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Coronavirus - Poker World Disrupted - Megathread

CoronaVirus

There’s been plenty of news floating around the world over the past few months. Donald Trump’s impeachment. Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down as active members of The Royal Family. Celebrities winning awards for their acting and singing skills. Australia’s bushfires.

Yet, probably the biggest topic that has been discussed and reported on in the news lately has been the threat of coronavirus. The virus, which broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread to several other countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. While coronavirus has affected many people already and claimed the lives of others, it has also caused disruption to various poker events and venues.

Coronavirus Affects Poker

May 07, 2020

Masses of Celebrities to Compete in PokerStars Charity Event

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It was earlier on in April that celebrities and poker pros alike gathered at online tables around the world to partake in a charity event hosted by A-List actor, Ben Affleck. That event, which took place via the PokerStars platform, was ultimately won by professional player Ebony Kenney, who outlasted challenging games from her final two competitors, Andy Milonakis and Kevin Pollack. And it looks like a similar sort of charity event is going to be happening once more at the PokerStars site, too. Being given the name of the Stars CALL for Action, the announcement of this event has already attracted the attention of many big-name stars.

A host of famous faces have already confirmed that they will be entering the tournament, which aims to raise money for relief efforts taking place during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Amongst those said to be participating in the Stars CALL for Action tournament, are celebrities like Jack Black, Macaulay Culkin, Bryan Cranston, Don Cheadle, Jon Hamm, Brad Garrett, Jason Alexander and Amy Schumer. They will be joined by some of the first names to be connected with the event, such as David Schwimmer, Michael Cera and Edward Norton.

The idea for a celebrity charity event like this one was first born in the minds of two poker pals – American actor, comedian and producer Hank Azaria (known for providing his voice acting skills to shows like The Simpsons), and author of Poker Nation, Andy Bellin. Both contacted the PokerStars blog and mentioned that they were working on the idea of a live poker tournament to be hosted in New York City. Of course, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, things had to be restructured somewhat.

Speaking of the decision to host the charity poker tournament now, Azaria noted that it didn’t make sense to do any sort of event such as the one under discussion, unless for COVID-19 relief. It was Bellin who got in touch with PokerStars to see if the platform would be willing to host such an event, and it didn’t take long for the brand to agree to it.

The Stars CALL for Action event will take place on Saturday, May 9 at 2pm ET via the PokerStars network. Not only winning the event benefit relief efforts by CARE International, but the winner will be able to donate money to the charity of his or her own choice.

The List Looks Set to Continue Growing Before Saturday

While there’s already quite the collection of Hollywood stars and other celebrities who have signed up for the poker event, Azaria and Bellin aren’t quite finished yet. Speaking of their line-up, Azaria mentioned that he’s hopeful they can also bring Matt Damon into the fold, whilst dropping names like John Malkovich and John Turturro.

The tournament itself is completely free to play via the PokerStars.net platform, and the poker room itself will be donating $1 million to the overall prize pool. All of the funds within that pool will be donated to charity in one way or another.

Another part of the tournament will see PokerStars invite one non-celebrity to enter for every celebrity that takes part, too. The lucky fans who get to participate in the event will be drawn at random from community giveaways, which are available via PokerStars ambassadors, streams and other celebrities. Further details regarding these giveaways will be unleashed on Thursday, May 7. Non-celebrities will compete in a separate group to the A-listers, although when the event comes down to the last two tables, everyone will be combined into one. Celebrities who are knocked out in the early rounds will be added to a side event where the winner will direct 10% of the total to charity.

Not only that, but the Stars CALL for Action event will be live streamed as well, so for those participating in the event, it’s hopeful that they have a webcam. A big part of the tournament will be the personal interaction of it. Anyone wishing to stream the tournament can do so at the PokerStars Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels.

May 05, 2020

Macau Sees Gross Gaming Revenue Fall by 97% in April

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April proved to be a difficult month for many businesses, but the land-based gaming industry saw their doors closed and unable to provide any sort of services for varying periods of time. Macau was one of the first locations to have its casinos close for a period of 14 days, following the report that some of its staff members had been suffering symptoms of COVID-19, but it was also among the first areas to reopen its casinos. In the United States, there were measures introduced in casinos to tackle the oncoming threat of the virus although this was ultimately a failed attempt, and they all had to close entirely.

Of course, the dramatic effect of land-based casinos being shuttered can now be seen properly with Macau reporting that it has suffered from a 97% drop in gross gaming yield (GGY) for the month of April. This marks the area’s largest overall drop year-on-year in history.

In the month of April, the casinos within Macau won $95 million from visitors. The 97% drop in GGY even breaks February’s record of an 88% drop, and at that point, there had been a two-week closure of all casinos within Macau. All establishments were forced to close on Feb. 5, only re-opening on Thursday, Feb. 20, although it was expected that business would likely remain slow due to travel restrictions. Macau is one of the world’s biggest gambling hotspots, and without the influx of travelers who usually spend time within the casinos year-round, the industry was bound to take a hit.

A slight rebound on that reduced GGY figure was experienced in the month of March as there was only an 80% fall recorded. Of course, with visas being restricted by the Chinese government and travel being suspended throughout the world, numbers fell even farther for April. According to some, casinos within Macau are losing $1 million every day with their roulette and baccarat tables remaining virtually empty for the duration.

This augurs poorly for the fate of other casinos around the world. Even after the COVID crisis has ended, it will likely take a while for consumers to regain the confidence to set foot in gambling establishments. Moreover, many economists predict that the overall state of the economy as a whole will remain stagnant for quite a while, cutting into the revenues of the tourism, gaming, and hospitality industries. 

Staff Cuts Occur, According to Sources

According to the South China Morning Post, Melco Resorts and Entertainment, which bases itself out of Hong Kong and holds multiple properties in Macau, also took the decision to slash several of its executive staff. It was already made apparent that the Chairman of the company, Lawrence Ho, had forfeited his own salary for the rest of 2020. At the time, he noted that the number of customers entering into casinos owned by the brand is “virtually zero.”

Of course, the pandemic has been hitting the casino industry hard for a number of months now although prior to this, Macau was experiencing declines in GGY due to the trade war with the United States as well as the escalation of protests within the Hong Kong region. Yet, American casino company executives remain optimistic about Macau’s ability to turn things around and get back on track.

Speaking of casinos on the whole, the acting CEO for MGM Resorts, Bill Hornbuckle, said that these establishments should recover by early summer. Virus concerns should, he claimed, be starting to slow in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, Rob Goldstein – the President of Las Vegas Sands – said that travel bans and restrictions to Macau should be lifted by the Chinese government later this month. Therefore, if an increase in visitation to the island occurs, there will undoubtedly be an upsurge in gaming revenue as well.

Until that time though, many people are engaging in online casino and poker options as an alternative. Online poker has already registered a five-year high as of March 2020, and as long as the threat of the pandemic lingers, this is likely to remain the case. Sites like Americas Cardroom are reporting much larger numbers of players accessing their poker rooms, which only means good things for the online gaming industry.

May 01, 2020

Countries Enact Gambling Loss Limits and Halt Advertisement of Online Gambling During Lockdown

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Due to the fact that so many countries have had to turn to a lockdown in order to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the best way, figures relating to the number of people participating in online gambling have spiked. Naturally, this is a great thing for the online poker, casino, and sports betting worlds, but is it having quite the same benefits where the gamblers themselves are concerned? Well, if the latest call to action from government officials can be believed, probably not.

