The numbers are in for June, and Nevada rose to the challenge of the summer.
Online poker jumped in June to its highest level since revenue was recorded for the startup online poker industry in Nevada, and the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas was to thank for it.
By the same token, when the WSOP ended, cash game traffic plunged to its pre-WSOP levels, and the site fought to do something to change it. One of those things may be the hiring of an ambassador or sponsor of sorts, something the site held firm against in the beginning. But reports of Greg Merson becoming affiliated in some way with the site may be WSOP.com’s attempt to change its course.
The live poker scene is also on somewhat of a hiatus for Las Vegas, as poker players have departed Sin City after the WSOP for other locations around the world. With the EPT Barcelona on tap as well as the WSOP Circuit in Palm Beach, Florida, not to mention smaller tournaments at venues like the Isle of Pompano and even LAPT in Panama City, players have left Nevada behind for the moment.
They’ll be back, of course, when the next live tournament makes its way to the desert.
Peak Revenue Numbers Make Online Poker Executives Happy
The Nevada Gaming Control Board released June numbers late last week, and the spike from the summer’s WSOP was evident.
Online poker revenue increased more than 20 percent from the previous month, with $1,037,000 in revenue for June over the $862K in May. It was the highest point for Nevada online poker since the first sites launched more than one year ago.
Overall, monthly online poker revenue for June was up nearly 30 percent from April, as May began to show the influx of players for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
While Ultimate Poker didn’t see any significant change for the month of June, WSOP.com jumped approximately 50 percent in cash game traffic, and overall revenue climbed at a slower pace but still a significant one.
WSOP Ends, WSOP.com Traffic Plummets
As for cash game traffic, it trended back downward as the WSOP came to a close in Las Vegas and many players left town.
Per PokerScout numbers, the seven-day cash game average for the sites fell significantly last week, which was the week after the WSOP live events ended. WSOP.com fell from 152 cash game seats to 127, nearly a 17 percent fall on top of an already declining number based on poker players departing Nevada for their home states and countries.
Ultimate Poker failed to see any major jump during the WSOP and didn’t show a major change after it, moving only from 54 players to 55 last week.
WSOP.com tried to stave off the downswing, pushing a promotion to coincide with the airing of WSOP episodes on ESPN, but it didn’t have much effect thus far.
When rumors surfaced that Greg Merson was endorsing WSOP.com on social media and reportedly entering some type of sponsorship agreement, it all made sense. The online poker site needed a kick start after having a taste of such success during late May, June, and early July. But weeks after the speculation began, WSOP.com has yet to comment on any partnership with the 2012 WSOP Main Event champion.
Though WSOP said from the beginning that it “shied away from signing personal endorsements with individual players” to maintain maximum trust and integrity, Merson might be the spokesperson that could change the minds of those same executives. And depending upon how the company chooses to utilize the power of Merson, WSOP.com could definitely benefit from the move.
Criminal Tidbits from the Las Vegas Blotter
It was an interesting week for the criminal element – or allegedly so – in Las Vegas.
On the last weekend of the WSOP in Las Vegas, some high stakes poker players were arrested in a massive FBI-led sting into an illegal international sports betting ring.
Of those arrested, Richard Yong and Paul Phua were included. Sometimes referred to as “Asian businessmen” who play in some of the highest stakes poker games in the world, they are also sports bettors. And their 22-year-old sons were in on it as well.
Yong and his son, as well as Phua and his son, were arrested on the Las Vegas Strip on July 13 for accepting wagers on the World Cup. The senior Phua was said to be a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad, one of the largest and most powerful criminal syndicates in the world, one that specializes in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, prostitution, and loan sharking.
Phua had been arrested in Macau on Jun 18 for running a World Cup betting operation, but he was released on bail and flew to Las Vegas for poker and more sports betting. The FBI had been monitoring his activities, as was Caesars Palace, a Las Vegas Strip establishment that kicked him out for his activities. As Phua and friends settled in to another Strip hotel, the FBI conducted its raid and arrested them all.
Poker players then stepped in to help. Andrew Robl cashed out Bellagio chips to put up $1.5 million in bail money to spring the Phua father-son duo, and Phil Ivey put up another $1 million.
That met the bail requirements, but the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the US Department of Homeland Security stepped in. Since the Phuas are Malaysian citizens, the two are currently being held for possible deportation and thus unapproved for the bail set by the federal judge.
Ivey’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, is now representing the Phuas.
Meanwhile, a man robbed the Bellagio Casino at gunpoint late last week. He reportedly pulled a gun on a teller at the cashier cage, grabbed approximately $30K to $50K, and departed the Bellagio on foot. He was subsequently arrested at another Las Vegas casino over the weekend. His true identity has not been released.