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December Poker Biz

New Tables changing face of poker – The smiling dealer, menacing stare behind towering chip stacks, even the ruffle of the shuffling of cards have become distant memories at some card rooms in the U.S. as more properties incorporate automated poker tables into their offerings.

PokerTek’s PokerPro automated poker table is revolutionizing poker at smaller casinos and card rooms that otherwise lacked the staff needed to offer poker. And while managers appreciate the reduced manpower needed to offer what remains a popular game, players are taking to the tables, too.

“It’s what I call no-brainer poker,” said Ron Wills, who plays at least three times a week at the Folsom Lake Bowl Sports Bar and Casino near Sacramento, California. “No chips to stack, no cards to shuffle, just sit down and play.”

The tables speed up the game-making it more like the internet games many of the newest players are used to-and eliminates human mistakes like misdeals and wrong calls on winning hands. A faster game keeps customers happy, and also produces more rake for the house.

PokerTek CEO Chris Halligan said the PokerPro tables deal an average 46 hands per hour, 50 percent more than the average human dealer, who churns out only 30 hands in an hour.

And while the house benefits from the increased action, so, too, can the players. More hands mean an increased chance of getting a playable hand, and without a dealer to toke, players keep more of their winnings.

“If you’re doing well, tossing in $1 or $2 after every win can add up,” said Matt Harkness, general manager of the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan, which opened this summer with a fully automated poker room. “This technology keeps that money with the players.”

Dealing in West Virginia – The Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort opened its poker room and simulcast facility October 19, and is already seeing benefits.

The new offerings have allowed track officials to increase purses by 10 percent.

The poker room features 37 tables spreading games 24 hours a day. The main room runs a $2-$4 limit poker game, while a separate high-roller room will offer higher stakes based on demand.

The room is located on the first floor of the facility because track officials believe that poker players are more likely to wager on the races.

The 3,000-square-foot simulcast area has 120 individual viewing stations, betting clerks and self-service machines.

“The recent enhancements to our racing program have been very favorably received and are indicative of Mountaineer’s continued commitment to both our racing product and our racing fans,” Mountaineer Director of Racing Rose Mary Williams said in a statement.  The renovation cost $1.2 million. 

In 2008, the track will add roulette, craps, blackjack and additional table games. Track officials say the games, approved by the voters, are necessary for the track to remain competitive with casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Bad Beat in Pennsylvania – Hopes for a precedent-setting ruling from a Pennsylvania judge declaring poker a game of skill were dashed in October.

Judge Richard McCormick Jr., presiding over the case of a Westmoreland County attorney accused of operating illegal, for-profit poker tournaments, agreed with the prosecution that the outcome of a hand in poker is determined predominantly by chance.

“Whether you win or lose, it’s based essentially in the cards you are dealt, and that’s by chance,” prosecuting attorney John Peck argued.

Poker tournament comes to Macau

The world’s largest online poker site, PokerStars, announced the first no-limit Texas hold ’em poker tournament to be held in China: the Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau.

The tournament ran from November 22 to November 27 at the Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino.

“The Asia Pacific Poker Tour is honored to be bringing the sport of tournament poker to Macau,” said Jeffrey Haas, president of the APPT. “Macau is already the world’s gaming capital, and this historic event diversifies its global attraction by including the APPT’s unique brand of poker tourism. It’s a significant step forward, not only for the APPT, but for the growth of poker in Asia.”

New California laws benefit card clubs – The $1.3 million that the Los Angeles Casinos Political Action Committee has given California politicians in the past 18 months may have helped recent passage of several state laws benefiting the seven card room operators in the group and others.

Much of the money went to committees linked to state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. One new law he backed, SB 730, allows the use of chips to pay for food and drinks on a card-room gaming floor and lets licensed employees work in a variety of key jobs.

Perata also pushed SB 289. It supersedes state law that prohibited a California gaming license recipient from investing in commercial casinos or tribal casinos. Investments cannot exceed 1 percent of ownership, and specified public gaming companies still cannot hold California gaming licenses.

“The way it was set up you can’t own an interest in a casino in Nevada,” said Hustler Casino owner Larry Flynt. “It’s stupid.”

The California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion said SB 289 marked “the continued slide toward unfettered gambling in California.”

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one bill as conflicting with the state’s long-running moratorium on significant card-room expansion. It would have let some localities OK more tables without a popular vote.

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