In a move to implement loss limits at online gambling sites, Finland took the decision to incorporate such during its own coronavirus lockdown. Further calls for something similar to take place in Ireland have also been brought to the forefront. Such restrictions have also already been implemented in locations like Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Sweden in a bid to curb any possible increase in gambling addiction issues.

It stands to reason that if more people are engaging in online betting while in lockdown, more of these people are susceptible to problem gambling. However, few of the claims of increased internet gambling dangers bother to compare them to the ills of land-based real money gaming. Clearly, there has been a reduction of brick-and-mortar wagering during the past few months, and so fearmongering about the issues related to internet betting is basically groundless unless we compare them to the problem gambling engendered by offline betting, which has now been substantially reduced.

So, what exactly has Finland chosen to implement for the remainder of its lockdown period? Well, from Friday, May 1, the monthly loss limit on online gambling games that are accessible within Finland will be reduced from its standard maximum of €2,000 to €500. The daily limit will also be reduced from €1,000 to the same €500. So, if you lose the maximum of €500 in one day, then it will be one month before you can gamble at online sites again. Finland aims to keep these restrictions in place until Sept. 30.

This applies to all online games operated by Veikkaus, the state operator, except for poker, which is NOT affected by this change in maximum loss limits. Perhaps the authorities have finally discovered what we've known all along: that poker, being a game of skill, really belongs in a different category than other betting pastimes.

The United Kingdom Halts All Gambling Advertising

Also within Europe, the United Kingdom opted to cease any advertisement of gambling options via both television and radio. MPs called for a moratorium on such being present during the country’s own COVID-19 lockdown, and last week, this was enacted. Companies now have until May 7 to remove any ads from TV and radio that relate to participating in online gambling. Instead, they will be replaced by alternative commercials or responsible gambling messages.

The UK’s halt on such gambling being advertised will remain in operation until Friday, June 5 although this has no effect on companies advertising their services via social media or through direct emails, for example.

Where Ireland is concerned, while calls for such measures to be taken during lockdown have been voiced, not much has been done so far. Last month, the CEO of Problem Gambling Ireland, Barry Grant, said that virtual and online gaming accounts for a large portion of the issues faced by clients that they see.

Yet, it seems as though if any spending limits were to be introduced in Ireland for online gambling, it would have to be the actual gambling companies that decide to introduce them. Ireland does not have its own gambling regulator, meaning that no authority stands behind such decisions.

On another note, according to Grant and his colleagues, recent data has suggested that the self-exclusion service in operation within the United Kingdom, Gamstop, has experienced a large volume of people looking to break their self-exclusion since the country’s lockdown started. What’s more, consumer spending in Australia has gone through a 67% increase through recent weeks.

The United States doesn’t have such a large area to work with where online gambling is concerned as online sports betting and poker are only licensed and operating in a few states so far. The same is true for casino gameplay. However, there is nothing to stop players from visiting offshore platforms with various recommended sites being available for such.

Special restrictions are not in place at these sites where U.S. players are concerned whereas states with legal online gambling options oftentimes enforce irritating limitations on the offerings allowed. Time will tell if any limits on losses are brought into effect in due course within these regulated markets too.

April 28, 2020

Unibet Moves All Live Poker Events Online for Remainder of 2020

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In these days of uncertainty, it's important for something to be...well, certain. Live poker events can't really be guaranteed for the remainder of the year, which is why the Unibet brand has opted to cancel all of its live tournaments and will instead host them in the online sphere. The brand has three of its Unibet Open Onlines scheduled for 2020 as well as various other tournaments for members to participate in. As it happens, it was one of the first to cancel upcoming tournaments amidst the COVID-19 outbreak with the Unibet Open Tallinn moving to the online world midway through March despite not being scheduled to occur until May 20.

While the Unibet Open Tallinn has already been combined with the Unibet Online Series, it has now been announced that there won't be any live events hosted by the brand for the remainder of 2020. The Fall and Winter Unibet Opens will still occur in September and December as normal but will also be hosted exclusively through the internet.

Speaking of the move, Unibet's Head of Events Nataly Sopacuaperu said that the choice wasn't something that was undertaken lightly. Along with the announcement of the live event schedule being cancelled, she said:

We fully understand the impact to our partners and the land-based venues. However, as a priority we must consider not only the health of our customers, but also the difficulty for recreational players with regards to planning trips around uncertainty.

With that announcement, Unibet went on to say that it is already trying to figure out ways of bringing the excitement and fun that is associated with live poker events to its online operations. In fact, the brand has also suggested that players and fans submit their own opinions and suggestions in order to achieve this.

The Unibet Community Forum has already seen members discuss multiple options. The company's Head of Poker, Kristoffer Bergvall, spoke of the platform now being more equipped than ever before to manage the switch from what he deemed as “IRL to URL.”

Unibet Not Willing to Gamble on Possibilities

While some poker brands have simply opted to push their live tournaments back to alternative dates later on in the year, Unibet is the first to completely cancel all of them and move them online. The World Series of Poker has been officially postponed until the fall of 2020, while WPT and others alike have opted for rescheduling their live events, but Unibet doesn’t wish to gamble on there being just a possibility that live events can be held later this year. If events like this can’t be held until 2021, then Unibet will surely be able to benefit from the fact that online poker is currently at five-year high, and with major online tournament series occurring, that’s likely to continue.

So, what comes next for those members of the Unibet brand? Well, the €1,000,000 GTD Unibet Online Series will kick off on Friday, May 1 and run until Sunday, May 24 when the €1,100 buy-in Main Event takes place. Satellites for that event are already running via the Unibet poker client where players stand the chance of winning tickets to one of the 132 events occurring within the tournament schedule.

Unibet doesn’t provide its services to U.S. players though. So, if this relates to you and you want to involve yourself in online tournaments, you’ll need to join a site that does do business within the United States. You can find one by using this complete guide to the Best U.S. Online Poker Sites for 2020. Many of the recommended platforms on that page feature online poker tournaments with big guarantees.

The only question that remains now is whether or not other online poker rooms will follow Unibet’s footsteps. It stands to reason that brands can’t keep organizing land-based poker tournaments for later on in the year if there won’t be any clearance given for them to take place. So, perhaps, at least for the foreseeable future, we’ll be looking at all platforms hosting online tournaments and nothing more.

April 24, 2020

ElkY Confirms Positive Result of COVID-19 Test

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It was about one month ago when David “Doc” Sands confirmed that he had tested positive for COVID-19, but since that time, little has been heard of other professional poker players contracting the virus. That has just changed wtih an announcement from Bertrand “ElkY” Grospelier who tweeted out that he had also taken a test and had a positive result. The all-time number one French poker pro in live tournaments said that while he is currently asymptomatic, he is quarantining himself within the Czech Republic. He expects further tests to take place within the near future but is remaining at home until that time.

ElkY Tweets About Contracting Coronavirus

The positive coronavirus test result comes in the same week that Grospelier also confirmed that he had signed up to be an ambassador for GGPoker. This is the same brand that Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu began supporting as an ambassador in November last year.

ElkY was the first poker player in the world to be dual-sponsored for eSports and poker at the same time, joining Team Liquid in 2015 to play Hearthstone while also being a part of Team PokerStars Pro. After leaving PokerStars in January 2018, Bertrand joined the PartyPoker organization a few months later in April where he remained until his recent deal with GGPoker.

Having recently returned from a trip to Thailand, he faced mandatory COVID-19 testing. This took place in Prague, where ElkY now resides, rather than his native France.

