[toc]The casino news of the week started on a sour note with the surprise raid of the Bicycle Casino in California.
The week was not without its high notes, though. The Bike reopened shortly after the federal agents left, and the Live at The Bike streaming cash games were even up and running by Wednesday.
There is more good news for California poker players. The World Poker Tour is bringing a new event to the LA area next month with a seven-figure guarantee.
Vegas poker pros can similarly be excited for the return of the $1 million guaranteed WPT500 returning to the Strip in July. They just may need to worry about where to park.
More on the parking and the other big stories from the gambling scene right here:
Bicycle Casino raided by Feds investigating money laundering
The week kicked off with quite a bang for California’s Bicycle Casino.
Agents from the Los Angeles High Intensity Financial Crime Area Task Force raided and temporarily closed the Bell Gardens card club on Monday. The casino opened its doors back up later in the week.
The investigation is not necessarily about the casino or its staff. Reports indicate the agents were searching for signs of money laundering. However, it appears the investigation is focused on players at the casino, not the venue itself.
This is not the first time the Bike or a California card room have been in legal trouble. The Bike has its own sordid history, but Gardens Casino recently faced similar charges as well.
WPT500 expanding to California
There is good news for Southern California card players. The World Poker Tour is expanding its low buy-in WPT500 event to Los Angeles this summer.
The Gardens WPT500 will run from May 21-31. The tournament will feature a $565 buy-in and a $1 million guaranteed prize pool.
The Vegas event runs from June 26-July 5. Like the Gardens Casino, it will also feature a $565 buy-in and a $1 million guaranteed prize pool.
PokerStars NJ still celebrating, even with recent changes
The month of March included plenty of celebrating for PokerStars NJ. The site held a series of “birthday” events to commemorate its first year of operation in New Jersey.
Most of the festivities took place online, but there was an Atlantic City event as well. Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker and three PokerStars NJ winners met up at Resorts Casino for a night of dinner and drinks. The event even included a birthday cake.
Special promotions like this are an example of the shift in PokerStars’ marketing for the small New Jersey market. It stands in sharp contrast to the use of high-profile athletes the site is reportedly moving away from.
The marketing is not the only thing changing about PokerStars. David Baazov, the former CEO of PokerStars’ parent company, Amaya, recently sold off over CA$200 million shares of Amaya stock.
One person who acquired some of those shares is Tang Hao.
The Hong Kong businessman quietly purchased over nine million shares of Amaya. He now owns 6.25 percent of the company. Just who Hao is and why he is interested in online poker remains a mystery for the time being.
Free parking becoming an endangered species on the Las Vegas Strip
What used to be a common perk of Las Vegas casinos is quickly becoming a rare commodity on the Strip. A year after MGM started charging for parking, Caesars Entertainment and Cosmopolitan Casino both rolled out paid parking programs.
Moreover, MGM recently revealed it will be upping the cost of parking. Most notably, MGM will no longer offer 2-4 hours of free parking for the same price. Instead, it will charge one price for up to two hours of parking and another, higher price for cars parked for more than two but less than four hours in a garage.
There are still a few casinos holding out and keeping free parking. The most notable exceptions of the paid parking trend are the Wynn and the Venetian.