This weeks industry news revolves around the possible re-opening of casinos around the globe, and those poker players who could not wait and are now looking at hefty fines for breaching lock down and social distancing laws.
We’ll start with the juiciest stories, in which 66 players as far apart as Australia and the Netherlands were censured for continuing their live poker lives while the rest of us are playing online.
The most egregious of the incidents occurred in Zaandam, a small city in the north of Holland, where an illegal poker tournament was broken up by police at the weekend.
The Dutch newspaper nltimes reported that 53 players from across the country attended the underground event at a commercial property.
Local and national police, as well as a military branch, descended on the event – the players being fined €390 each, and two police officers requiring medical treatment for minor injuries during the raid.
Almost 15,000km away, Victoria state police in Australia found 13 poker players indulging their hobby at a private address – all of them fined amid a spot check that targeted 540 addresses.
The Australian news site 3aw.com reports that those caught ‘flouting the rules’ on social distancing face ‘on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 for individuals and $9,913 for businesses.’
For those looking forward to casinos eventually opening, news that South Korea is re-opening some casinos will be heartening.
South Korea closed its casinos exactly one month ago, the Triton Jeju series cancelled well before that as the initial impact of the coronavirus became clear.
GGR Asia reports that Paradise Co Ltd, who operate casinos in Seoul, Incheon and Busan, re-opened on Monday April 20th, although several other operators have extended their closures into May.
It’s not such great news for locals, however, as Paradise run ‘foreigner-only’ casinos. GGR also reported that the fourth Paradise Casino, the Jeju Grand, opened last week.
The same decisions are being discussed in Las Vegas this week, although it is likely to be at least a month before players can return to the city’s casinos.
As we reported earlier this week, Las Vegas Mayor Carol Goodman has been roundly condemned for offering up Vegas as a ‘control group’ to test social distancing effects on coronavirus rates.
Resort owners, however, are looking at ways to re-open as safely as possible, Wynn Resorts releasing a 23-page plan that includes temperature checks at the entrance, as well as regularly sanitizing chips, chairs and card shufflers.
Limited tables and still to be determined player numbers per table are also part of the plan, and players will be reminded to follow sanitary protocols before play.
Nevada’s expected gradual re-opening date will be down to State Governor Steve Sisolak, who this week stated in response to Mayor Goodman’s calls that Nevada is “clearly not ready to open.”
In other news, Poker Stars has posted record revenues, with a 27% year-on-year uptick in Q1 – a record increase for the poker arm of the Stars Group.
While sports betting has taken a massive hit, Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi stated that the company “increased customer activity across its online poker and casino product offerings largely beginning in March, with year-over-year International revenue growth of approximately 44% for the month.”
The news comes despite serious concern among players that Poker Stars are struggling to cope with the demand for online poker, the past few weeks seeing several high-profile players calling them out on communication and payout issues as well as server crashes.
We’ll round things off with a warning from the French internet gaming regulatory body that operators shouldn’t be offering player bonuses during the coronavirus crisis.
L’Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne, known as ARJEL, stated in a press release that operators should “remain particularly attentive to the risks of excessive gambling and advises players to keep control of their poker gambling so that it remains a recreational leisure activity.”
They also stated: “ARJEL reminds players that no site offering casino games and slot machines is legal in France.”
That’s it for another week of industry-focused news from around the globe. We’ll be back next Friday with a round-up of the most important news for players and operators alike.