Grospelier spoke of the Czech Republic having had a great response to the coronavirus outbreak. As it happens, the testing, social distancing, and quarantining measures in the country have been widely lauded, and there are many fewer cases and deaths than in Grospelier's home country. In fact, France has confirmed close to 20,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus and stands as one of the countries that has been ravaged the worst by it.

Fortunately, with ElkY being asymptomatic, he's not likely to suffer from any undue problems with his coronavirus diagnosis. Yet, he will have to remain in quarantine for 14 days so as to avoid infecting other people.

Additional Cases in the Poker World Come to Light

The viral pandemic that has been sweeping the world has had quite the effect on multiple industries, including the poker, casino, and sports betting worlds. All land-based betting establishments within the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and more locations have been shut down for the time being. This hasn't stopped the virus from penetrating some walls, though, with the brother-in-law of Americas Cardroom boss Phil Nagy reportedly contracting COVID-19 and succumbing to its effects in March.

Not only that, but the virus impacted a Florida retirement home where certain residents would gather for a weekly game of poker. Eight elderly people contracted it, and three of them died in weeks due to them continuing to meet for their weekly hands. They last met for a game on March 12, and it is thought that one of them had been in contact with an infected person from outside the residential home.

April 21, 2020

WSOP 2020 Tournament Postponed Until the Fall

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It was only a couple of weeks ago that the status of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2020 was being questioned. With the threat of coronavirus having affected multiple live poker tournaments already, many were wondering whether or not the WSOP event would continue unharmed. Social media became the central focus for many, with arguments being put forth for why it shouldn't be cancelled or postponed just yet and others for why it should be.

Well, WSOP has made an official announcement on the status of the tournament, choosing to delay proceedings until the fall of 2020.

The event, which was supposed to be held at the Rio All-Suite Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas from May 26 and continue for 51 days, has not been rescheduled for any specific dates as yet, but organizers are hoping that it will be able to take place once the summer months pass. More information will be revealed about the new dates for the tournament as it becomes available. Re-organizing a 51-day poker series for an alternate part of the year is not an easy task, and the likelihood is that the overall schedule will have to be restructured altogether so as to accommodate the move.

Ty Stewart, who operates as the Executive Director of the World Series of Poker, stated that there is a commitment to continue onward with the WSOP 2020 festivities, but additional time is needed for them to be able to proceed with making and finalizing the arrangements. Obviously, the safety and health of guests and employees is also of critical importance. Stewart did mention that additional options would become available via the WSOP online poker room too though:

In the interim, official WSOP competitions are expected to be played online this summer, and we will soon announce details of an expanded series of tournaments to be played on WSOP.com and through partnership with international operators, which will allow players to chase WSOP glory from their homes

For those people who already have hotel reservations with Caesars Entertainment properties for the original dates of the WSOP 2020, the possibility is open for contacting the chain in order to amend or cancel the booking.

April 17, 2020

French Regulator Warns Platforms Against Outlandish Bonuses During COVID-19

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With land-based poker and casino establishments adhering to lockdown rules at the moment, many people have taken the opportunity to turn to online platforms providing the same services. Many countries have reported a surge in online gambling site registrations, and this obviously spells good news for the online sector. Yet, it seems to have also led some operators to believe that they can provide wild and crazy bonus offers to those players opting to join their sites.

The French regulator, Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL), has warned its licensees against letting standards slip due to the coronavirus outbreak. The regulatory body released a memo to its operators on Tuesday, stating that any aggressive targeting of new players with new and unusually attractive bonuses is forbidden. While these sort of offers have not been outrightly banned by ARJEL, they are heavily frowned upon.

France entered into its lockdown on Tuesday, March 17, and with this being in place, a large uptake of online poker activity has been experienced in the country. As noted, this is good news for the online gambling sector within France, but the market is a tough one. Even though it has been helped by shared liquidity with Spain, Portugal, and Italy, this four-country arrangement creates a ring-fenced market that segregates its player pool from the rest of the world. High levels of tax within the past 10 years have also hurt the French licensed online gaming industry.

However, at the moment, ARJEL is warning operators that the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be looked upon as a positive in any sort of way. While it may have been beneficial for operators within the country, the regulatory body does not want any short-term gains to result in long-term issues later on.

Portugal Considers Banning Online Casinos and Poker Rooms While Spain Bans Advertisements

It's not only France that is taking stronger steps toward keeping some form of control over the online gambling industry in its country though. Portugal has also made moves with online casinos on the verge of being banned entirely during the coronavirus outbreak. The government has introduced new public health legislation, which imposes a partial or complete ban of online gambling while the country is on lockdown. The amendments to law 10-I/2020 have proceeded with inserting language which describes “partial or total limitations” on such sites until the end of the period relating to the state lockdown.

Meanwhile, certain legislation was to be brought into effect in Spain later on this year, which bans the advertisement of online gambling possibilities during certain times of the day. Yet, with the introduction of the COVID-19 lockdown in Spain, those laws have been brought into effect early, meaning that no poker room, casino, or other gambling platform is able to advertise tournaments, games, offers, or anything else between 5:01am and 00:59am.

Being described as the country's “Social Shield,” the decision on this becoming official law was voted on and passed in February. This wasn't supposed to come into effect until the start of a new football season in August, but with people being forced to stay home during COVID-19, the law was fast-tracked to combat those advertisements during lockdown.

One country where these sorts of restrictions have had almost no impact is the United States. Because the majority of internet gaming providers for Americans are based offshore, they don't have to adhere to these kinds of bureaucratic regulations.

This means that customers of offshore poker, casino, and sportsbook sites can take full advantage of whatever special promotions are extended during the current troubles. Moreover, these international gambling organizations allow users to compete across the whole globe as opposed to the regulated online gambling sector, which often permits only those located in certain geographic regions to play against each other.

For a list of the leading offshore poker destinations for players in the United States, check out our thorough online poker USA page. Even if you're not based in the USA, most of these rooms accept users from most countries around the world, so one of them may appeal to you if you're located in a jurisdiction that's trying to make life tougher for its official, or approved, internet gambling operators.

April 15, 2020

PartyPoker Holding Charity Tournament for UK Health Services

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All around the world, businesses have shut down or have been providing a skeleton service to people. Naturally, because casinos and card rooms have also closed down, most people have turned to the online gaming world from the safety of their homes. Yet, even though this is the case, healthcare workers have had to continue with their jobs, with former National Health Service (NHS) workers returning to their prior operational status in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom has seen the fifth most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, and the NHS is under quite a strain with doctors and nurses working long days and a lack of proper protective equipment causing further problems. In a bid to generate proceeds towards the NHS though, the PartyPoker platform has opted to create its own charity tournament, with 50% of the prize pool being donated and the other 50% coming from the PartyPoker brand itself.

Taking place on Thursday, Apr. 16, the UK NHS Charity Tournament allows entry from anyone wishing to contribute to combating the COVID-19 virus. The tournament will begin at 20:30 BST, and it has a buy-in fee of £50. It will also be completely rake-free.

The first 12 rounds will last for six minutes each, and during that time period, late registration is also possible. Re-entries for any player that has already lost their chips can occur at any time during the tournament, and the starting stack is 50,000 chips.

As noted, PartyPoker will take 50% of the overall prize pool following the closure of the late registration period. The platform will then match that 50% with its own equal contribution of 100%. Then, those funds will be donated to the NHS Charities Together fund, which operates as a membership organization representing and supporting NHS charities. The public in the United Kingdom has already been encouraged to donate to this charity following the applause given to NHS staff every Thursday evening. The remaining 50% of the prize pool will be distributed between the players as is normal in a poker tournament.

