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Found 27 results

  1. In an article that eGaming Reviewpublished on Friday, Amaya CEO David Baazov (pictured) reiterated his company's commitment to an online casino and sports book following the acquisition of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The transaction officially closed earlier this month, well ahead of schedule. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play nowfor a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- Baazov was quoted by EGR as saying that the acquisition of the Rational Group "has provided Amaya with a 'strong platform for growth in revenues and profitability.' He also said the deal offered 'an enormous opportunity' to 'take advantage of opportunities in online casino and sports book.'" In order to soothe concerns of those who have pointed out that PokerStars' success in poker has come at least in part because the company has almost exclusively focused on the game, Baazov added, "With respect to the new verticals, we are determined that they do not provide any disruption to the core poker offering and that the new vertical offerings are as robust and enjoyable as Rational's online poker." Last month, Full Tilt Poker dropped the word "Poker" from its domain, which is now simply FullTilt.com. According to PocketFives' article at the time, "A 'fully-featured casino client' is supposedly in the works for later this year and, speaking on the strengths of PokerStars and Full Tilt, Amaya officials said that the two sites 'do not only have the ability to attract new players, but they are also able to offer popular tables and slot games to their millions of players using their poker platforms.'" Rumors have been swirling that PokerStars and Full Tilt could launch in New Jersey, one of three regulated markets in the US, as soon as October, which is a scant two months away. In New Jersey, PokerStars could take on the role of a poker-centric brand, while Full Tilt could offer an array of casino games. The likely land-based casino partner for both brands is Resorts. It should be noted that New Jersey lacks legalized sports betting. Amaya's acquisition of the Rational Group came with a price tag of $4.9 billion and a mountain of debt for the Canadian firm. Nevertheless, Amaya is now the largest publicly traded online gambling firm on the face of the Earth. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. According to the Associated Press, talks between Amaya Gaming, which announced one week ago that it plans to acquire the parent company PokerStarsand Full Tilt, and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will begin on Thursday. The focus: getting PokerStars licensed in the Garden State, a process that wound up in a dead end last December. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play now for a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- Amaya purchased the Rational Group, the parent company of Stars and Tilt, for $4.9 billion last week, making Amaya the largest publicly held internet gambling firm on the planet. You'll recall that last December, New Jersey gaming officials suspended their review of PokerStars' licensing application for two yearsdue primarily to "the unresolved Federal indictment against Isai Scheinberg for the alleged violation of Federal gambling statutes… and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of the UIGEA." Isai Scheinberg, his son and CEO Mark Scheinberg, and various Rational Group Board members will vacate their positions as part of the company's sale to Amaya, and the deal is scheduled to close in September. However, the "executive management" teams of PokerStars and Full Tilt will remain intact. New Jersey DGE Director David Rebuck (pictured) told the Associated Press, "We've had discussions with Amaya to reactivate the application and we plan to begin discussions with them [on Thursday]… We'll look at whatever they bring over… I think in the long-run it will be a good story for New Jersey. I'm optimistic that they know what the rules are and I fully expect them to be very aggressive because they want to be here." A spokesperson for Amaya told the Associated Press, "They are optimistic they will get this done quickly," with the AP alluding to the "fall" as its timeline for approval. Last July, PokerStars partnered with Resorts Atlantic City to offer online gambling in New Jersey, although whether the partnership will hold post-sale remains to be seen. Amaya currently works with sites like Ultimate Poker and CaesarsCasino.com in New Jersey, providing casino games. In its statement explaining its decision to suspend the review of PokerStars' application, DGE officials noted that "significantly changed circumstances" could result in the application once again being considered. One of the largest gambling-related sales ever and the departure of key owners could likely constitute such a circumstance. Visit PocketFives' New Jersey poker community for the latest on this still-developing story. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  3. PokerStars announced new promotional and rake changeseffective in November and the beginning of 2015. These changes could lighten the wallets of just about every PokerStars customer via a reduction in benefits and increased rake across the board for cash games, sit and gos, and tournaments. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by William Hill Poker, one of the largest skins on the iPoker Network. The poker room offers a generous welcome package including a 200% deposit bonus up to $2,000 and a superb VIP program. PocketFivers will love playing in the site's €1 million guaranteed iPOPS series, which runs through November 9. Visit William Hill today! --- The most immediate change is the elimination of the Battle of the Planets promotion as of November 1, which rewarded the top weekly sit and go players on PokerStars. In other words, this is the last week for sit and go grinders to earn extra money in this promotion. Tournament players on PokerStars will be subject to increased fees for hyper-turbo and knockout tournaments as of November 3. Hyper-turbos will have their rake increased from 2% to approximately half the fees of tournaments with similar buy-ins. PokerStars was previously not charging a rake on the knockout portion of the entry fee in knockout tournaments. Starting on Monday, the tournament buy-in fee will be identical to non-knockout tournaments. For example, previously in a $5 knockout tournament, the fee would have been $0.25 since it would just be applied to the $2.50 going toward the prize pool. The new fee will be $0.50, or double, since the fee will be applied to the entire $5 buy-in. These changes will also apply to knockout sit and gos. Hyper-turbo heads-up sit and gos will have an increased rake at all buy-in levels. Players at the $1.50 level might not feel a pinch because the rake increase is only $0.01 from $0.06 to $0.07; however, the increase on higher stakes heads-up tournaments is more obvious, with a $1,000 hyper-turbo heads-up sit and go being raked $13.42 instead of the $11.17 currently being charged. The fee for the newly introduced Spin & Go tournaments will also be increased as of November 3 for all tournaments with a buy-in of $3 or more. Previously, Spin & Gos at these buy-ins were charged a 4% to 5% fee. Under the new structure, the fee will be 5% to 6%. The bright side here is that the top prize in these tournaments will be increased from 1,000 times the buy-in to 3,000 times the buy-in. Ring game players could also feel a pinch. When there are exactly two players, the rake cap will increase to $2 for higher limits and $1 for other limits. Higher stakes ring game players will be subject to a $5 rake cap when there are five players or more. There are more changes effective as of January 1, especially for players in strictly regulated markets. Players in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom will have to pay a new fee in rebuy tournaments. Each rebuy and add-on for these players will be charged a fee identical to the initial buy-in. These announced policy changes are on top of other recently adjustments, including charging 2.5% for foreign exchange financial transactions, the culling of the PokerStars Team Pro roster, and terminating agreements with non-producing affiliates. While it is possible that Amaya's acquisition of PokerStars had an influence on the new policies given the amount of debt the company took on, it is also possible these changes would have happened anyway due to the increased gaming regulation throughout Europe. For example, as of November 1, PokerStars will be subject to a 15% point of consumption tax on its UK customer base due to the enforcement of the UK Gambling Act. These changes may also be related to PokerStars recently pulling out of 30 gray markets. It is believed that in these markets PokerStars was not subject to any gaming tax in the past. Visit PokerStarsfor more information and check out this thread in the Poker Sites forum. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. With rumors swirling about the fate of the gambling giant bwin.party, industry insiders now believe that the company could soon be acquired by Intertain, a Canadian-based holding firm. Intertain is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is home to a variety of gambling brands including InterPoker, InterCasino, and Costa Bingo. On Monday, following a spike on its share price, the company issued a statement neither confirming or denying the rumors. "Strategic acquisitions have been and are one component of the company's growth strategy and, as such, Intertain regularly evaluates potential acquisition opportunities," it said. "From time to time, this process leads to discussions with potential acquisition targets. There can be no assurance that any such discussions will ultimately lead to a transaction." Interestingly, the press release is an almost word-for-word copy of the one issued by Amaya in May right before the company announced its $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt. Intertain has been active this year snapping up pricey new assets, acquiring the UK bingo operator Mandalay Media in June for $82.4 million, followed by Nordic-facing online casino group Vera & John for €89 million. Intertain CEO John Kennedy FitzGerald touted the latter purchase as a means to provide "immediate accretion and meaningful operating cash flow" while granting "access to the growing Nordic markets." Whispers of a bwin.party sale were made public last month when Financial Times analysts claimed that the company was in advanced negotiations with a potential buyer. Soon after, the Gibraltar-based gaming company issued a statement confirming that it had entered into talks "with a number of interested parties regarding a variety of potential business combinations." According to insiders, one of those interested parties was initially none other than Amaya Gaming. Peel Hunt analyst Nicholas Batram, however, believes that bwin.party's tenuous position in Germany could be a deal-breaker. "The timing looks strange, particularly given the uncertain situation in Germany," he said. Batram further explained that proposed legislation in the country could endanger the company's highly profitable sports betting business there. The gambling software developer Playtechwas also mentioned as a possible suitor for bwin.party after the Isle of Man-based company announced it would raise $315 million for acquisitions and "organic opportunities." Amaya has also been floated as a possible buyer for bwin.party. For now, Intertain is staying mum on its plans for the future. "As a general policy, Intertain does not publicly comment on potential acquisitions unless and until a binding legal agreement has been signed or material terms of the transaction have been settled and there are no material conditions to closing, such as financing," the release continued. "The company intends to make no further comment or release regarding current market rumors unless and until such comment is warranted." Since bwin and Party merged in 2011, the company's stock price has been slashed by nearly half. Earlier this year, activist investor Jason Ader bought a controlling interest in the firm with his sights set on making major changes to increase value. In a bid to influence shareholders, Ader created a website called savebwinparty.com where he criticized CEO Norbert Teufelberger and other executives who received exorbitant bonuses while investors suffered "the economic cost of this value destruction." After fighting for several seats on the board, Ader eventually settled for one, naming Daniel Silvers as his representative. Through its partnership with Borgata in New Jersey, bwin.party consistently rakes in the highest revenue of all regulated online gambling sites in the state. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  5. One of the biggest rumors this week in the online poker world has Amaya Gaming, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt, purchasing DraftDay, a US-facing daily fantasy sports site. MGT Capital Investments owns DraftDay, which was started by poker players Taylor Green PlasticCaby and Andrew muddywaterWiggins. According to eGaming Review, MGT said about a prospective sale, "In recent weeks, MGT has communicated with several parties expressing interest in a potential investment or purchase of DraftDay. The company is reviewing multiple indications of interest in an effort to create maximum value from DraftDay's position as the third largest daily fantasy site." We know Amaya announced that it plans to enter the daily fantasy sports space in the US by the start of the 2015 NFL season. Amaya would supposedly go head-to-head with the two goliaths in the space already: FanDueland DraftKings. In terms of compensation, according to eGaming Review, "MGT was looking for around $10 million for DraftDay, but also wants to retain a 20% stake in the company." eGaming Review added that catching up to FanDuel and DraftKings will be a herculean task for Amaya, as the two companies own a combined 95% of the market. Other players like DraftDay and FantasyFeud make up the remaining 5%. DraftKings bought rival StarStreet last August, one month after acquiring DraftStreet. Fantasy sports received a carve-out in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and, as such, have been allowed to flourish in the US market, while sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt have been banished. Amaya could reportedly use PokerStars' and Full Tilt's former US customer base to jump-start its daily fantasy sports offering. Disney recently invested $250 million in DraftKings, while Yahoo announced last week that it's entering the daily fantasy sports space this summer. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  6. In December, Canadian officials raided the offices of Amaya Gaming, the previously fairly anonymous online gambling firm that announced a $4.9 billion deal to purchase PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker six months earlier. The investigation had to do with suspicious trading activity of Amaya's stock in the weeks leading up to the announcement. Also raided at the same time were the investment bank Canaccord Genuity and the insurance company and financial services provider Manulife Financial. At the time, Amaya issued a statement saying there was no need to worry: "To the Corporation's knowledge, this does not involve any allegations of wrongdoing by the Corporation… The Corporation will continue to monitor the investigation if and as it proceeds. The investigation has had no impact on Amaya's business operations, employees, or companies." Alex Dreyfus, head of Zokay Entertainment, also said it wasn't a big deal, Tweeting, "[The raid is]not related to gaming or PokerStars… It should not affect any NJ licensing process, as Amaya is actually the support/victim of the potential trading, not the initiator… So don't get excited about writing/spreading/gossiping about the future of AYA/Stars because of that. It happens to hundreds of companies." But according to a recent story in the Toronto-based newspaper The Globe and Mail, there is plenty of smoke emanating from what it calls "the largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history," an indication that the simultaneous raid on three companies was far from routine. The blockbuster purchase by Amaya came as a huge surprise to the poker community. After all, PokerStars was the giant of the industry, while Amaya was a fairly small player. As The Globe and Mail reported, Amaya Gaming had just CAD $155 million in sales in 2013 and suffered a net loss of $29 million, the third year in a row in which the company lost money. In both 2012 and 2013, the company reported negative working capital. Amaya's stock price reflected its financial issues, as well, bottoming out at $5.81 per share on April 16, 2014, just two months before the PokerStars deal was announced. During the course of those two months, though, Amaya's stock price began to climb, eclipsing $7 at the beginning of May and $10 by the end of that same month. On June 11, the day before the deal was announced, Amaya shares closed at $12.02, up from the previous day's close of $10.94, a whopping 10% increase in one day. Shares hit a high of $38.74 on November 28, 2014. So why the run-up before the world knew of the $4.9 billion deal? According to The Globe and Mail, Canada's Autorite des Marches financiers (AMF), the country's financial regulatory body, received a tip from "two unidentified whistle-blowers" that insiders privy to the deal were letting others in on the secret so that profits could be made on the market. In a December affidavit, the AMF said, "The investigation reveals that certain individuals in possession of privileged information transmitted that information to several people. These people then took advantage of that information and traded on Amaya shares." Two of the people under investigation are Amaya CEO David Baazov (pictured) and CFO Daniel Sebag. Also under investigation are the CEO of Canaccord's wealth management division Stuart Raftus and top broker Peter Kirby. At Manulife, 15 employees are being looked at, including the specific branch's most decorated broker, Thierry Jabbour. Needless to say, anyone who has publicly commented on the investigation has said they've done nothing wrong. In addition to those immediate insider suspects, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is taking a look at a list of investors who executed trades of Amaya's stock ahead of the PokerStars news. Most of the time, the people on these sorts of lists did nothing out of the ordinary, but they can sometimes give clues as to possible insider trading. Of note in Amaya's case is this: "The regulator's algorithms identified more than 300 active Amaya investors ahead of the takeover, a number that greatly exceeds the few dozen shareholders typically identified by FINRA when tracking Canadian stocks." Included on that list are three friends and business associates of Baazov, Canaccord's head of trading, the father of Canaccord's head of sales, and Kirby's father. We'll keep you posted on the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  7. If you think Amaya Gaming, which owns PokerStarsand Full Tiltand is reportedly in talks to buy bwin.party, is going to explode in value, now is your time to cash in. This week, Amaya was green-lit for listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. Its shares will begin trading on June 8. Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov said, "Our listing on the NASDAQ is an important milestone for Amaya and a testament to the tremendous progress we have made over our five years as a public company. We anticipate that the NASDAQ listing will provide greater visibility and better liquidity for our stock and help broaden our shareholder base." You can find Amaya on the NASDAQ under the symbol AYA. The company will also continue trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the same symbol. Gaming Intelligence relayed, "Amaya said that its approval for trading on the Global Select Market showed that it had met 'the highest of quantitative and qualitative listing standards, related to, among other things, financial condition, liquidity, and corporate governance practices.'" Amaya is in the midst of partnering with GVC for an acquisition of bwin.party. Amaya and GVC are squaring off with 888for the right to buy the parent company of bwin and PartyPoker in what will likely be an industry-defining transaction. According to PokerScout, Amaya would own almost 60% of the cash game market if it ran PokerStars, Full Tilt, and PartyPoker. Right now, it owns over 50%. Word broke that Amaya could be seeking a listing on the NASDAQ in April. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  8. According to Seeking Alpha, we could see Amaya, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt, debut on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange in the United States "within two or three months or less." The allure for Amaya? Seeking Alpha explained that the move will allow the company to "sell its story to a dramatically broadened pool of investors." The news of Amaya's intent to be listed on the NASDAQ came as part of the company's fourth quarter earnings call in recent days. Its management explained, "As a global consumer internet company, we have determined the most appropriate location is on the NASDAQ in New York City, and we have, therefore, applied for a listing on the NASDAQ Global Select market." Amaya's stock is currently traded under the symbol "AYA" on the Toronto Stock Exchange and closed last Friday's session down $0.91, or 2.94%, to $30.04. All figures are in Canadian Dollars. Over the last 52 weeks, the stock has been trading in a fairly wide range of $5.61 to $39.25. Amaya announced its acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt last June, when its stock was hovering around $10 a share. Since then, it has exploded three-fold, nearly reaching $40 late last year before ticking down a bit in 2015. PokerStars believes it will enter New Jersey this fall, which would mark a return to the American market for the first time in four years and could push the stock even higher. It's not all rosy for Amaya investors, however. As Seeking Alpha pointed out, the company is saddled with debt – almost $4 billion worth – and its market cap is only $3.5 billion. PokerStars has rolled out sports betting and plans to enter the daily fantasy sports space in the US this year, quickly moving away from its poker roots and into other verticals. Whether its customers will embrace the new product lines remains to be seen. Even if its entrance into the US market proves to be a dud, Amaya could still remain highly relevant. As Seeking Alpha argued, "Amaya is the biggest, positive cash flowing player in the space. It is an existing, profitable billion dollar-plus business if not a single US state legalizes online casinos or poker over the next five years." Amaya recently unloaded Cadillac Jack to Apollo Global Management, the same group that acquired Caesars, for $375 million. It also sold Chartwelland Cryptologicto NYX Gaming for $150 million. It's under investigation by the Canadian Autorite des Marches Financiers over the run-up in stock price prior to the company's acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt. We'll keep you posted on the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  9. Online gaming firm GVC Holdings, in conjunction with Amaya Gaming, has confirmed its offer to buy iGaming giant bwin.party for £908 million (around $1.4 billion dollars). According to the deal, GVC would pay 110 pence per share, representing an 8.5% premium to its stock price at the time of this article's publication. The Isle of Man-based GVC is an iGaming company that specializes in sports betting and controls brands like Sportingbet, Casino Club, and Betboo. "Based on our experience with the successful Sportingbet acquisition and restructuring, we believe that the potential combination of GVC and bwin.party would result in substantial financial and operating synergies and represent an excellent opportunity for both GVC and bwin.party shareholders," said GVC Chief Executive Kenneth Alexander in a release. bwin.party was first revealed to be up for sale in November when it released a statement to the media amid whispers of an acquisition. "The Board of bwin.party confirms that it has entered into preliminary discussions with a number of interested partiesregarding a variety of potential business combinations," the company said. At the time, analysts speculated that the firm was looking to strike a deal with Canadian holding company Intertain or the gambling software developer Playtech. In May, Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings threw its hat into the ring and confirmed that it had made an undisclosed offer to take over the company. In a release on Wednesday, GVC noted that its bid to purchase bwin.party was backed by PokerStars' parent company, Amaya Gaming. Sports betting represents more than half of bwin.party's revenue and is a business that Amaya has recently tried to tap into with its own product. With its rival out of the way, the company could quickly increase its market share substantially. bwin.party's $1.4 billion offer could start a bidding war with competitor 888, the parent company of 888 Poker. "I don't think 110 pence is a price that knocks 888 out of the process if they really wanted it, but equally they had ample time to match or better that bid," Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram told Reuters. A merger between two of its rivals is a troubling scenario for 888, a partnership that Batram calls a "serious competitor" to the company. A deal with Amaya Gaming would further consolidate the Canadian company's online gambling reach, which already includes PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, and would give the gaming giant an even stronger foothold in the industry. A stake in bwin.party would also give Amaya instant access to the regulated online gambling market in the US, where bwin.party operates an iGaming network in New Jersey. PokerStars has fought tooth and nail to be allowed entry back into the US, but has faced pushback by potential competitors. At the time of the acquisition announcement, bwin.party shares dipped slightly before surging from 97 to 101 pence, a 4% increase. GVC's stock also rose from news of the deal, from 440 to 451 pence, around 2.5%. bwin.party was created in 2011 when bwin Interactive Entertainment joined forces with Party Gaming to offer a variety of online gambling products. In 2014, the company took in revenues of about $675 million. It employs more than 2,300 people across the globe and operates PartyPoker. Since the two companies merged, bwin.party has struggled with disappointing revenue year after year. Last May, activist investor Jason Ader bought a controlling stake in the company and planned to overhaul operations and trim members from its Board of Directors. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  10. According to media outlets in both the mainstream and the gaming community, Luxembourg-based GVC Holdings and the Canadian company Amaya Gaming are jointly trying to acquire what was once the largest gaming company in the industry, bwin.party. GVC and Amaya have put up a bid of €1.5 billion, which will come from cash from Amaya and stock shares from GVC. If successful, it would be the second largest merger of companies behind only Amaya's purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt. If GVC and Amaya were to purchase of bwin.party, the duo would probably break the company up for each side's particular interests. Amaya, looking to expand beyond its purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker just last year, is looking for a good sports book to add to its growing roster of gaming products. GVC, which already acquired Sportingbet in 2013, is simply looking for more inroads into the bookmaking industry. If they were able to complete the deal, GVC would keep a major portion of the bwin.party properties, with Amaya holding an option to purchase the poker and sports book operations. The GVC/Amaya bid comes on the heels of another stunner in the online gaming world that jump-started their efforts at acquiring bwin.party. On Monday, 888 Holdings confirmed it had put together a takeover proposal for bwin.party, looking to become the kingpin of the online gaming world by passing Amaya Gaming. The 888 offer would also be made up of cash and stock shares, but no price was disclosed. In an official press release on Monday, 888 Holdings admitted that not only was the company looking to acquire bwin.party, but it also already had approval from its shareholders. The Board of Directors for 888 said that there was an "industrial logic" in combining the 888 and bwin.party platforms and that it would "benefit both companies" to merge. Citing the size of the transaction, the Board also said that 59% of those holding shares in 888 had "committed" to the purchase of bwin.party. Talk of bwin.party being open for a merger or an outright purchase have been rampant since last year. In November, bwin.party confirmed that there had been discussions with "a number of interested parties"for either a merger or an acquisition of the company. bwin.party even went to the length of hiring Deutsche Bank to handle the offers that the company had been receiving. At that time, such companies as Playtechand William Hill were rumored to be in the running to take over bwin.party. If either 888 Holdings or the GVC/Amaya partnership were to take over bwin.party, the effects on the online gaming and poker world would be seismic. 888, already recognized as one of the biggest online sports book operations in the world with a solid online poker outlet, would gain the powerful online poker platform built previously by bwin.party as well as a wealth of other online casino gaming options. On the downside, 888 itself has been the target of takeover attempts in the recent past, including advances from Ladbrokes and a £720 million offer from William Hill earlier this year. If Amaya were to take over the operations of bwin.party and absorb them into the PokerStars/Full Tilt fold, it would give them a near monopoly in the online poker business, something that regulators could take a long look at in extending licenses. Quick math suggests that a PokerStars/Full Tilt/PartyPoker triumvirate would have more action that the next 22 busiest online poker sites combined. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  11. On Friday, the transactional waiverallowing Amaya to operate in New Jersey was published. The waiver outlines several terms Amaya must adhere to before launching. It is not known when the Amaya brands PokerStars and Full Tilt will begin operating in New Jersey, where their land-based partner is Resorts. Six Months or Bust The waiver is good for six months "subject to final approval of the Regulated Gaming System and each game by the Division's Technical Services Bureau." During this time period, PokerStars will undergo plenty of testing to ensure it can geo-locate players and address underage and problem gamblers. Repayment to New Jersey Players The Division of Gaming Enforcement, or DGE, added that Amaya must "escheat to the State of New Jersey all funds remaining in any PokerStars' accounts for New Jersey players received prior to April 15, 2011 before commencing internet gaming operations in New Jersey." PokerStars repaid US players immediately following Black Friday, while Full Tilt, then under different ownership, failed to do so and is in the process of repaying US customers. DGE specifically references PokerStars, not Full Tilt. Heave Ho, Four Must Go Not sure where we came up with that subtitle, but it rhymes. The DGE is demanding that "four individuals identified by the Division as having failed to establish the requisite good character, honesty, and integrity required by the Act due to their involvement in the business activities of the PokerStars Entities between the enactment of UIGEA and Black Friday" be dismissed. It is not known who the four individuals are. The Blacklist Isai Scheinberg (pictured), Mark Scheinberg, Pinhas Schapira, Yehuda Nir, Paul Telford, Paul Tate, Nelson Burtnick, Ray Bitar, Rafael Furst, and Chris Ferguson are prohibited from being involved in the business in any way, shape, or form without DGE approval. Reports, Reports, Reports Amaya must let DGE know if it begins to operate in any new jurisdiction, if any complaints are brought against the company, and any other event that would affect the transactional waiver. All transactions and business records can be reviewed by DGE at any time. Private Eyes Are Watching You According to Online Poker Report, DGE's investigation into Amaya was exhaustive. It included review of 45,000 pages of documents, 71 interviews, and review of Amaya's 2014 records with the help of a consulting company. Visit PocketFives' New Jersey poker community for the latest news and discussion from New Jersey players. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  12. We tend to think of online gambling as the Wild West, where mavericks build empires from humble offices, compete against each other, come up with the next big thing, and develop the next big marketing idea. --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- That may have been the case when the internet poker gold rush was on about a decade ago, but according to Nathan Vardi of Forbes, those shaping the industry now aren't so much the logo-patch-on-a-polo-shirt type, but rather the three-piece-suit type. What the landscape of online gambling looks like in the years to come will have a lot to do with Wall Street and big finance. Vardi's piece is really a tale about how the battle for bwin.party has gotten to where it is today. The road to bwin.party's sale began about two years ago in September 2013, when Jason Ader, head of SpringOwl Asset Management, bought $100 million of bwin.party's stock from Ruth Parasol, founder of Party Gaming, and her ex-husband, Russ DeLeon. With the stock came a Board seat and Ader immediately began pushing buttons and pulling levers to get the Board arranged in a way he saw beneficial to the company. He also wanted to see bwin.party sold and was able to get the company on the market in the middle of 2014. Last June, Amaya Gaming bought PokerStars and Full Tilt Pokerfor $4.9 billion. That was way too much money for Amaya, a small company, to afford, so it enlisted Blackstone Group, the world's largest private equity firm, and BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, to pitch in. So now you had two of the gaming industry's revolutionaries, Parasol and Isai Scheinberg, out of the business, essentially replaced by gigantic financial firms. In the meantime, there was still a battle to be fought over bwin.party. GVC Holdings, a small online gambling firm, teamed up with Amaya to bid on bwin.party this year. 888 Holdings soon followed suit, backed by two more big banks, JP Morgan Chase and Barclays. 888 won the hand of bwin.party, as the two agreed to a $1.4 billion deal, but GVC wasn't done. It parted with Amaya and received the backing of Cerberus Capital Management to help sweeten the pot. Even with the increased offer, Vardi writes, it still looks like 888 is the front-runner, as GVC's new offer leans heavily on stock, which is naturally a riskier proposition for bwin.party shareholders than cash. Vardi summed up the changing landscape of the online gambling industry earlier in the article when he wrote: "These sorts of symbolic hand-offs have been reshaping the online gambling industry, moving it away from the bold risk-taking entrepreneurs who pioneered the business and putting new players in control… The transformation of online gambling is being driven by Wall Street and some of the biggest names in finance." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  13. The tug-of-war over bwin.party continues as GVC Holdings and 888 Holdings try to win the heart of their online gambling rival. 888 CEO Brian Mattingley (pictured) is both confident that his company will win the day and none too thrilled about the latest developments. --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- About a month ago on July 9, GVC, which owns the internet sports book Sportingbet, paired up with PokerStarsand Full Tilt Pokerowner Amaya Gaming to present a 110 pence per share offer for bwin.party. 888, which had been trying to purchase bwin.party for some time, saw that it needed to do something in a hurry, so it offered a bit less – 104.09 pence per share – a week later. To the surprise of many, bwin.party accepted 888's offer over GVC's. Part of 888's pitch was that it shared many things in common with bwin.party such as office proximity, similarity between gaming units, and overlaps in licensing, all of which would make the transition easier. Additionally, it is thought that GVC and Amaya would have chopped up bwin.party after the transaction, with GVC taking control of bwin.party's sports betting and casino businesses and Amaya nabbing PartyPoker. This reportedly did not sit too well with bwin.party. On top of that, the rest of the industry would not have been overjoyed with Amaya owning PokerStars, Full Tilt, and PartyPoker. Thus, it was back to the drawing board for GVC. Last week, GVC took another swing, increasing its offer significantly, up to 122.5 pence per share. That put the value of the deal at just over £1 billion. GVC approached things a little differently this time as well, cutting Amaya Gaming out of the picture and instead securing a €400 million loan from Cerberus Capital Management to help finance the deal. As of now, bwin.party has not accepted GVC's new offer, so 888's is still the winner. Mattingley recently told the UK newspaper The Times that even though GVC has outbid his company twice, he feels very good about 888's chances: "We have rehearsed our strategy more times than we care to think of. We know how it's going to be done. I am confident this is doable with low-ish risk." He also reiterated that even if GVC's offer is more lucrative, 888 is simply the better fit, a notion that should not be brushed off. He explained, "I don't think it's only the quality of the paper… We know how to execute it and obtain the synergies. I think we have satisfied to the target company that we are a good, straightforward, honest, hard-working, and fit company to go forward. Our growth has not come just from doing wacky things in illegal territories; it has come from driving customers through our CRM and marketing campaign. The bwin.party board unanimously recommended our bid." Considering that bwin.party already accepted 888's lower bid and has yet to accept GVC's sweetened deal, it does sound like bwin.party is not just concerned about the money. It wants to go to a good home. 888's poker room, 888 Poker, is currently ranked second on PokerScout's cash game traffic chart with a seven-day average of 2,220 cash game players. PartyPoker is sixth with 1,050. Should 888 end up winning, the United States regulated market becomes more interesting, as 888 would essentially have a monopoly in the three states that allow online poker: Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. WSOP.com in Nevadauses 888's software, as do the three Delawareonline poker rooms. WSOP.com and 888 have combined forces in New Jersey, while the other competitor in the Garden State is the PartyPoker/Borgata Network, which, as you can tell, runs on the PartyPoker platform. If 888 buys bwin.party, that network would be under 888's control. Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  14. Last week, we reported that shareholders of bwin.party recommended that the company's Board of Directors approve a $1.4 billion acquisition by 888 Holdings, the parent company of 888 Poker. However, not refusing to lay down and die, GVC, which had been in a bidding war with 888, has upped the ante, reportedly bidding $1.6 billion for bwin.party. The roller-coaster ride might not be done yet. The offer might end the involvement of Amaya Gaming, the owners of PokerStarsand Full Tilt, as the $1.6 billion bid is from GVC and Cerberus Capital Management and does not involve Amaya. bwin.party cited less risk as a reason to roll with 888 rather than GVC already. If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details of the deal, it's worth 122.5 pence per share of bwin.party's stock, up from GVC's earlier offer of 110 pence. About a quarter of that would be given in cash and the rest would be in stock. As eGaming Review explained, "The improved offer would be financed through a combination of new GVC shares issued to bwin.party shareholders and €400m provided by affiliates of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management, which is also a part-owner of Gala Coral. GVC would also raise £150m through an equity placement of new GVC shares, which would be used for restructuring costs and to finance bwin.party's current debt." GVC and Amaya had previously submitted an offer of $1.41 billion, but bwin.party elected to go with 888's slightly lower offer instead. As far as the latest GVC bid goes, one analyst told Reuters, "This is a real statement of intent from GVC. The proposed premium over the accepted offer by 888 is such that the bwin.party Board will probably have no choice but to reconsider its acceptance of the 888 offer. We would be surprised if 888 does not come back with a counter-offer of its own." There have been a bundle of mergers and acquisitions in our industry as of late, including Betsson buying Europe-Bet and Ladbrokes merging with Gala Coral. GVC owns Sportingbet. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  15. After a flurry of bids, 888 Holdingswon the battle to buy rival bwin.party on Friday. The price: $1.4 billion in a cash and stock deal. 888 won out over a similarly-priced joint bid by GVC and Amaya, the latter of which already owns PokerStars and Full Tilt. 888 head Brian Mattingley told Reuters, "We believe the deal creates one of the world's leading online gaming operators. It's all about scale... When you've got critical mass, you can ride storms and take advantage of opportunities as they come along." According to the New York Times, "The transaction is expected to increase the scale of 888 Holdings and its products and to generate at least $70 million in annual pretax cost savings by the end of 2018." bwin.party shareholders will receive 39.45 pence in cash per share and 0.404 new 888 shares. bwin.party actually turned down a slightly richer bid from GVC/Amaya, but as Reuters explained, "While lower than the 110 pence face value of GVC's rival offer, bwin said it carried fewer risks, with better prospects and an experienced management team all factors." 888's stock price was up over 10% in London at the time of writing to 177 pence, a gain of 17 pence on the day. Meanwhile, bwin.party's stock was up 2.3% to 105.3 pence. Global Poker Index head Alex Dreyfus called 888's purchase "a great move," adding, "It will still be four to times times smaller than PokerStars in terms of liquidity, but it gives a proper foundation to reinvest in marketing." In New Jersey, PartyPoker/Borgata and 888/WSOP represent the two largest poker networks that exist. 888 buying bwin.party could therefore result in added liquidity. Dreyfus pointed out, "Merging the liquidity/platform should allow [888] to create a very solid alternative offer against PokerStars' 2016 New Jersey launch." Dreyfus added that GVC/Amaya losing the war for bwin.party may actually prove beneficial to the company: "The PartyPoker integration would have been a distraction for Amaya/PokerStars and very much time/resource-consuming. I believe it is better to have them focusing on growing poker and launching DFS than integrating a third brand." Philip Yea, Chairman of bwin.party, commented in a news release, "Bringing our two groups together will generate substantial financial synergies for the benefit of both sets of shareholders and create a strong player with the breadth of product, brands, and geographic coverage to grow faster than either business would be able to achieve stand-alone. Drawing upon a wealth of experience accumulated over the past few years, our management team looks forward to working with new colleagues to realize the considerable potential that this business combination presents." Mattingly (pictured) said in the same release, "It delivers a substantial premium to bwin.party shareholders whilst also giving them the opportunity to participate in this value creation opportunity. 888's management have a well-established track record of delivering outperformance since 2011 and we look forward to working with our new colleagues to create a global leader." According to PokerScout, 888 and PartyPoker's dot-com arms are the second and seventh largest networks worldwide in terms of cash game traffic with a seven-day running average of 3,537 real money ring game players combined. When you add in the various country-specific sites, that number jumps to 4,569, or roughly 12% of the market. Amaya buying bwin.party would have pushed that company's market share to almost 65%. As it stands, PokerStars and Full Tilt hold almost a 60% share. Again, these numbers are all according to PokerScout. One week ago, GVC/Amaya put in its own bid of $1.4 billion for bwin.party. The deal would have given Amaya a foothold into the US, where PokerStars and Full Tilt have struggled to reenter following Black Friday, in the form of PartyPoker in New Jersey. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  16. In breaking news, Amaya, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt, made good on its promise to enter the daily fantasy sports world before football season started by acquiring Victiv. The site will be renamed StarsDraftand, according to a press release, will be "initially launched at StarsDraft.com in select US markets and later through the PokerStars platform." Sign up for Victiv here! --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- Matthew Primeaux, CEO of Victiv, said in the same release, "StarsDraft will combine Victiv's innovative platform and experienced DFS team with Amaya's expansive consumer base and operational excellence as the world's preeminent online gaming brand. We intend to capitalize on what we believe is strong crossover between online poker players and daily fantasy sports. PokerStars is the most trusted brand in online gaming and brings unmatched security, customer support, and technical infrastructure that we believe all players can rely on." According to Legal Sports Report, Victiv currently takes players from each state besides Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and Washington. The site added, "Victiv is a second-tier site behind the DFS duopoly of FanDueland DraftKings, making the cost of acquiring Victiv much more reasonable than taking over either of the top two sites, which now have billion-dollar valuations." Victiv, which launched last September and so is not even a year old, is based in Austin, Texas and its current management team will continue to steer the ship. The first game of the 2015 NFL preseason was four days ago and the first game of the regular season is on September 10, so the window for Amaya to enter the market prior to Week 1 was closing quickly. PokerStars was recently seen surveying former players about DFS and this author had heard it was building its own DFS product and so might not be ready for football season. According to LSR, however, "Other than integration with the PokerStars client, that is off the table now." DraftKings and FanDuel have been busy partnering with some of the largest sports-related companies around. In fact, DraftKings was a presenting sponsor of the World Series of Poker. FanDuel and DraftKings have partnerships with many MLB, NBA, and NFL teams, just to name a few. Yahoorecently launched its own DFS product, as did CBS, which calls its site SportsLine. Despite all of the recent launches and acquisitions, FanDuel and DraftKings remain the frontrunners and largest sites in the industry. If you're interested in DFS, PocketFives is publishing daily fantasy sports content from former poker pros like Bryan badbeatninjaDevonshire! Check out our current articles by clicking here. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  17. Since the 2014 raid by Canadian authorities on the offices of Amaya Gaming, the owners of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, as well as two investment banks that were allegedly involved in that transaction, there hasn't been much information released. Earlier this week, however, the Canadian courts changed that by releasing some information that allows people to conclude who was targeted by the raid and what information was being sought. Toronto Globe and Mail reporter Jacquie McNish reported that, as of earlier this week, the court had lifted a publication ban that had been in place. The approved motion allowed the public to see who and what the warrants that were executed in 2014 were aimed at. In the case of Amaya Gaming, the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), the Canadian government organization responsible for oversight of the financial industry, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) went right for the top. According to the Canadian newspaper, "AMF seized a variety of computers, e-mail, and phone records" belonging to Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov (pictured), Chief Financial Officer Daniel Sebag, and a manager whose name was redacted from the official court documents. At Canaccord Genuity Corporation, a company that advised Amaya Gaming during that 2014 purchase of the PokerStars brand, similar materials that were seized from Amaya were taken from an unnamed senior executive, a broker, and a broker's assistant. At Manulife Securities, which was not involved with the 2014 deal, it is perhaps more serious, as 15 brokers saw similar seizures. While there aren't many names on the court documents, McNish has been able to uncover that Canaccord executives Stuart Raftus, the head of the company's wealth management unit, and broker Peter Kirby, who has an expertise in gaming-related stock trading, are under scrutiny. Of the 40 Canaccord clients under examination by AMF, most of them were being advised by Kirby. Court documents list Manulife broker Elie Nassif and Canaccord compliance officer Marvin Zwikler as witnesses. This means the two were pertinent to the investigation in that they provided the information that led to the AMF deciding to launch an investigation into Amaya's purchase of PokerStars. The actions of the players inside Amaya Gaming and any advisers that they may have consulted on the case that might be construed as insider trading: that's the focus of the case. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  18. A Kentuckyjudge has ordered that PokerStarspay a minimum of $250 million in damages to the state for offering online poker in the Commonwealth after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was put into effect. The state's action was ostensibly brought on behalf of Kentucky poker players who lost money on the site between 2006 and 2011, yet it doesn't stand to benefit those players in any way. The suit is predicated on an arcane law that allows third parties to recover up to three times the amount of money lost through illegal gambling. "If the loser or his creditor does not, within six (6) months after its payment or delivery to the winner, sue for the money or thing lost, and prosecute the suit to recovery with due diligence, any other person may sue the winner, and recover treble the value of the money or thing lost, if suit is brought within five (5) years from the delivery or payment," says the statute. The suit not only targeted PokerStars, but several online gambling sites that operated during the aforementioned time frame. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate presided over the trial and ruled that the state receive a total of $290 million in damages from those companies, some of which are now defunct. Kentucky wants Stars to pay at least $250 million of that total and has asked the judge for triple the original amount in damages, or $750 million. Amaya said it would go after the former owners of PokerStars to recoup funds if needed. The company's press release asserted, "To the extent the PokerStars entities may be ultimately obligated to pay any amounts pursuant to a final adjudication following exhaustion of all appeals and other legal options, Amaya intends to seek recovery against the former owners of the PokerStars business." PokerStars claims that in the five years after the UIGEA was passed, it only generated gross revenues of $18 million from players within the state. The company has asked the judge to reveal the calculations he used to arrive at his number. After the verdict was issued, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) sued to intervene in the case and appointed attorney Don Cox to represent the state's players. The PPA's goal is to make sure that in the event a settlement is paid the money go back to players, not to the state or its lawyers. Attorneys for Kentucky say that the law doesn't allow a single party, in this case the players, to seek damages. Ironically, the state itself is representing the players and claims that the law gives them the right to do it. The PPA believes that since none of the settlement would actually go to players, the state's suit is nothing but a cynical ploy to make a major cash grab. Attorney William Hurt, who tried the case on behalf of the state, asked the judge that it refuse the PPA's requests to join. Hurt claimed that the organization was in cahoots with PokerStars and was only intervening to reduce the amount of damages its supposed partner would be ordered to pay. "We are not funded by PokerStars," said Cox. "There is no evidence in the record to support that."
  19. It has been a rough week for investors of Amaya Gaming, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt. On Tuesday, shares of Amaya, which are traded in Toronto under the symbol AYA, tanked 28% after the company cut its revenue and earnings estimates. On Wednesday at the time of writing, shares continued to slide, dropping another 4% to CAD $20.25. Talk about a bad beat. There are a few factors in play. As the Financial Timesexplained, "Amaya said its full-year revenues would be 11% to 14% lower than its previous range of CAD $1.446 billion to CAD $1.564 billion. It said net earnings would be 5% to 12% lower than it had guided." Perhaps not surprisingly, the stock sank by over 30% as a result of the slashed estimates. Also working against Amaya is the state of the US Dollar, which has been gaining strength recently. According to the same news report, Amaya "said it had been badly hit by the strength of the Dollar, which it said had caused an 'approximate 19% decline in the purchasing power of our customer base' and which had an impact [that was] 'higher than we previously anticipated.'" In case you're wondering why the US Dollar would have any effect on the non-US player base of Amaya, a separate Financial Times article explained, "Roughly 80% of Amaya's revenue comes from European countries, while the vast majority of game play occurs in US Dollars. So, whenever the US Dollar strengthens, the purchasing power of European players declines." Currently, the US Dollar and the Euro are very similar in value. PokerStars' daily fantasy sports product, StarsDraft, abandoned all but four statesin mid-October just over a month after it launched, although the company claimed there would not be a "negative financial impact" from the move. PokerStars has also withdrawn from Portugaland Greecebecause of regulatory issues in the former and an economic bloodbath in the latter, further cutting revenue. According to PokerScout, PokerStars and Full Tilt have a combined seven-day running average of 15,250 real money ring game players. PokerStars is over six times larger than the next closest site, 888, in terms of cash game volume. According to CardPlayer, "PokerStars has comprised 68% of the online poker market in 2015, while Full Tilt has controlled 3%... That company said that the number of registered customers was roughly 97 million." On Twitter, Global Poker Index chief Alex Dreyfus was encouraging investors to buy shares of Amaya given the downturn. Dreyfus Tweeted, "Poker players are not the only individuals losing % with PokerStars; their shareholders [are]too. Company lost $1 billion value today. BUY… I'd advise SNE Pokerstars to buy AYA shares. It will compensate their rakeback in 2016." Dreyfus is referring to the cut in benefits to PokerStars' high-stakes players that was announced in recent days. Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest poker news. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  20. [caption width="640"] Amaya CEO David Baazov is facing insider trading charges[/caption] In the middle of June 2014, Amaya Gaming bought the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and its sister site, Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion. Amaya's stock, which is traded in Toronto under the symbol 'AYA', increased in value by 50% in the days leading up to the transaction, prompting an investigation by Canadian authorities. One day after the acquisition was announced, Amaya's stock went up another 30%. On Wednesday, that investigation came to a head, as the Autorté des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Quebec's securities regulator, filed 23 charges related to insider trading, five of which involve Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov. Specifically, Baazov is accused of aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information. The charges could result in hefty fines or jail time for Baazov and the others charged. Baazov released a statement Wednesday morning proclaiming his innocence and predicting his name would eventually be cleared. "These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations. While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges," Baazov said. The charges are related to trading of Amaya stock between December 2013 and June 2014, a period of six months. "We have made suppressing illegal insider trading and market manipulation a top priority, as this type of conduct profoundly affects public confidence and the integrity of our markets," said AMF President and CEO Louis Morisset. "David Baazov has the full support of the independent members of the board," said Dave Gadhia, Amaya's Lead Director. "As noted previously, Amaya conducted an external internal review, supervised by its independent board members… which thoroughly reviewed the relevant internal activities surrounding the Oldford Group acquisition. This review found no evidence of any violations of Canadian securities laws or regulations. The independent members of the board received and reviewed the information and concluded that no action should be taken. We have not been provided with any new information upon which the AMF's allegations of infractions are based." [caption width="640"] The rise and fall of Amaya's stock over the last two years[/caption] According to Amaya, the charges Baazov faces involve "communicating privileged information involve allegations relating to a former financial advisor to Amaya," whom the Globe and Mail says is Yoel Altman, who faces six charges of his own. Benjamin Ahdoot (a childhood friend of Baazov, facing four charges), Diocles Capital Inc (five charges), Sababa Consulting Inc. (three), and 2374879 Ontario Inc. (three) were also singled out by AMF. In December 2014, Canadian officials showed up at Amaya's headquarters in Montreal searching for information related to the company's acquisition of the Rational Group. In subsequent days, Amaya's stock price tumbled 20%. On Wednesday, trading of 'AYA' was suspended in the wake of AMF's announcement. The company was originally listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in October 2013. Amaya added that it was fully cooperating with AMF and said it had already given the Canadian regulatory agency a "large amount of publicly accessible information related to the time period leading up to the transaction, specifically the period the AMF is investigating." A summary of that information will soon be available on Amaya's website. An hour after AMF's initial press release charging Baazov, Altman, and Ahdoot, another release announced that 13 individuals would have their trading privileges suspended because of their alleged ties to insider trading involving Amaya: Josh Baazov, Craig Levett, Nathalie Bensmihan, Isam Mansour, Mona Kassfy, Allie Mansour, John Chatzidakis, Eleni Psicharis, Alain Anawati, Karl Fallenbaum, Earl Levett, Feras Antoon, and Mark Wael Antoon. Josh Baazov is David Baazov's brother. In February, it was rumored that Baazov and a group of investors were planning to acquire Amaya in an all-cash takeover. That news sent Amaya's stock soaring by one-third. It was trading at $15.30 per share in Toronto prior to being halted on Wednesday.
