WSOP About To Blast Off, While MA And PA Gambling Sputters

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For gambling, there is really only one US destination in May, and that is Las Vegas. We are days away from Nevada becoming the center of the poker universe for the next two months thanks to the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Just because the WSOP is dominating the headlines does not mean there is no news in other corners of the casino industry. Granted, most of it is not as cheery or as profitable as the poker series.

In Massachusetts, the news is that there won’t be any more news on the online gambling front this year. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, lawmakers and casinos are trying to make ends meet with the current casino status quo.

Here is more on all those stories in our weekly roundup of major gaming industry headlines:

Big WSOP broadcast changes drawing cheers and jeers

With the 2017 WSOP on the horizon, it is time for Caesars to unveil the annual changes and additions for summer’s premiere poker event.

This year, there seem to be even more changes than usual. Moreover, there is one big change causing a big stir.

After nine years, the November Nine final table concept is out. Instead of a four-month delay between the WSOP Main Event and the Main Event final table, the tournament will play out in the span of a couple of weeks.

ESPN is partnering with Poker Central to offer same-day coverage of the duration of the Main Event. It is the first time ESPN will show same-day coverage of pre-final table action since 2011. Additionally, Poker Central is taking over as the producer and distributor of livestreaming of the preliminary events.

Most people are happy about the nearly live coverage. Some, like our own Martin Derbyshire, worry the change won’t address the broadcast’s bigger issue–a lack of memorable characters.

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Massachusetts online gambling hopes for 2017 dry up

In January, hopes were high that Massachusetts could pass online casino legislation this year. Like New York and Pennsylvania, Massachusetts seemed to be in a position to make more progress than ever before.

Now though, there is no hope legislation passes for either online casino or online lotteries to pass. State Senate President Stan Rosenberg said in an interview this week that both causes are going nowhere this year.

The only good news from Rosenberg was that there is a better chance the issues get consideration in 2018. For now though, the two bills introduced to the state legislature are not expected to make it out of committee.

The chief reason behind the lack of progress is a concern online casinos and lotteries will cannibalize their existing land-based counterparts.

PA lawmakers and casinos dealing with financial shortfalls

As usual, the news out of Pennsylvania centers around money problems.

With the deadline fast approaching to find a solution, state lawmakers are frantically trying to push through a standalone bill to handle the casino host fee issue. Since being deemed unconstitutional last fall, local governments scrambled to make up for the massive budget shortfall.

Each casino paid $10 million a year in host fees. The state has until May 26 to come up with some sort of alternative solution to address the issue and keep the $120 million flowing to local governments.

On the casino front, many of the Pennsylvania casinos are shifting their priorities away from slots and on to table games. In fact, slot revenue is down across the state. However, casino revenues are holding steady thanks to increased performance from table games.

One has to wonder if the poor return to player and high taxation on slot games is causing gamblers to turn their attention elsewhere. If that is the case, the proposal for online casinos to maintain the same tax rate as brick and mortar casinos only sounds more disastrous.

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About

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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