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Thread: Yet another Vegas casino has screwed people on a guaranteed prize pool. I'm tired of this and taking the entire situation to Nevada Gaming

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    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Yet another Vegas casino has screwed people on a guaranteed prize pool. I'm tired of this and taking the entire situation to Nevada Gaming

    We have an epidemic in small-medium poker tournaments. It's happening in Las Vegas. It's happening in LA. It's happening around the world.

    I'm talking about cancellation of guaranteed prizepools.

    Offering a series with guarantees is a risk. It attracts more players, but it also leaves casinos potentially on the hook to lose money.
    That's fine. No card room is forced to offer a guarantee, just as you and I are not forced to gamble. When you choose to gamble, you shouldn't be allowed to take back the money just because you lost.

    However, taking back lost money is exactly what these casinos are doing. They're offering "guaranteed" prize pools, but often finding ways out of actually paying the guaranteed amount if they don't collect enough buyins to cover it. In many cases these days, "guaranteed" only means "Guaranteed so long as we collected that much anyway!"

    That's like an outdoor sporting event guaranteeing refunds if it rains, but only honoring that guarantee if it's sunny with blue skies!

    This is straight up fraud and deceptive marketing, but unfortunately no venue has suffered any kind of consequence for doing so. They just present a lame excuse (or none at all) and move forward as if it never happened.

    Nevada has the strongest gaming commission of any state. It's also the oldest gaming commission. There are certain cases where the NGCB (Nevada Gaming Control Board) has put the smackdown on unethical casinos, and forced them to make things right to affected players. However, there are other cases where the NGCB is confused or lackadaisical, and the casinos get away with shenanigans. Often the latter occurs in areas where the NGCB has poor understanding of the complexities of the situation. This has been the case with online poker, and it is once again screwing our community with the "guaranteed prizepool" situation.

    It is time to change that. I am going to make a strong attempt to educate the NGCB about the epidemic regarding casinos cheating patrons out of guaranteed prizepools, and strongly encourage them to start taking action.

    How do I plan to do that? Read on....

     
    Comments
      
      ReformDorm: Good job Todd with you all the way. Enough is enough
      
      Matt The Rat: GLGL

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    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    The casinos cheat their players in various ways, when it comes to guaranteed prizepool tournaments. These are all being done to avoid "overlays" -- the situation where the guarantee is higher than the amount of money collected. Some are more egregious than others, but all are bad. Here's most of the ways it happens:

    1) Cancellation of future events: A casino cancels a guaranteed prizepool event after it's announced, but before anyone has registered. Often this occurs because the casino realizes demand for the event will be a lot lower than expected. This occurred twice in 2022 at The Orleans.

    2) Discounting buyins or giving free buyins at the last minute, to make up the difference between the guarantee and the money collected: This occurred at the Westgate in April 2018, when they realized they would fall short of reaching the guarantee. They enlisted a popular poker streamer to announce on Twitter that they were giving half off on buyins during the final hour, since they were going to have to cover that money anyway. This is very bad because it destroys the value players were getting from the overlay, due to the artificial insertion of new players who are getting in for cheap or free.

    3) Hidden or semi-hidden "conditions" to trigger the guarantee: Some casinos are afraid to offer guarantees where they get absolutely clobbered, so they set some fairly high number of entrants -- often somewhat close to the break-even point anyway -- in order for the guarantee to be valid. This often makes guarantees virtually worthless. Of course, this is rarely prominently stated in the promotional material. This occurred at MGM Grand in July, where a $3000 guaranteed event laughably only paid $1500.

    4) Cancellation of a future event during registration, or after satellite seats have been won: Similar to #1, except even worse, because people already registered for the event, or have won their way into it. When this occurs, people get refunded (or the satellite seats paid out in cash), but again, the cancellation of events with existing registrants is completely violating the spirit of the guarantee in the first place! What's the point of a guaranteed prize pool if they will simply cancel the event if an overlay will occur? This just occurred last week at the Venetian "Stairway to Millions" Event.

    5) Conversion of a future guaranteed prizepool event during registration to non-guaranteed: Similar to #1 or #4, except here the event still runs, but there's no longer a guaranteed prizepool.

    6) Endless addition of starting flights until the guarantee is reached: Many of these guaranteed prizepool tournaments have multiple starting days. That's fine, but some casinos will keep shoving in extra starting flights and delaying Day 2 until they get enough players to avoid the overlay. Again, this completely violates the spirit of the guarantee.