  21. [caption width="640"] Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov has stepped aside - temporarily - to deal with insider trading allegations.[/caption] Just days after being charged with insider trading, David Baazov has taken an indefinite paid leave of absence from his role as Amaya Chair CEO to deal with the allegations. He will remain a member of the board of directors. Last Wednesday, Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the securities regulator in Quebec, announced they had filed 23 charges related to insider trading at Amaya. Five of those charges were levied at Baazov including aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information. Amaya acquired the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in June 2014. After the charges were announced, Baazov proclaimed his innocence. "These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations," Baazov said. "While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges." Others charged included Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, both described by AMF as close friends of Baazov. With Baazov stepping aside, at least temporarily, Amaya's board of directors named Divyesh Gadhia as interim chairman and Rafi Ashkenazi as interim CEO. Ghadia is currently on the Amaya board of directors, while Ashkenazi is the CEO of Rational Group, the company which oversees the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. Despite the charges, which could result in fines, jail time or a combination of those for Baazov, he has indicated he still intends to pursue an acquisition of Amaya. "As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company," Baazov said in a statement. Ghadia is also the chair of the special committee of independent directors, which was established to handle any potential sale or transfer of Amaya ownership, including the interest shown by Baazov. Rumors of Baazov's interest in acquiring the publicly traded company first surfaced in February and the news sent Amaya's stock price on a nearly 30% upswing. The day the charges were announced, Amaya stock price fell from $18.57 to $14.75 - a 21% decrease.
  22. When PokerStars acquired the Full Tilt Poker assets as part of their Black Friday settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, many wondered about the future of the Full Tilt Poker brand. To the surprise of many, PokerStars kept the Full Tilt Poker brand running separately alongside their own brand. Now, some 3.5 years later, things are changing. On Wednesday Amaya Gaming, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, confirmed that the company will consolidate all players into one player pool. "Players will benefit from a larger pool of players offering greater game choice, bigger prize pools," said Rafi Ashkenazi, Chief Executive Officer of Rational Group. "It will also make us more nimble as we can focus our technological innovation on one platform, rather than two, so we will be able to innovate more quickly and enter newly-regulating and existing markets swiftly." The Full Tilt brand isn't going anywhere though. While the player pool will be combined into one, players will still have the choice of playing on Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars. Accounts will be consolidated so players have only one account, but they will be able to choose which brand they play under. Those who choose to play under the Full Tilt brand will still be able to choose from their custom avatars. The decision to merge the player pools will result in greater liquidity at all levels and a subsequent increase in tournament prize pools. Players will be contacted once the software migration is complete and given an explanation as to how the changes will impact them. Players with accounts on both sites will now play under their existing PokerStars screenname. All players will now be under the PokerStars reward program. Once one of the most popular online poker rooms in the world, Full Tilt Poker has dropped out of the top 10 according to PokerScout rankings while PokerStars remains a clear number one.
  23. [caption width="640"] Amaya CEO David Baazov[/caption] In mid-2014, Amaya Gaming bought PokerStars and Full Tilt in a deal worth $4.9 billion, changing the online poker industry forever. Soon, there could be another upheaval for the company, this one led by its CEO. According to a press release and various news outlets, Amaya CEO David Baazov, "together with a group of investors with whom he is in discussions, intends to make an all-cash proposal to acquire Amaya at a purchase price presently estimated at CDN $21.00 per common share, representing a 40% premium to Friday's closing price on the Toronto Stock Exchange." According to Reuters, Baazov's takeover represents an all-cash deal valued at CDN $2.8 billion (USD $2.0 billion). What Does This Mean for Players? What does this mean for PokerStars and Full Tilt players? First, privatizing Amaya means one less level of bureaucracy, making the company nimbler and allowing it to change with the times faster. Whether that'll be good or bad for players remains to be seen. Second, privatization may make it easier for PokerStars and Full Tilt to expand into states and countries that regulate iPoker given Baazov and company can control who owns Amaya, ensuring "quality" shareholders exist. Third and most importantly, privatization means management's attention can shift from the company's current stock price to its long-term goals. It can spend significant resources today at the expense of company value in the name of long-term growth. This could mean that high-stakes players could see a restoration of certain benefits, although no indication has been made. The company can also pursue acquisitions and business deals it couldn't if it were publicly traded. Amaya's Stock Rises on Monday, Falls in 2015 The company is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol 'AYA'. It closed on Friday at CDN $14.99 per share and there was no movement of the price on Monday. In New York City on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange, shares of Amaya were up USD $3.32 on Monday at the time of writing to $13.89 per share, an increase of over 30%. Amaya's stock was at the low end of its 52-week NASDAQ range of $9.67 to $31.44. In the last year, shares of Amaya in Toronto have plummeted from around CDN $33 to CDN $14.99, or by about half. In late 2014, shares of 'AYA' were fetching almost CDN $40 a pop. Last November, shares of Amaya slid 28% after a warning that its 2015 revenues would likely be 11% to 14% lower than anticipated. The cause: strengthening of the US Dollar, which according to the Financial Times resulted in an "'approximate 19% decline in the purchasing power of our customer base' and which had had an impact 'higher than we previously anticipated.'" Amaya's revenues from consumers are largely in Euros, which have become less valuable compared to its debt, which is in US Dollars. [caption width="640"] Amaya's stock has slid 50% in the last 12 months in Toronto[/caption] No Formal Deal Proposed The deal is still in its infancy, as the same press release said there were no formal discussions between the CEO and his company about an acquisition nor was there any "certainty that the proposed transaction will proceed or be consummated." Baazov owns 24.5 million shares of Amaya, or 18.6% of the company, and has an option to purchase 550,000 additional common shares. Amaya's Lead Independent Director, Dave Gadhia, will oversee a special committee to review any offers that may come in. Rough 2015 for Amaya In October of last year, Amaya's daily fantasy sports product, StarsDraft, banned real money play from all but four states following "a review of recent developments in a number of jurisdictions." Although the company said the decision to scale back StarsDraft would not have "a negative financial impact," the news was still a blow to Amaya's potential expansion in the United States. At the time, some had speculated that Amaya's status as a publicly traded company was part of the reason, as it didn't want to risk harm to its shareholders or share price by remaining in states it wasn't sure that DFS was 100% permissible. Additionally, because Amaya owns PokerStars, which is trying to expand in regulated markets in the US, it has a "fundamentally different risk/reward calculus than operators like FanDuel or DraftKings," according to Legal Sports Report. And as Reuters pointed out, that's not the only lackluster news to come from the United States, as "a Kentucky court ordered the company to pay $870 million in penalties to cover alleged losses by the state's residents who played real money poker on PokerStars' website between 2006 and 2011." That news came down in December, although Amaya is appealing. High-stakes players have been enraged at Amaya and PokerStars after the online poker room slashed benefits last year. Two player-organized boycotts have already taken place. Still, there's a glimmer of hope. Last October, PokerStars received a transactional waiver to operate in New Jersey, which licenses and regulates internet gambling and online poker. No real money tables have come online, but New Jersey green-lighting PokerStars could boost the company's chances of being licensed in other states given how thorough Garden State officials have been. According to Online Poker Report, New Jersey's investigation into Amaya was exhaustive. It included review of 45,000 pages of documents, 71 interviews, and Amaya's 2014 records with the help of a consulting company.