GVC Holdings Possibly Affected by Closure of Retail Units

The PartyPoker brand is owned by GVC Holdings, which bases itself on the Isle of Man. It has a significant presence throughout the United Kingdom thanks to its land-based brand Ladbrokes operating heavily there. Yet, much like its competitors, GVC Holdings has had to close its retail stores due to the coronavirus threat sending the UK into lockdown.

In March, the company issued an investor update, which warned that around £150 million of its expected Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) could be wiped out, thanks to the closure of its land-based establishments. Of course, the suspension of major sporting events around the world hasn't helped either with Ladbrokes providing a popular location for avid sports bettors to wager on their favorite events.

Speaking of PartyPoker's decision to run the charity tournament, Managing Director of the brand, Tom Waters, said:

We are delighted to play our part in helping the poker community support the NHS and contribute to the national effort in combating COVID-19. Poker players have a long and proud history of coming together to support charitable causes. At this moment, that support has never been more needed.

The NHS Charities Together company operates as a pool of 250 different NHS charities spread out across the UK. Most of these have the sole purpose of helping out hospitals to provide better care to their patients. Per day, these charities collectively donate around £1 million to the NHS. To add to that, the donated funds are put towards capital projects, pioneering research, and the supply of medical equipment for hospitals.

April 13, 2020

Hollywood's Elite Join Poker Pros for Americas Cardroom Food Bank Charity Game

Tragedy and Comedy Masks

Many people have turned to online poker as an alternative to visiting land-based establishments recently thanks to the threat of coronavirus, which has caused all venues where large gatherings can take place to be shut down. Not only that, but people have been seeing less and less of their favorite celebrities out and about.

Yet, what could finally ensure that both poker and celebrities are united in one? A charity tournament hosted by Ben Affleck at Americas Cardroom of course!

Portait of Ben Affleck
Actor Ben Affleck Partnered With Americas Cardroom for a Charity Poker Tournament

On Saturday, April 11, Affleck hosted a $10,000 buy-in poker event with all proceeds being donated to the Feeding America charity, which the host described as being close to his own heart. With the COVID-19 virus sweeping through the United States, many people are turning to food banks in order to obtain supplies of food and drink, meaning that demand for such has increased significantly.

Affleck roped in a stellar list of Hollywood celebrities as well as some professional poker players to compete in a virtual poker tournament with the main aim being to raise money for over 200 food banks throughout the United States. Amongst the star-studded line-up for the event, Affleck welcomed fellow actors, such as Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Cheryl Hines. Even six-time Superbowl champion Tom Brady dropped by to participate.

The whole event was live streamed via the Twitch site, allowing fans to tune in and witness the celebrities competing for Feeding America. Affleck was sure to announce that 100% of the proceeds would go to the charity so as to enable those who need it most to obtain food during the coronavirus outbreak.

It wasn't just Hollywood's elite that found themselves competing at the virtual tables though. The Texan professional poker player Doyle Brunson also opted to step out of retirement and compete in the event, having announced his retirement from serious events in the middle of last year. To add to that list, poker's bratty child Phil Hellmuth also opted to insert himself into the tournament's proceedings. When he's not busy thinking up social media storms or charging his tournament backers absurd markup amounts, he's actually quite the decorated player, having won a record 15 World Series of Poker bracelets.

Ebony Kenney Topples the Competition

It wasn't a winning finish for all the players previously mentioned though. After several hours of gameplay, the final table came down to three players - comedian Andy Milonakis, actor Kevin Pollack, and professional poker player Ebony Kenney.

Despite each entrant into the poker tournament having donated a $10,000 buy-in fee alongside various bonus donations - and Americas Cardroom having thrown $1 million into the pot, too - there would be no winnings paid out to the players in this event though the top three participants did earn themselves a trophy. Around $2 million in total was generated from all entrants and the poker room to be passed on to Feeding America.

Picture of ACR charity poker tournament lobby
Tournament Lobby of the All In for America Charity Tourney

In the end though, it was Kenney who came away with the first-place finish, leaving Pollack in second place. She played under the screenname “CinnamonPardy” while Pollack used the alias “Uber Nit.”

The tournament had full commentary by industry professionals Justin Kelly and Michael Loncar, and there were call-ins from Affleck himself and actor Jon Hamm. The latter had been competing in the game but was knocked out early on, and he took the opportunity instead to explain to Kelly and Loncar about how important food banks are especially now.

It's one of those crazy things where it's not a specific suffering, it's not one place. It's happening to all of us.

While many poker events are continuing in the online sphere, this one has drawn attention to the fact that food banks need assistance now more than ever. Feeding America likely benefited greatly from the charitable donations generated by this tournament, but the question is whether or not the COVID-19 virus will keep its grip on America and indeed the world for a considerably longer time period. Yet, even so, tournaments like this bring a certain sort of brightness to the doom and gloom that seems to currently be circulating.

April 10, 2020

Experts Alarmed Over Rising Uptake in Online Gambling in Australia

Bag of Money

An alarming report relating to the increased uptake in online gambling and the purchase of alcohol has left experts concerned over the welfare of vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown in Australia. A database that tracks the consumption patterns of masses of Australians has displayed figures that show residents have driven a 67% increase in online gambling over the past week in comparison to the average weekly spend. At the same time, an increase of 33% in spending on alcohol and tobacco was also registered.

The data was collected by the analytics agency known as AlphaBeta in unison with credit firm Illion, and the evidence from that collection has left experts worried. Fears have abounded that the current economic and social climate that Australians have been forced into over the threat of COVID-19 will create a difficult situation where harmful and addictive behaviors are concerned.

Speaking on the data found, Associate Professor Charles Livingstone said that due to the current closure of pubs and clubs, a portion of the poker machine users would migrate to the online sector instead. These people are usually responsible for spending around AUD$15 billion (about $9.5 billion) every year. He went on to confirm that if it is a 67% rise in these people turning to the online world, then it is actually quite alarming before explaining a bit more about the attraction of online poker machines:

They're tapping straight into the pleasure genre of your brain. People who are under stress find that very liberating.

Of course, online machines come with a difference, because the tough restrictions that are present with land-based options aren't in place there. It's because of this that the conditions would be created for things to get out of control very fast.

Mobile Apps and Sports Betting Also Causing Problems

And it isn't just the online sector that has been found to provide concerning conditions. The mobile gaming sector, despite providing free apps, allows players to continue playing by buying credits in-game. These games have been designed to be addictive, according to the Executive Director for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tony Mohr.

However, it's not these games that are his company's prime focus right now; instead, it has a focus on major sports betting sites, which are introducing a more diverse range of betting possibilities that gamblers can access with the lack of sporting events taking place around the world.

Mr. Mohr said that some sportsbooks have provided people with the ability to bet on things like the weather or the actual share market, and he called this a “leech on society as we're trying to fight a war.” This, he said, is the worst possible time to proceed with “hindering people who are trying to get by.”

As things stand at the moment, horse racing events are still proceeding throughout Australia, and wagering on this sport remains strong. Naturally, with other sports being cancelled around the world, interest has moved from the major sporting areas for Australian bettors into options such as basketball from Russia or soccer from Belarus, said a spokesperson for the TAB betting company. Yet, there have also been noticeable increases in people opting to bet on interest rate movements and the like.

