion scheme has fallen through as Fox has stepped back from its naming rights agreement with Genting.

The gaming and hospitality company announced last year that it has filed a lawsuit in the United States, seeking $1 billion in damages from Fox and Disney. The two US entertainment conglomerates are entering the final stages of a $71 billion deal that, pending regulatory approval, will see Disney acquire multiple Fox assets. Genting said in its lawsuit that it had already spent more than $750 million for the development of the theme park and that costs incurred by Fox’s withdrawal from the project could exceed $1 billion.

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Hard Rock Places Final Beam on New Yuba County Casino Resort

Enterprise Rancheria and Hard Rock held a topping off ceremony for their new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento resort

After a two-decade effort to bring a casino in Yuba County, California, the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe (Enterprise Rancheria) placed the final beam on what would operate as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain at a special ceremony on Wednesday.

The tribe announced last summer that it has joined forces with Hard Rock International to build and operate a casino complex in South Yuba County. The property is being developed on a portion of land that had previously been claimed from the tribe for the construction of the Oroville Dam.

The property is located along 40 Mile Road and just a mile away from the Toyota Amphitheatre that has been hosting outdoor rock and country concerts for nearly two decades now.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento will feature a 170-room hotel, a casino with both slot machines and table games, pools, food and beverage facilities, and a number of other entertainment offerings. The $440-million project has been pitched as a future major economic boon for Yuba County.

The property will target customers from all around the region, the nation, as well as international visitors. It will create around 1,000 permanent job positions and is expected to have a $225-million annual economic impact. Tribal Chair Glenda Nelson said during yesterday’s topping-off ceremony that not only tribe members but also Yuba County citizens have expressed interest in the career opportunities the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento will be offering once operational.

Competition Concerns

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento is expected to join California’s casino market in the fall of 2019. Despite the growing number of tribal casinos in the area, Hard Rock seems optimistic about the success of its new property.

Mark Birtha, President of the Yuba County resort, said yesterday that they believe they can draw visitors from “the whole western part of the country” due to the fact that the Hard Rock brand is well-recognized. Mr. Birtha went on that the hotel portion at the resort will enable the casino to turn into a multi-day entertainment destination and not just a day-trip experience.

While Hard Rock may seem confident in the success of the property, it should be noted that it would compete with a number of tribal casino resorts located around the area, most notably with Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which has already established itself as a popular gambling destination. The property completed its $65 million renovation not long ago.

Thunder Valley has previously said that it does not expect the Yuba County property to have any significant impact on its own operations.

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Kentucky Makes Cautious Steps Toward Sports Betting Legalization

A sweeping gambling overhaul bill is currently under consideration in Kentucky as lawmakers are struggling to find revenue generators for the state’s $43 billion pension crisis

The House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee reviewed House Bill 175 during a Wednesday hearing but did not vote on it. The piece contains provisions for the legalization and regulation of sports betting, online poker, and fantasy sports.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, who says he believes Kentucky already has a thriving black market and is losing millions to unregulated sports betting operations.

If HB 175 survives all pending legislative hurdles, it will legalize and regulate the provision of in-person and mobile sports betting across the state. In addition, the legislation contains a provision that authorizes prop bets that are not related to sporting events.

The bill prohibits betting on Kentucky collegiate sports. Its authors have cited corruption concerns for their decision to exclude local college events.

According to projections by John Farris, founder of financial consultancy firm Commonwealth Economics, Kentucky could reap $48 million in tax revenue, if it legalizes sports betting before its neighboring states. Otherwise, if neighbors legalize the practice, Kentucky could collect around $20 million in tax revenue every year.

If the state opens its gambling market for legal wagering operations, most of the tax revenue generated would be allocated to help the state battle a heavy pension shortfall that currently stands at around $43 billion.

Taxation of Sports Betting

Under HB 175, Kentucky will tax sports betting at 10.25% for land-based operations and at 14.25% for online operations. The tax rates proposed can be classified as reasonable as they are in line with those in most of the states that have legalized and launched wagering operations in the months after the landmark SCOTUS ruling.

As mentioned above, the greater portion of the tax revenue generated would be used to pay off pensions. Smaller shares of the tax money would be allocated to fund the regulation of sports betting and the provision of gambling addiction and prevention services.

Interested sports betting operators will have to pay a $500,000 license fee (down from a previous proposal for a $1-million license fee) in order to be authorized to provide the service in Kentucky.

The bill seems to have gained some support in the Legislature, but stakeholders have expressed concerns over certain aspects of what it calls for. The Wednesday committee hearing was attended by a representative from fantasy sports operator turned sports betting operator FanDuel.

On behalf of the company, the representative asked the bill’s creators to consider authorizing betting on Kentucky college sports, due to the fact that in the absence of professional teams in the state, Kentuckians are already betting on college sports illegally to fuel a booming black market.

FanDuel also believes that lawmakers should remove a requirement that bettors need to register at physical facilities before being able to wager money via their smartphones. That extra step has been proposed by the bill’s sponsors for age verification purposes.

As mentioned above, no vote on the bill took place during the Wednesday hearing. It now awaits further action in the Legislature and it is yet to be seen when exactly lawmakers would take action on the piece that, if approved, would pave the way for the biggest gambling expansion the state has seen in a while.

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