  24. [caption width="640"] Isaac Haxton was one of three high stakes regulars to attend a meeting with PokerStars executives.[/caption] Isaac Haxton, Dani Stern and Daniel Dvoress finally issued a statement Saturday night, detailing as much as possible their recent meeting with PokerStars and Amaya executives. If you were hoping that the site would backtrack on its many changes that have affected high-stakes and high-volume regulars, it's time to think again. The Meeting Stern, Haxton and Dvoress met with various PokerStars and Amaya executives on Monday, January 18. According to a statement issued by the trio on TwoPlusTwo, the meeting lasted for eight hours and all parties signed non-disclosure agreements that prohibited them from releasing any financial information, including details of the PokerStars ecosystem. "Going into the meeting, our highest priority was to address PokerStars' decision not to give the 2016 rewards they had promised to players earning SN and SNE statuses in 2015," the statement read. "We reminded them that it is not too late to make it right." Amaya CEO David Baazov briefly joined the meeting but Stern described him as being "little out of touch with the online poker environment." Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, who has been critical of the manner in which the drastic changes were communicated, was also in attendance. Eric Hollreiser, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Amaya and PokerStars, was also in attendance at the meeting and has indicated a corporate statement will be released Monday. The PokerStars Ecosystem According to the three players, Amaya officials "denied having any firm obligation to give 2015 SNs and SNEs the rewards they were promised and asserted that they did not feel that doing so would be in the best interests of their business." The group admitted that Amaya gave "compelling" evidence that the current ecosystem at PokerStars needed to be re-tooled. They were not convinced however that the changes made will have the impact PokerStars has said they will. "We did not feel that we were shown convincing evidence that any of the changes implemented so far would directly impact issues with the game ecology or the playing experience of recreational players," the statement said. Hyper Sit and Gos The meeting also included discussion of the high-stakes hyper sit and gos, which the three players claim are "unbeatable" without benefits given to high-volume players. "We were simply assured that they were aware that high-stakes hypers were likely to be heavily impacted and planned to monitor those games closely," the group explained. Stern, Haxton and Dvoress were "unclear" whether any changes would actually be made to these games. Cash Game VPPs The trio felt that the data being presented by PokerStars wasn't entirely inclusive of all player types. "[Amaya] tended to present the results of the biggest winners, or ignore the results of players who put in high volume and lost, in ways that systematically overstated how much pros in these games could or did win," the joint statement said. "They assured us that PokerStars considers high-stakes cash an important part of its offering and that there are no plans to eliminate these games." The group also pitched "reducing rake in short-handed cash games while increasing it in full games and offering discounts/bonuses for SNGs that run with a lineup of all SN or SNE players." However, according to the players, PokerStars had no interest. "PokerStars is Not Willing to Reconsider Any of the Changes" While the group was optimistic heading in to the meeting, they left Montreal without any promises from PokerStars to rollback any changes. Just the opposite in fact. "We deeply regret that we are not bringing back any good news for the players. We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes." UPDATE: "Although that may not be what some players want to hear, the recent meeting demonstrated that an ongoing dialogue can provide greater understanding. We hope to build upon this meeting, and to continue listening to players, even if - and especially when - they disagree with us," Hollreiser wrote in a blog entry on the PokerStars Corporate blog Monday afternoon. Daniel Negreanu's Involvement In follow-up comments to the report, Stern revealed that PokerStars front man Daniel Negreanu, who attended parts of the meeting, was largely quiet, but did speak out about the two-year Supernova commitment. Negreanu has been vocal that the changes should have been better communicated and come with more advanced warning. Why the Meeting Was Held When asked, "If Amaya had no good news, why do you think you were even there," Haxton responded, "Because Negreanu demanded it." Stern said he thought the goal of the meeting, from Amaya's end, was to "convince us that the VIP changes were necessary to fix a problem." Stern and company, however, claimed Amaya presented no evidence that "taking more money out of the games would produce a benefit for any players." More Player Meetings Coming? Despite all of the seemingly pessimistic news for players, Stern revealed that player meetings could be held more often, as Amaya "at least appeared eager to engage with players more often."
  25. [CAPTION=90%]Isaac Haxton has decided not to renew his Team PokerStars Online contract[/CAPTION] Just a few minutes before boarding a flight to Manila to play the $200,000 buy-in Triton Super High Roller Cali Cup in the Philpines, Isaac Haxton dropped a bombshell – he was leaving Team PokerStars Online. “As of today, I am sad to report that my PokerStars Team Pro Online contract has expired and I have made the decision not to renew it,” Haxton wrote Friday in a post on TwoPlusTwo. Haxton’s decision to walk away from guaranteed money comes after PokerStars made the decision to drastically alter their VIP player rewards program for 2016 and Haxton admitted that was at the crux of his decision to not renew his contract with the online poker giant. “In the past, when I have disagreed with a PokerStars decision, it has been on practical matters of which goals are most important and which policies most effectively advance those goals,” Haxton wrote. “This time my disagreement is simpler, and deeper. I believe PokerStars is behaving unethically.” Haxton’s decision comes just weeks after Alex Millar, another member of Team PokerStars Online, made the same announcement after finding the recent VIP program changes hard to support. Having been a SuperNova Elite himself, Haxton empathized with those who put in the hours to gain the status – and the rewards that came with it. “For most of the players who do it, it is an all-consuming commitment more intense than most full time jobs. Many of them have relocated far from their homes and families to pursue it,” Haxton wrote. “Finding out, just as you approach the finish line, that your efforts will not be rewarded as you expected them to be is brutal.” PokerStars announced in November that there would be no SuperNova Elite rewards for 2016 – meaning players who had been putting in the hours throughout 2015 had been doing so in vain. “I cannot in good conscience continue to endorse a poker site that treats its players this way,” he wrote. Haxton was first signed to Team PokerStars Online in October, 2012 in what he described as one of the “proudest moments” of his poker career. During his time with PokerStars, Haxton was featured in a mini-documentary, The Isaac Haxton Story, chronicling his rise in the online poker world.

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