April 9, 2020

Third Las Vegas Casino Operator to Continue Paying Its 14,000 Employees During COVID-19 Outbreak

Bag of Money

Station Casinos, which owns 20 casino properties in the Las Vegas area, has opted to continue paying its 14,000 employees through May 15 in a bid to assist them with living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writing in a memo to all team members, the President of Station Casinos, Richard J. Haskins, said that the extension will cover both regular pay and any health benefits for all those employees who work in any of the 20 land-based casinos on both a full-time hourly and salaried basis. Not only that, but the extension will also cover around 700 part-time employees who opted to become full-time employees in March of this year.

In that same memo, Haskins wrote:

Thank you again for your commitment and understanding as we work together through these unprecedented and challenging times.

The casino properties owned by Station in Las Vegas include Sunset Station, Palace Station, and Palms Casino Resort (which is found off-strip). With this move, Station Casinos becomes the third gaming company in the United States to continue paying its employees through the COVID-19 struggle.

A Couple of Other Organizations Doing the Same

One of the other casino firms following a similar policy is Wynn Resorts, which will provide salary support for its 15,000 staff. Wynn's tipped employees will also receive the equivalent of the average of tips distributed since the start of the year.

The other company promising to pay its employees is Las Vegas Sands, which currently employs 9,300. They will be paid through April 30 - it is on this date that Nevada's state-mandated closure is set to come to an end. Whether or not that will be extended beyond this date remains to be seen, but Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson said that he hopes to be able to continue paying his employees until the time that business can re-open. “It's not only the right thing to do - it's good business,” he said in a conversation with the New York Post.

Speaking of the time for business to re-open in Vegas, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, has already had to extend the lockdown for a further two weeks, keeping all casinos and other non-essential stores closed. The initial date for them to re-open was set at April 16, but the threat of coronavirus remains at large.

The stoppage of such businesses has led to a mass of job losses, not just for people working in the casino industry, but in many other sectors. The number of unemployment claims in Nevada, and in the US in general, has soared since the country's shutdown began.

April 6, 2020

WSOP 2020 to Be Canceled?

Green Question Mark

The ground is looking very shaky for the WSOP 2020 tournaments, which as of the moment are still scheduled to kick off on May 26 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Whether or not the event should already have been canceled remains as quite the debate between poker fans as of this writing. Of course, there are plenty of opinions on both sides of the fence as with many topics surrounding poker fans.

For the time being, the series is expected to run as originally planned. Yet, it could be on the verge of being canceled altogether should the global pandemic take a turn for the worse. And while many poker players online believe that the event definitely won't proceed, the disagreements come from exactly when the organizers should announce a decision on the 51st annual summer poker tournament.

While WSOP has not revealed any plans on what they intend to do if the pandemic doesn't calm by next month and the tournament is called off, that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have any contingencies in place for that potential eventuality. This is what has led some poker fans to claim that WSOP has zero plans on cancelling or rescheduling the event.

However, others have fired back, stating that it would be completely unnecessary for such an announcement to be made almost two months prior to it all actually taking place. One player, David “ODB” Baker wrote on Twitter that he believes it's better to wait until they have more info on the issue. “We will know a lot more in 3-4 weeks, info on vaccines and spread and heat and many things change daily,” he said.

John CynnWSOP 2018 ME Champ John Cynn Sees no Problem With Delaying Cancellation

Even 2018 world champion John Cynn isn't ready for an announcemen on whether WSOP 2020 will proceed as originally planned. He questioned why people are pressuring the organizers to postpone or cancel events that are still two to three months away from actually occurring. “What is the downside of waiting a month to cancel?” he asked.

Of course, organizing such a huge event is a big task to undertake each year, and planning for WSOP 2020 is certainly causing additional problems where COVID-19 is concerned. Because of this, there are both upsides and downsides that come with choosing to cancel the event right now.

Should the decision be taken to cancel now, this provides the workers and contractors the ability to start alternative planning for the summer months instead. Yet, when you look at things from the other side, canceling now would have a huge impact on the players who have travel plans in place for WSOP 2020.

By the time May arrives, rules surrounding social distancing and the like could be relaxed and the event could proceed as originally planned. Leaving the cancellation decision for a bit longer gives the opportunity for additional information to be sought out and considered. Some people may have non-refundable flights and accommodation booked.

We'll keep you updated on this, but it seems as though the WSOP 2020 event is already on rocky ground. Staff have been receiving heat from people who hold the opinion that the tournament should have been cancelled by now, and they will potentially receive more from those players who believe they should wait it out if they opt to cancel it now. It's quite the lose-lose situation overall for organizers.

April 1, 2020

Casino Closures Extended

Calendar

As expected, the order shutting down Nevada casinos has been extended from its original April 16 expiration through to the end of April. On April 1, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak commented, “Today’s ‘Stay at Home’ directive strengthens the imperative that Nevadans must not leave their homes for nonessential activities in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Leaders in other states have made similar announcements.

With their normal operations disrupted and no end yet in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, major gaming firms continue to be running pretty much in maintenance mode with skeleton crews performing basic functions on-property while most employees are staying at home.

Several of these organizations have elected to make charitable donations in order to help fight what President Trump has referred to as “the invisible enemy.” Wynn Resorts has donated $2.5 million worth of masks, gloves, food, and other supplies to nonprofits and medical facilities in Las Vegas and Boston. MGM Resorts has meanwhile contributed $400,000 to food banks across the country and donated thousands of pieces of medical equipment.

The spectacle of major corporations donating substantial sums, even as their stock prices tank and they burn rapidly through their cash reserves, may seem unusual. It’s very likely that these contributions represent an investment in the future. Brick-and-mortar casinos will be unable to book any revenue until current circumstances change, and so they’re incentivized to do everything in their power to defeat coronavirus.

March 30, 2020

Casino Industry in for Rough Ride

Man Pushing Ball

On Sunday, March 29, President Trump extended the government’s social distancing guidelines through the end of April. This means that land-based casinos will likely be forced to remain closed at least until May. Any state-mandated closure orders, such as the 30-day casino shutdown declared by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak on March 17, will probably be extended at least through April 30.

The impact on gaming companies has been severe. Just look at the stock graphs of three leading U.S. firms in this industry since the beginning of 2020:

MGM Stock Chart
CZR Stock Chart
ERI Stock Chart

Needless to say, corporate accounting departments are feeling the crunch. Many are taking drastic steps to reduce expenses as they attempt to weather the storm.

For instance, Penn National, owner of 41 gaming locations around the country, announced in a March 27 press release that it’s selling the Tropicana in Las Vegas and furloughing 26,000 of its employees. Meanwhile, MGM has borrowed $1.5 billion from an existing line of credit in order to get through these tough times.

Even when B&M casinos eventually reopen to the public, it’s possible that they won’t be able to return to the old days before COVID-19 hit the scene. Most economists foresee a lengthy recession, even after the current crisis ends, and so consumers will have less discretionary income to spend on such entertainments as gaming, concerts, dining, and hotel stays.

Online wagering products, on the other hand, have already seen a considerable boost as customers look to the internet to get their fix of betting pastimes. The current emergency might even lead to a push to reevaluate the online poker legal situation in the United States.

March 27, 2020

Last USA Casino Holdouts Finally Throw in Towel

Red Circle and X

In our previous update, we related the news that many commercial casinos in Deadwood, S.D. refused to shut their doors, in defiance of the wishes of their mayor and the dictates of common sense. However, that situation was remedied shortly thereafter.

The same day that the mayor issued his request for these gaming centers to close down, the Deadwood Gaming Association published a statement in which it said that it would be “working with Deadwood’s gaming operators to temporarily shut down Deadwood gaming operations at high noon on Wednesday March 25th, 2020 until further notice.”