    7) Subtracting hidden fees for other promotions from the guaranteed prizepool: This should not be allowed, even if the subtracted money goes into other promos which pay out to players. Guaranteed should mean guaranteed, not guaranteed minus 3%. This also occurred at the MGM Grand in July.

    8) Not paying a guarantee and simply reverting to paying out the prizepool as they would if there was no guarantee: This is the absolute worst of them all, and is outright fraud. They simply just don't pay the guaranteed prizepool as promised, and tell players tough luck. While not in Nevada, the most high profile recent incident of this occurred at the Hustler in August 2022.


    Some of the above are worse than others, but they are all a form of fraud and deceptive business practice.

    GUARANTEED SHOULD MEAN GUARANTEED! PERIOD!


    But how can this occur, with Nevada Gaming and other jurisdictions watching over these rooms? Read on...

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    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    How do these casinos get away with stiffing players out of guarantees?

    They do it in various ways. Sometimes it's simply in the fine print, such as the "hidden fee" situation described in #7 above.

    But other times, they simply hide behind legal language in the fine print which describes these guarantees as "promotional" and that they can "end the promotion at any time".

    This is an intentional twisting of their (reasonable) right to terminate actual promotions early, by incorrectly equating guaranteed prizepools with being a "promotion", which it is not.

    For example, let's say Venetian has a promo for the month of October 2022 that they'll pay you an extra 25% on all royal flushes hit on video poker. Then let's say they are invaded by casino advantage players who realize this makes Venetian's video poker machines +EV, and start hammering them all day and all night with heavy play. If Venetian realizes after a week that this promotion is killing them, and they end it on October 8 instead of October 31, that would be reasonable. You could not bitch at them on October 8 that they had yanked the expected promo, even if you paid for a flight from New York to come play in it. This has been well-established by Nevada Gaming, and it makes sense. Casinos should not be forced to hang themselves when they inadvertently offer a stupid long-term promo which bleeds them dry.

    However, guaranteed prizepools are NOT a promo! They are a form of a poker tournament where the prizepool is guaranteed, with the expectation that this will draw a lot more people to the event than if it were not guaranteed. If casinos do not wish to take this risk, they can simply NOT guarantee the prizepool in the first place! Therefore, a guarantee is only ethical if it cannot be reversed, unless the venue is physically unable to host it due to a natural or man-made disaster.


    People have called Nevada Gaming when these guarantee screw jobs take place. They always walk away disappointed. The Gaming agent, who is equivalent to a state police officer with the power to compel casinos to follow the law, is often confused by the "right to cancel a promo any time" legal fine print. The result? The Gaming agent apologizes that there's nothing he can do, and leaves the property with no action taken.

    Even worse, there has never been a civil lawsuit filed against any of these rooms pulling such shenanigans, and it's possible that no such lawsuit could be brought due to this being under the jurisdiction of Gaming. (That is, if Gaming doesn't determine a violation, it's possible the patron has no standing for a lawsuit!)

    This needs to change, and it will not change simply because angry poker players call Gaming when these incidents occur! There needs to be a systematic examination of what is occurring at the upper levels of Nevada Gaming, and new guidance provided to casinos regarding this matter.


    So what to do now? Read on...

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    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Nevada Gaming must be educated regarding the truth that guaranteed prizepool tournaments are NOT casino promotions, and should not be treated as such.

    But is there perhaps already a law or regulation against this practice, which simply isn't being enforced?

    Maybe. Section 5.011 of the Operation of Gaming Establishments document, which can be found here, states the following:

    5.0.11. Grounds for disciplinary action

    The board and the commission deem any activity on the part of any licensee, his agents or employees, that is inimical to the public health, safety, morals, good order and general welfare of the people of the State of Nevada, or that would reflect or tend to reflect discredit upon the State of Nevada or the gaming industry, to be an unsuitable method of operation and shall be grounds for disciplinary action by the board and the commission in accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Act and the regulations of the board and the commission. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following acts or omissions may be determined to be unsuitable methods of operation:
    .
    .
    4. Failure to conduct advertising and public relations activities in accordance with decency, dignity, good taste, honesty and inoffensiveness, including, but not limited to, advertising that is false or materially misleading.

