The reels are always spinning in the gambling industry, and “The Double Down” is here every Friday to catch you up on all of the week’s biggest news. Sports Handle’s “Get a Grip” rounds up everything on the sports betting side, and US Bets provides the best of the rest: brick-and-mortar happenings, online casino developments, poker headlines, horse wagering, and more. So pull up a chair, crunch the numbers, and slide forward another stack of chips.
World Series of Scamming
It’s not every day that TMZ writes about poker tournaments. And when the site does so, you can safely assume something sensational — in either a positive or negative direction — has occurred.
Most of the time, the smart money is on “negative,” as was the case with a story that caught the eye of the gossip-oriented media outlet this week. As first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 37-year-old amateur poker player Rob Mercer of Vallejo, California, had a dream of playing in the World Series of Poker main event, and this summer, he crossed some serious moral and ethical lines to make that dream come true.
Mercer claimed to have terminal colon cancer and created a GoFundMe to raise the $10,000 to enter the tournament, and he succeeded in raising far more than that ($12,025 on GoFundMe plus another five figures privately).
There was just one problem: He made up the bit about having terminal colon cancer.
At the poker table, a successful bluff is something to be proud of. In a real-life situation like this, a bluff is just a lie.
As the Review-Journal reported, some in the poker community saw Mercer gambling it up at the casino table games during the WSOP, which didn’t necessarily prove his story was untrue, but created bad optics and made people suspicious enough to question him. And after the questions mounted, he admitted, “I did lie about having colon cancer,” and, “what I did was wrong.”
Mercer offered an excuse that may or may not just be another bluff, claiming he believes he has undiagnosed male breast cancer and was too embarrassed to reveal that, so he went with the colon cancer lie instead.
One of those people who donated to Mercer’s GoFundMe and this week became an outspoken critic of his lie, a Twitter/X user with the handle @PuntingStacks, confirmed Wednesday with a screenshot that GoFundMe refunded donations to Mercer’s fund.
For those wondering, no, Mercer did not cash in the WSOP main event. According to the Hendon Mob poker player database, he doesn’t have a single tournament cash in 2023.
This week on Gamble On …
Every Thursday, US Bets drops a new episode of the Gamble On podcast, and this week’s welcomed Joe Brennan Jr., the executive chairman of the newly launched Prime Sportsbook, to talk about how old-school operators can succeed long term in the U.S. sports betting scene:
— US Bets (@US_Bets) September 22, 2023
Headed south in North Carolina
Virtual play, real money
Fanatics Casino, coming soon-ish
Downs but not out
‘Barbie’ for Best Picture?
Mixed news for pair of endangered horse tracks
After initially announcing plans to close Golden Gate Fields, the last remaining horse racetrack in Northern California, at the end of the year, the track’s owner, 1/ST, now plans to run a winter-spring meet at the Bay Area venue that will conclude in June 2024.
As the Daily Racing Form noted, Jack Steiner has been the only Golden Gate trainer to publicly disclose plans to move his stable to Santa Anita Park, which is also owned by 1/ST. Legislation to redirect simulcasting and account wagering revenue to Southern California when racing is not being held in the northern part of the state easily passed in Sacramento last week. Gov. Gavin Newsom has until mid-October to sign it into law. If he does, it will take effect on July 1.
One state away, the situation appears to be even more grim for Turf Paradise, where a commercial real estate developer who was interested in purchasing the property walked away from the potential transaction after failing to gain support for legislation that would have permitted casino-style games — including historical horse racing machines — at the Phoenix track.
Unless another buyer can be found, Turf Paradise will be shuttered by its current owner on Sept. 30.
— Mike Seely
FanDuel Casino shares new ad campaign
FanDuel Casino has unveiled the second installment of a broad marketing campaign, an initiative that coincides with an exclusive partnership with IGT PlayDigital. The campaign, dubbed “Winning is Undefeated,” will air in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, the company announced Thursday.
FanDuel partnered with advertising agency Mischief @ No Fixed Address to develop the campaign. Researchers have identified 34,000 unique feelings experienced by humans, and the satisfaction of winning tops the list, said Pete Lefebvre, creative director at Mischief @ No Fixed Address. He added that those findings were the basis of the campaign.
Under the partnership with IGT PlayDigital, FanDuel will begin offering Fort Knox Cleopatra in select states. Fort Knox Cleopatra, according to the companies, is one of the casino industry’s most recognizable slot games.
New customers to FanDuel Casino will receive 50 bonus spins when making their first deposit, the operator announced.
— Matt Rybaltowski
Michigan RG effort earns another award
Last month, the Michigan Gaming Control Board and King Media won a Platinum Viddy Award for their multimedia responsible gambling campaign, “Don’t Regret the Bet.” Now, during Responsible Gaming Education Month, the campaign has also been recognized with a Platinum dotCOMM Award, which honors excellence in creativity and digital communication.
“Winning two platinum-level international awards now, back-to-back within two months’ time, proves that ‘Don’t Regret the Bet’ is just the beginning of our climb and a shining example of what a successful integrated marketing campaign looks like,” MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams said in a press release. “The MGCB staff is most appreciative of Coleen King and her talented staff for rolling up their sleeves and working alongside us on this endeavor to prevent Michiganders from developing a problem with gambling.”
Launched in March 2023, “Don’t Regret the Bet” aims to prevent gambling problems before they start through broadcast TV and radio advertising, point-of-sale video ads at gas stations, digital billboards, social media, streaming services, and podcasts.
— Mike Seely
More from around the gambling biz
THE LION ROARS AGAIN: MGM reports full operations restored across its US properties [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
WHOLE LOTTO LOVE: Win or lose, Michiganders love playing the lottery [Macomb Daily]
HAPPY RG-VERSARY: Once shunned by casino operators, responsible gaming campaign turns 25 [The Nevada Independent]
THAT’S ENOUGH, NEFF: Indiana casinos bar bettor after college baseball wager [ESPN]
NOW HIRING: 10,000 jobs up for grabs ahead of grand openings of MSG Sphere, Durango Casino Resort & Fontainebleau [KTNV.com]
PA REP BUTTS IN: Lawmakers weigh expanding Pa.’s indoor smoking ban to protect casino workers [Pennsylvania Capital-Star]
WON’T BACC DOWN: Baccarat again tops blackjack as most popular casino table game in Indiana [NWI Times]
Image: Blundell Design