With that decision, the final commercial casinos in the United States that were still doing business have now stopped taking bets. In addition, more than 97% of tribal casino locations throughout the country have closed with the majority of those staying open consisting of convenience stores that also have a few slot machines installed.

WSOP Still Optimistic

Though pretty much every live poker tournament series of note has had to modify its schedule for the coming months, the World Series of Poker has still made no official changes to its plans. Seth Palansky, the WSOP’s VP of corporate communications, has indicated that any decisions regarding coronavirus postponements or cancellations would likely not be made until May.

Sports Betting Impacted the Most

Sports Equipment

If you like to wager on casino games or at the poker tables, then you’re only marginally impacted by the closure of gambling facilities over coronavirus concerns. After all, you have a ready remedy available by taking your game online.

However, those who like to bet on sports cannot effectively do so because most major athletic competitions around the world have been canceled. Yet, there are still some betting opportunities available, like virtual sports, eSports, and horse races. You can bet on all of them at leading bookmaker Bovada.lv, which also has casino and poker games too.

Many industry observers believe that the current crisis is a chance for online poker to make a rebound. Often regarded by execs as a kind of ill-favored third cousin to lucrative casino slots and table gaming, poker ought to appeal to sports bettors who are drawn by the fact that it’s skill-based, just like the games they’re used to wagering on. Time will tell if internet poker rooms will have the technical savvy and marketing finesse to successfully attract and retain those sports bettors who suddenly have a lot of free time and cash to burn.

March 23, 2020

Australia + United Kingdom Close Casinos

Aussie Flag Map
UK Flag Map

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued an order on Friday, March 20 that all casinos, betting shops, and bingo halls must close down by the evening of the same day. They are to stay shuttered indefinitely with the government reviewing the situation every four weeks hereafter.

Meanwhile, Australian PM Scott Morrison directed that all casinos, along with pubs, hotels, and entertainment venues, shut their doors effective Monday, March 23. They will remain closed for at least six months.

Despite the disruptions caused first by the Internet Gambling Amendment Bill and now the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still a number of reputable, upstanding online poker sites that cater to the Aussie market. With live poker rooms now not an option, playing over the internet may represent the next best thing. Click here to go to our extensive guide to Australian online poker.

A Few U.S. Casinos Remain Open

Caution Sign

Since our last update, quite a few more of the remaining U.S. gambling facilities have shut their doors with the majority of those still open consisting of the odd casino, here and there, housed on tribal lands across the country. Curiously, the one exception to this rule appears to be Deadwood, S.D., where there were still nine commercial casinos in operation as of Monday, March 23.

The mayor of Deadwood, David R. Ruth, Jr., asked owners in a statement on Monday to “close down your casinos temporarily until the COVID-19 threat has passed.” However, he did acknowledge that “at this time, you have the authority to make your own decisions with respect to your operations” while reminding them that municipalities in South Dakota do have the right to order businesses to close during the pandemic. Whether casino management will heed Ruth’s request remains to be seen.

First Famous Player Tests Positive

Clock

It was only a matter of time before a poker player of public renown was found to have contracted the coronavirus, and the day has now sadly arrived. David “Doc” Sands tested positive for the virus on Saturday, March 21:

Coronavirus Tweet From Doc Sands

“Doc” Sands first achieved success in the world of online tournaments where he booked more than $3 million in wins with most of this total coming from his PokerStars “SexSeen” and Full Tilt “Doc Sands” accounts. He then rose to fame on the live tourney circuit, placing second in the $100,000 buyin 2013 PCA Super High Roller event for a $1.26 million payday among other solid finishes in high-buyin events. In total, his live poker tournament winnings exceed $8.4 million.

It was only after displaying symptoms for several days that Sands was tested for COVID-19. Fortunately, his appears to be a mild case of coronavirus, and he is expected to make a full recovery.

March 20, 2020

Live Poker Basically Dead

Downward Sloping Graph

Coronavirus continues to have a devastating impact on live gaming, including poker. According to statistics released by the American Gaming Association on Thursday, March 19, 95% of U.S. commercial casinos are currently closed.

Of course, with almost all venues for real money games being closed, there’s little chance of them being able to host poker events. Virtually every offline poker festival and series for the next few months has been either canceled or postponed.

The big exception is the World Series of Poker, which is still scheduled to run from May 26 to July 15 as originally planned. It may be the case that this series is just far enough off in the future that organizers still harbor hopes of the coronavirus pandemic being over by that time.

Macau has already experienced what much of the world is going through, and the worst is believed to be past in this gambling-friendly enclave of China. Yet, even though Macau’s casinos have re-opened (albeit under strict regulatory conditions), they are by no means attracting crowds to their gaming floors. Forecasts predict gross gaming revenue for 2020 in Macau to be just $16 billion: a 56% reduction from 2019’s figures.

Online Poker Gaining Strength

Online poker appears to be a bright spot in this overall dismal climate. Statistics from player traffic tracking resource GameIntel show that the three largest USA internet poker networks have had a total average of 2,625 simultaneous cash game players over the past seven days, up 18% from a similar period one year ago.

This phenomenon is not restricted to the United States either. In a statement dated March 19, global gambling giant (and owner of the iPoker Network) Playtech said, “Playtech's Poker and Bingo businesses have seen increases in activity in recent days following the restrictions on physical movement put in place by various governments.”

March 18, 2020

Nevada Casinos Close

Nevada Outline MapWe’ve seen quite a few brick-and-mortar gambling facilities shut down in the past week or so, and this trend seems to be accelerating. The big focus right now is Nevada and, more particularly, Las Vegas. Although quite a few LV casinos had already opted to close their doors, the few that decided to remain open will now have to cease doing business too.

On Tuesday, March 17, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak decreed that all casinos, restaurants, and gyms will have to close down by noon on Wednesday. The shuttering of restaurants refers only to dine-in facilities; takeout and delivery are still permitted. The businesses affected will remain closed for at least 30 days.

This move follows the first reported COVID-19 death in the state on Monday. The victim was a resident of Clark County in his 60s. Authorities said that the man had “underlying health conditions.”

Atlantic City Casinos Also Close

Any hopes by would-be casino-goers to partake of “The Las Vegas of the East” have been dashed too. Even before Nevada’s leaders took action, the New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy (of Murphy v. NCAA fame), ordered the closure of all Atlantic City casinos at 8 p.m. Monday, March 16. They will have to remain closed until “it is deemed safe for their reopening.”

Governor Murphy actually made his announcement in conjunction with the governors of nearby New York and Connecticut. The decision he proclaimed is fully supported by these two states, and so NY and CT casinos have all stopped their gaming activities as well.

Other Areas Follow Suit

Many other states have taken the step of closing their casinos. Among them are:

    • Pennsylvania
    • Kansas
    • Missouri
    • Iowa
    • Mississippi
    • Louisiana
    • Colorado

Moreover, the Canadian province of British Columbia decided to close all its casinos on Monday, March 16, following a similar decision by Ontario the previous day.

Even in jurisdictions that have not legally demanded that casinos shut their doors, like California and Florida, many gambling establishments have decided to do so of their own volition. This is making it much tougher for gaming enthusiasts to participate in their favorite pastimes, but many of them are heading online to stave off coronavirus boredom.

March 16, 2020

Wave of Gambling Closures

With no end immediately in sight for the current coronavirus outburst, gaming companies and government authorities throughout North America have announced quite a few closures of casinos.

