WSOP back, but what about logos of recently indicted websites?

May 24, 2011 3:07 AM

This year’s version of the World Series of Poker will have a bigger audience than ever as nearly two months of action begins next week at the Rio.

State and federal authorities will be watching closely as the World Series has moved from the journalistic world of feature stories and assorted puff pieces to front page news.

For instance, Nevada casino regulators have "advised" people calling with questions about possible commercial involvements with the WSOP that they should think very carefully about anything that puts the logos of the recently indicted Internet websites on TV.

Those logos have been promoted by poker’s biggest names, dressing carefully to give their myriad commercial backers all the television time possible. They’ve come to resemble walking, talking versions of Indy racing cars what with those reminders of sponsors placed here and there.

Players were not touched by the indictments that slapped PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute with federal bank fraud charges related to their handling of Internet accounts, handling alleged to be in violation of the 2006 legislation.

It’s unlikely the Gaming Control Board will put out an actual order prohibiting an on the air presence by these firms, but the Board always has the right to slap down licensees doing anything it decides "brings disrepute" to the state’s biggest industry. It’s an attitude that produces uncertainty and a tendency toward caution among lawyers advising their clients about a preferred course of action.

"In other words, they want us to do their work for them," grumbled a Caesars insider who shared his thinking on the condition he not be identified.

The Board’s position could have an effect on the cash position of poker pros who are known to earn fees running well into five and six figures for their willingness to display website logos during high profile events such as the World Series.

Another factor weighing heavily on the level of action flowing through the weeks of poker action until mid-July is the speed at which the three indicted firms can return millions of dollars in poker winnings to players.

The biggest impact may be seen in the cash games that have nothing to do with official tournament events, most of which will have buy-ins of $1,500 to $10,000. But the presence of deep-pocketed players with their significant spending power and appetite for big games has an impact on incremental revenue of all kinds at the Rio.

In other words, no money... no play or at least a lot less play. A well-known Las Vegas poker pro was said to be down to his last $150,000 recently, a hardship that will not earn him a lot of sympathy from working stiffs, but six-figure sums will not go far in one of the popular side games that can have that much in a single pot.

Agreements have been reached or are in the process of being reached to return money to players, but saying this and getting the job accomplished in time to make a significant difference in the level of action and spending may be easier said than done.

The result: significant uncertainty.