Business Still Grim in Las Vegas, English Casinos and Card Rooms Reopen, and Unibet Crushing Online Poker

Gambling businesses in Las Vegas are going through a terrible period of turmoil. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the industry with no end in sight to the situation.

By: Mark Patrickson

Bleak Future for Las Vegas

The Tropicana Las Vegas is now up for sale. Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI) only acquired the property in April 2020 when the lockdown was already in place, and leased the casino to the original owners Penn National Gaming.

The listing broker Michael Parks said that GLPI will consider both an outright sale or a sale with an agreement to rent the casino.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. are also having a torrid time. They posted losses totalling almost $1 billion during the second quarter of 2020, a drop of 97.1% compared to the same period in 2019.

COO Rob Goldstein was very pessimistic about the future. Even with casinos now reopening hotel rooms and few players on the table games are not enough to cover operating costs. Conventions and other bug draws for tourists are still not up and running.

Goldstein said: “Las Vegas cannot perform well without [the] return of these segments. It cannot make money with limited hotel occupancy.”

Wynn Resorts have just announced that they are to furlough thousands of employees, while Circus Circus are to lay off 262 workers. The situation is beyond grim.

English casinos and card rooms reopened on August 1st, while Scotland and Wales decided to play the waiting game.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson supported the move after coming under fire for leaving casinos out of the July lockdown easing. Pubs, restaurants, swimming pools, betting shops, and bingo halls were all allowed to open for business yet strangely casinos were ignored.

Casinos in mainland Europe have already been open for two months. Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Michael Dugher was far from impressed.

He said: “BGC casino members went the extra mile to meet strict COVID guidelines some weeks ago, but were left in the dark as to when they would be allowed to reopen. Britain’s casinos employ thousands of people and pay millions in tax, and they were one of the few remaining leisure and hospitality businesses to remain closed.”

The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, New Jersey is facing legal action after a Vermont man sued the casino for a breach of state consumer fraud laws.

Michael Bandler brought the lawsuit after travelling to the casino to play a tournament guaranteeing a $150,000 prize pool. The event started but was halted due to insufficient players.

Bandler looks to be taking advantage of a careless omission by the Golden Nugget who didn’t specify that the tournament could be cancelled purely based on poor attendance.

An appeals court panel gave a statement including the following:

“...the casino omitted stating it intended to pay $150,000 only so long as enough people signed up, and the only indirect reference to that intent was the disputed disclaimer in small print about official rules and the right to change or cancel the event.”

Unibet on the up

Kindred Group, formally known as Unibet Group Plc, has posted record profits for the second quarter in 2020. Online poker revenue skyrocketed to £9.7 million, more than double the same period in 2019.

Online poker accounted for 4.1% of total group revenue which is a considerable increase over the more usual 2-2.5%.

Online casino revenue grew by a whopping 40% during Q1 which did a lot to offset losses caused by the COVID-19 situation. The casino now accounts for two thirds of total revenue, up from below 50%.

With sports betting now backup and running again the future is bright for the company.

Facebook Develops Ground-Breaking Poker AI Algorithm

Social media giant Facebook has developed an AI framework called Recursive Belief-based Learning (ReBeL). The program teaches itself on the fly and it is claimed that it achieves “better-than-human performance” in Heads-Up NL Hold’em.

Researchers reported that ReBel out performed the all-conquering Libratus which comfortably beat a selection of the world’s best Heads-Up NL players.

Fortunately, Facebook is not going to release the poker code as open source as they understand the potential for cheating.

They wrote: “While AI algorithms already exist that can achieve superhuman performance in poker, these algorithms generally assume that participants have a certain number of chips or use certain bet sizes. Retraining the algorithms to account for arbitrary chip stacks or unanticipated bet sizes requires more computation than is feasible in real time. However, ReBeL can compute a policy for arbitrary stack sizes and arbitrary bet sizes in seconds.”

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