Las Vegas
The Wynn Resort is temporarily shutting its doors beginning Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. After two weeks, this decision will be reevaluated. Also, MGM Resorts has opted to suspend business at all of its Las Vegas properties, until further notice, as of the same date. The venues affected are:

      • Bellagio
      • CityCenter
      • Excalibur
      • Luxor
      • Mandalay Bay
      • MGM Grand
      • The Mirage
      • New York-New York
      • Park MGM
      • T-Mobile Arena

Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, on Saturday, March 14, voted to temporarily close all casinos within the state for at least two weeks. The decision took effect the following day. The three MA casinos are:

      • MGM Springfield
      • Encore Boston Harbor
      • Plainridge Park

Maryland
Following an emergency order by Governor Larry Hogan, all MD casinos, racetracks, and betting facilities will have to close at midnight Monday, March 16. They will not be able to reopen until the state of emergency has ended or a directive to the contrary is issued. The properties affected are:

      • Fair Hill Races
      • Hollywood Casino Perryville
      • Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
      • Laurel Park
      • Live! Casino & Hotel
      • MGM National Harbor
      • Ocean Downs
      • Ocean Downs Casino
      • Pimlico Race Course
      • Rocky Gap Casino Resort
      • Rosecroft Raceway
      • Timonium Race Course
      • Multiple simulcast betting locations

Indiana
Starting the morning of Monday, March 16, all Indiana “gaming and racing operations” will be required to close down at the behest of the Indiana Gaming Commission. This measure will be active for at least 14 days. There are 14 locations that this order applies to.

Ohio
According to a news release from Friday, March 13, all Ohio casinos and racinos had to shut their doors no later than midnight the same day. There are 11 facilities included in this edict, but 7 of them are racinos with just races and gaming terminals, no table games. There are four casinos with table games and/or poker that must comply:

      • JACK Cleveland Casino
      • JACK Cincinnati Casino
      • Hollywood Casino Columbus
      • Hollywood Casino Toledo

Michigan
The three Detroit commercial casinos will be closed down for a period of no less than two weeks, starting Monday, March 16. These casinos are:

      • Motor City Casino
      • MGM Grand
      • Greektown Casino

At around the same time as these closures were announced by the casinos themselves, Governor Gretchen Whitmer indicated that the Michigan Gaming Control Board was working on a plan to close the casinos down.

Michigan hosts 23 tribal casinos in addition to the three in Detroit, but they're not under the authority of the Gaming Control Board and are thus not covered by its plans. Nevertheless, several of them did indicate that they would be closing Monday of their own volition:

      • Caesars Windsor
      • Gun Lake Casino
      • King's Club Casino

Rhode Island
State leaders opted on Friday, March 13 to close the state's two casinos for one week:

      • Twin River
      • Tiverton

Ontario
Ontario Lottery and Gaming has taken the decision to suspend activity at all casinos in the province. This act was announced on Sunday, March 15 and was ordered to be completed within “approximately 24 hours.” No date for reopening has yet been determined. Around two dozen properties will have to close their doors.


In addition to the gambling locales listed above, several other organizations have announced their own closures across the continent, in such places as California and British Columbia. We expect to hear of more instances shortly. We'll keep you posted and this page updated with the latest news.

March 13, 2020

US Gaming Industry Begins to Be Impacted

USA Flag Map

The U.S. gaming industry, hitherto relatively unimpaired by coronavirus concerns, is now attempting to gear up for this public health threat. Several prominent organizations are taking steps to safeguard their employees and patrons.

Caesars and MGM have both released statements detailing their efforts in this area, which include increasing the frequency of cleanings and employee training. In addition, MGM is closing all of its Las Vegas buffets beginning Sunday, March 15.

Other companies are taking action too, like the Wynn, which has closed its buffet and has stopped running many entertainment activities, including nightclubs and theaters. Wynn Las Vegas has also announced that its racebook, sportsbook, and poker room will be shuttered starting Sunday, March 15.

Hard Rock is canceling shows at its U.S. properties for 30 days. It's also providing credit for fees incurred by customers canceling reservations.

While Las Vegas seems to be the locale that's doing the most to prepare for COVID-19, casinos in other parts of the country are also altering their normal procedures. The Illinois Gaming Board decreed that the state's 10 casinos will have to close for 14 days, starting Monday, March 16.

Three Pennsylvania casinos have announced their plans to shut down for the pandemic. Valley Forge Casino already ceased gaming operations on Friday, March 13. Harrah's Philadelphia and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh will close on Sunday, March 15.

U.S. Poker Events Suspended/Postponed/Canceled

Just as has already happened in other parts of the world, execs at major U.S. poker venues have announced certain alterations in their major tournament series. The Wynn Poker Classic and Foxwoods Poker Classic, both already underway, will finish currently running events and then will suspend the remainder of their schedules.

The World Series of Poker Circuit at Harrah's Atlantic City ran eight events before the rest of the tournaments were canceled. However, a similar series at Tulsa Hard Rock, currently underway, will proceed as planned. Harrah's Cherokee also was supposed to play host to a WSOPC series in April, but it has been canceled. Despite the disruptions to the WSOP Circuit tour, the main WSOP 2020 festival in Las Vegas has not been canceled or postponed (yet).

The Shooting Star $5,300 Main Event at Bay101 in San Jose was stopped with it was down to the final 10 competitors. They all agreed to an ICM chop of the prize pool.

The World Poker Tour stop at the Venetian in Las Vegas, originally scheduled for March 13 - 17, is now postponed. The Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood was supposed to hold a WPT event too, from April 16 - May 5, but it will be rescheduled for a future date.

March 10, 2020

Many B&M Poker Events Canceled/Postponed

Calendar

With global cases of coronavirus now surpassing the 100,000 mark, according to the latest situation report from the World Health Organization, a growing number of gaming companies are taking action. Rather than running the risk of mass infection, they're cutting back on their operations.

Perhaps the most extreme example is the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton, Oregon, which closed its doors on Monday, March 2 after an employee was found to be infected. This tribal casino, which includes a small poker room, remained closed for 48 hours, but following a “deep clean,” it reopened its doors on Wednesday, March 4. Casino management confirmed that the employee in question worked in a restricted area and did not have regular contact with the public.

King's Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic is taking a more targeted approach. On March 2, King's announced on Facebook that it was blocking access to people residing in and traveling from hard-hit Italy. These individuals aren't even permitted to book hotel rooms at the resort. All events that were principally marketed toward Italians have been canceled although other tournaments in its 160-table poker room – the largest in Europe – will continue as normal.

Indeed, King's Casino was not the only one that has canceled some poker events. Beyond the tournaments described later on this page, the following have been disrupted by fears of coronavirus:

      • PokerStars Road to PSPC - Hamburg, Germany (March 10 - 15)
      • PokerStars Road to PSPC - La Grand Motte, France (March 10 - 15)
      • Golden Poker Million - Marrakech, Morocco (March 13 - 22)
      • Unibet DeepStack Open - Aix en Provence, France (March 18 - 22)
      • Winamax Poker Tour Grand Final - Madrid, Spain (March 19 - 29)
      • World Poker Tour - Barcelona, Spain (March 27 - April 5)
      • PokerStars Road to PSPC - Madrid Gran Via, Spain (March 31 - April 5)
      • Irish Poker Open - Dublin, Ireland (April 6 - 13)

We've seen conflicting information regarding some of these poker festivals as to whether or not they have been canceled entirely or merely postponed. We suspect that some of the tourneys that have tentatively been postponed may wind up not happening at all depending on conditions on the ground. On the other hand, some of the canceled events might eventually be rescheduled or perhaps moved to alternate venues.

