Hit and Run: Reactions to the GPL, Tribes ‘Concerned’ About Amaya, South Korea’s Illegal Online Gambling Problem

Alex Weldon : April 8th, 2016
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The first week of the Global Poker League has produced a wide variety of reactions. California tribes may be turning on Amaya once more. Illegal online gambling and related cybercrime are becoming an increasing problem in South Korea. Steve Wynn hates the poor, but we knew that already. WPT awarding a Corvette to the winner of its Tournament of Champions.

The GPL’s first week: Polling the peanut gallery

Given how long it’s been in coming, it was inevitable that the GPL would be among the top stories every day this week. It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of the concept since the start, but what’s the consensus among others in the media?

As it turns out, there really isn’t very much consensus at all. The one thing I think most people would agree on is that the heads-up matches were more successful than Tuesday’s 6-Max games, partly because of pacing and partly because of the web-cams. The commentary by Griffin Benger and Sam Grafton also improved as the week went on. Beyond that, though, and in terms of overall impression, responses have varied widely.

To an even greater extent than me, Lee Davy at CalvinAyre has been an enthusiastic supporter of the GPL concept. It’s no surprise, then, that even after the somewhat rocky first day, his impressions were quite positive.

Jennifer Newell, writing for PokerUpdate, probably has the most enthusiastic response of all, calling it a week marked by excitement and providing a very detailed and superlative account of everything that happened throughout. Even the bigger blunders which occurred are things he sees as more funny than damaging to the GPL’s credibility.

Correction: Due to a byline error at PokerUpdate’s end, the above article was originally attributed incorrectly. It was in fact written by Jennifer Newell.

PokerListings is likewise pretty sold on the concept, naming Dan Cates, Davidi Kitai and Randy Lew as the “3 Stars” of the week, in what sounds like it might become a regular weekly highlights column.

At the other end of the spectrum is Marty Derbyshire, whose latest “Five Thoughts” column on PokerNews includes one fairly pessimistic take on the GPL. He calls the 6-max matches “barely watchable,” the presentation “amateur hour,” and has some fairly sharp criticisms of Grafton and Benger as well. His impression of the heads-up match between Randy Lew and Sergey Lebedev was slightly better, but not by much, and unfortunately it sounds like he tuned out before the more entertaining later matches.

Tribes smelling weakness in Amaya investigation?

In an article at OnlinePokerReport, Dave Palermo reports on a change in tone from the California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians when it comes to PokerStars owner Amaya. Support from the tribes is critical to the eventual legalization of online gambling in the state, but the various tribal leaders involved are split when it comes to PokerStars returning to the US and to their state. Some see PokerStars as a potential competitor to their gambling operations and have pushed for strongly-worded “bad actor” language in the legislation in order to keep the site out. Other tribes have formed a coalition to support Amaya, seeing more value in joining forces to maximize the chances of getting the legislation passed.

Lynn Valbuena, speaking for the San Manuel council, stated that her tribe has “deep concerns” about Amaya in light of the charges being laid against David Baazov. Valbuena is one of the more influential leaders among the California tribes, so this new stance is likely to provide new momentum to the anti-Amaya camp. It’s possible that recent news coming out of Amaya has shifted the perceived balance of power, and precipitate further changes in the political landscape as everyone tries to make sure they end up on the winning team.

Quick Hitters

- The combination of a highly technologically-oriented society, a passionate online-gaming culture and a blanket ban on gambling seems like it would be a surefire recipe for black-market online gambling. That’s exactly the combination of factors present in South Korea, and indeed, illegal online gambling is proving to be an endemic problem there. Not only that, but it’s also given rise to a secondary “industry” of cyber-criminals extorting the illegal gambling sites by threatening digital attacks against them.

- The overall economic forecast for Atlantic City has been dire for some time now, and several casinos have closed down in recent years. The silver lining is that all of those remaining have reported a profit for 2015… though it’s too little too late to save the city itself from bankruptcy.

- No one is likely to wrest the title of Least Likeable Person in Vegas from Sheldon Adelson any time soon, but Steve Wynn, owner of the eponymous Wynn Hotel & Casino, sounds like he’s trying. In a recent presentation to investors, Wynn asserted that “nobody likes being around poor people,” including the poor themselves. Sounds like Stevey-Boy needs to brush up on the difference between “classy” and “classist.”

- Whoever wins the WPT Tournament of Champions needn’t worry about looks of disdain from Mr. Wynn, as they’ll now be receiving a shiny new Corvette contributed by tournament sponsor and audio product manufacturer Monster. That’s on top of all the other freebies being added to the prize pool and, of course, the first place prize money itself.

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