    A strong case could be made for the advertising of these "guaranteed prizepools" to be "false or materially misleading" if there are many ways they can avoid paying out these guarantees, which are not clearly disclosed to patrons before registration.

    While this term is broad and can be determined many ways, I feel that this does indeed describe the highly deceptive actions being taken by some Las Vegas poker rooms, and Gaming could use this section to compel these rooms to stop playing fast and loose with "guarantee" promotions.



    The challenge will be getting Gaming to see it our way. Almost all poker players agree that these rooms are slimy in the way they are worming out of guarantees, but how do we get Nevada Gaming to change their tune? I have an idea. Read on...

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    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    I feel that the Las Vegas poker community has failed to get this guarantee situation changed thus far because of a reactive strategy.

    That is, nobody calls Gaming until the situation is actually occurring, and at that point it's up to one Gaming agent to decide on the spot whether regulations have been followed. Since the precedent until now has been to treat guaranteed prizepools as "promotions", the player's complaints fail every time.

    We need to stop being reactive, and instead be proactive. I am wiling to spend a little time on this effort.

    I will be making contact with the Nevada Gaming Control Board soon. I will be requesting a meeting between representatives of the Las Vegas poker community and high level Gaming officials. The goal of this meeting will be to lay out the facts of this epidemic of guaranteed prizepool fraud, and to present why we feel this is a violation of regulation 5.011, as well as a violation of common decency and fairness to patrons.

    Hopefully this will cause Gaming to reconsider the matter, and will convince them to treat these guarantee violations as both fraud and a violation of state regulations.

    I will be requesting the following new guidelines being given to Nevada poker rooms, regarding guaranteed prizepools:

    1) Once announced, guaranteed prizepool tournaments must take place, and the guarantee must be honored. The only exception will be if a natural or man-made disaster prevents the tournament from operating.

    2) No additional starting flights may be added to a guaranteed prizepool tournament, once it has been announced.

    3) No discount may be provided to any player entering a guaranteed prizepool tournament, nor may the house buy in preferred players for free.

    4) No promotional money may be taken out of a guaranteed prizepool tournament, unless printed on all advertising material in the same font and location as the guarantee amount itself.

    5) No minimum number of players can be specified to trigger the guarantee. The guarantee either exists, or it does not, and can never be tied to number of registrants.


    Even if Gaming agrees with us, and chooses to start taking action against these card rooms, it is possible they will NOT agree with my suggested new requirements above, and will go at it their own way. That is fine. However, the above 5 rules would make guaranteed tournaments virtually bulletproof regarding any kind of shenanigans which could be otherwise be used to defraud players.


    I have not yet selected the players I will ask to attend with me. It is also possible some I invite will choose not to get involved. I'm not going to worry about who to select until I get Gaming to agree to meet with me, which may or may not occur.

    However, the type of players I'll invite will have all of the following criteria:

    1) Las Vegas locals
    2) Respected within the poker community, with no significant scandals or baggage associated with them
    3) Articulate and able to explain why these actions are harming Nevada residents and tourists
    4) Regulars in the local Las Vegas or Reno tournament scene

    I am hoping to get this meeting scheduled for October, but it is possible it will take longer. It's also possible that it won't happen at all. But I'm going to make an attempt to get some change to happen here, and hopefully it will end in success.

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    Platinum ftpjesus's Avatar
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    Now if only some certain online poker sites which are unfortunately unregulated could be held accountable. Like I dunno one site that seems to have this mysterious IT problem that crops up when overlays occur on their site on a semi regular basis perhaps?? Would be nice if players held them accountable but they seem to refuse to do so. (and yes everybody should which site Im talking about one that is run by a certain perv who was sucking up to Ebony Kenny recently buying her in to some live action).

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    I agree completely with new guidelines 1) 4) and 5)
    I would amend 2) to say the tournament schedule shall not be altered in order to add more Day 1's.

    I would reconsider 3)
    What are we really looking for here? We want a tournament that is announced to actually happen. We want a guaranteed prize pool to be paid as advertised
    We are not guaranteed an overay. It seems like you are trying to do this with 3).
    A lot of people who play in tournaments are not putting up their own money. If a casino, website, or social media influencer wants to put someone in a tournment, this does not affect me. I don't agree that people have a right to an overlay if the casinos expectations aren't met, they only have a right to the guaranteed prize pool.

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    Hopefully it works
    "Just Do Your Job"

    "Discipline or Regret"

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