The series that's on everyone's mind, of course, is the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It's scheduled to begin on May 26, and so far there are no plans of canceling it. WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky said, “We are monitoring COVID-19 developments very carefully and have no plans to cancel WSOP at this time.”

Feb. 23, 2020

Macau Closes Its Casinos in Response to Outbreak

Exit Sign

To many people, Macau is recognized as one of, if not the, world’s leading gaming destination. Being one of the few locations in China to provide authorized gambling establishments to the public, it has become quite the major resort city.

Just to compare Macau with Las Vegas, which many people would probably think of first when it comes to gambling destinations, Macau’s industry for gambling is seven times larger. That’s hardly a surprise, considering that China has taken various steps to ban gambling, including social poker apps and real money online poker sites, driving the mammoth populace of the country to head over to Macau for all their real money gaming needs.

Yet due to the threat of coronavirus, Macau has had to take drastic steps where its gambling industry is concerned. Only a few days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the virus outbreak is an international public health emergency on Jan. 30, the Chinese territory made the announcement that all casinos in the area would be closed for at least two weeks.

Macau had already had 10 cases of infected people confirmed in the week before the casino closures, and two of those cases were employees working within casinos there. Therefore, the Chief Executive of Macau, Ho Iat Seng, made the announcement that all 41 of its casinos would be closed from Feb. 5. Speaking during a television conference about the decision to take this course of action, he said:

Of course this was a difficult decision, but we must do it for the health of Macau’s residents.

Ho Iat Seng Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng

Macau Casinos Reopen

After no new cases of coronavirus were reported during the two-week hiatus, the Macau government announced that the casinos would be allowed to reopen beginning Thursday, Feb. 20. Most of them did open their doors; however, they had to observe special rules designed to prevent the spread of the disease.

All guests and staff are required to wear face masks, and anyone entering the premises will be subjected to having their temperature checked. Furthermore, no more than four patrons are permitted to sit at the same gaming table, and half of the tables are to be left vacant.

Other related hospitality businesses, like bars, restaurants, and cinemas, remain shuttered.

What the Closure Means for Macau

Naturally, the two-week closure ensured a complete loss of earnings for the businesses involved during that time period. The threat of coronavirus was already believed to be responsible for a decline in gaming revenue for January, which saw a drop of 11.3%. Hotel occupancy also continued to weaken further in February to around 12%: down from 90% during the same period last year.

Of course, the spread of the virus hasn’t only affected the casinos within Macau but many other businesses as well. Stores like Apple and Starbucks have chosen to shut up shop for the time being whilst factories, such as those making automobiles, have taken the same decision.

Even when all major operators resume their normal routines, observers foresee that it will take three or four months for the Macau economy to return to normal.

Triton Super High Roller Series Jeju Affected by Virus

Triton Poker Logo

The Triton Super High Roller Series Jeju was due to take place from Monday, Feb. 10 and run right up until Feb. 22. It was supposed to occur at the Jeju Landing Casino based in Seogwipo on Jeju Island, South Korea. Yet, the casino, which first held a Triton Poker SHR event in 2018, has been forced to officially postpone it following the health concerns relating to the coronavirus outbreak.

As with Macau’s decision to close all casinos, the Triton Super High Roller event was only postponed once the WHO made its international emergency announcement. Naturally, China has been the country that has been most impacted by the epidemic, but South Korea isn’t too far away. What’s more, with numerous countries farther afield reporting cases of the virus reaching their shores, the best course of action was to postpone the series indefinitely.

Speaking of the decision to postpone the Super High Roller Series stop in Jeju, Triton Poker organizers said in a late-January official press release:

The safety of our players and support staff remains our utmost priority. Coupled with our duty to do everything we can in our power to prevent the virus from spreading, we’ve taken the difficult but correct stop [sic] of postponing the event with immediate effect.

Within the January press release, another statement on Feb. 10 was announced that might reveal “the potential resurrection of the event,” but the actual statement made on that date did not contain any rescheduled dates and said that “a decision to cancel Triton Jeju 2020 is a possibility.”

The Triton Poker Super High Roller Series first took place in 2016, with a single event being held in Manila, the Philippines. The following year, two events occurred – one in Manila and another in Montenegro – before in 2018, it arrived in South Korea alongside events in Montenegro and Russia. In fact, the Russian event was part of a partnership with PartyPoker LIVE. Last year added London, replacing Russia but retaining the stops in South Korea and Montenegro. Those same three countries were to make up the bill for 2020 with South Korea being the first destination.

World Poker Tour Asia Cautious

WPT Logo

Posting on Facebook on Feb. 14 on behalf of the World Poker Tour, Danny McDonagh explained the WPT's decisions regarding coronavirus:

We have come to the conclusion that it is best for WPT to take a break from events in Asia these next three months until a clearer picture about the spread of the Corona Virus, and the ability to safely hold the events, can be determined.

As part of this strategy, the WPT Vietnam event, originally scheduled for March 13 - 22, is canceled. Additionally, the Taiwan stop will be postponed from March 27 - April 6 to May 14 - 24.

Asian Poker Tour not Worried

APT Logo

While a few poker brands have made mention of the threat of coronavirus and its potential spread as reasons for canceling or suspending various tournaments, at least one brand has chosen not to do so. The 2020 season of the Asian Poker Tour kicked off in Vietnam on Friday, Jan. 10 and ran in that country until Jan. 21. Despite fear over the contagious virus, no warnings were put in place, and no cancelations occurred. A total of 394 players attended the events, coming from 41 different countries to do so.

Even now, the APT has opted to proceed business as usual. It is still thoroughly advertising the Taiwan stop that is to take place from March 4 to 15 on its Twitter feed. Explaining the reasoning behind this decision in a news release on the APT website, CEO Jeff Man elaborated:

...after looking at the situation on the ground; the measures being undertaken by the Taiwanese authorities, and the very strict daily health checks to be implemented by our host partner, the Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Club (CTP Club) throughout the duration of the event, we felt there was no need to cancel.

A return to Vietnam for the APT is then scheduled for April 7 – 18, which is right before the APT Philippines event begins on April 27.

Quarantined Irish Teacher Plays Poker with Other Evacuees

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While the postponement of events and closure of casinos has led to some people being left without an option for participating in poker and other games, it wasn't all doom and gloom for others. An Irish teacher, who was quarantined in a British hospital for 14 days before being released on Feb. 12, has shared pictures of himself on Instagram taking part in what he has christened the “quarantine poker tournament.”

Quarantine Poker Ben Kavanagh Posted a Picture of His “Quarantine Poker Tournament”

Ben Kavanagh, a psychology teacher who had been living and working in the city of Wuhan for around two years prior to the coronavirus appearing, was taken to an RAF base in Oxfordshire, U.K. on Jan. 31. He was required to spend two weeks there, quarantined with other evacuees from China.

From that location, it seems as though Kavanagh, from County Kildare, used his forced downtime effectively. Besides playing poker, he was able to interact with his students in China via the internet.

Playing Poker Online as An Alternative

Poker in general may currently be banned in most circumstances throughout China, and with Macau not having returned to normal quite yet, it must be frustrating for those looking to enjoy their favorite game. Fortunately, there are possibilities that allow you to engage in poker via the internet instead. You could, for example, opt to visit and sign up to the Bodog88 site, which we have reviewed in full. As a bonus, you will not catch COVID-19 while playing online poker tournaments!

If you’re based further afield, outside Asia, you can still play poker online at a variety of recommended online sites. We have a guide for Americans to locate a reputable online poker room. A variety of recommendations can be found through the guide, and most of these rooms accept players from around the world in addition to the United States.