Match Poker Nations Cup Final To Be Contested Online Amid Pandemic

(Reuters) – The International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP) Nations Cup final on May 30 and 31 will be hosted online with most of the 14 participating countries still facing lockdowns due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the governing body said on Thursday.

Players will participate from their homes and a gameplay software will enable each member of every team to see and communicate with all of their table competitors while sessions are on.

They will also be allowed to speak with their team mates, captains, managers and analysts during breaks in play, although some contestants will experience early morning play while others will be participating during the evening or night.

“All international sports federations are facing enormous challenges due to the pandemic but we are fortunate that, with our gameplay software, we are able to play a ‘live’ event but in individual home locations,” IFMP president Patrick Nally said in a statement.

“The social relationships developed through the hosting of our Match Poker events are important to us and we’re looking forward to getting back to live events as soon as practical.

“But we will continue to support our international competition schedule in this manner until such times as our ‘sporting family’ can be reunited.”

Teams include world champions Ukraine, European champions Spain and Asian champions India among others while an invitational ‘Digital Nation’ team and a president’s pick will also be part of the tournament.

“Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is navigating waters that are unprecedented anywhere,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.Com. “It’s an industry that employs thousands in Pennsylvania and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue, and it is not designed to be closed. Growth in online casinos is helping, but it can’t entirely make up for the revenue lost from sports betting and land-based casinos being shut down.”

With the sports world largely shuttered after March 11, Pennsylvania’s handle slumped to just $131.3 million for the month, according to official data released Thursday. That is down 60.2% from $329.8 million in February, though up from $44.5 million in March 2019, before online sports betting launched.

Coronavirus-related closures have limited books to futures betting and some international sports. March Madness alone would have attracted $100 million in bets at Pennsylvania sportsbooks, according to PlayPennsylvania estimates.

“The timing of the coronavirus shutdowns was particularly damaging to Pennsylvania sportsbooks, costing the industry millions in basketball-related bets,” Gouker said. “The first weekend of March Madness is the second-biggest sports betting event in the U.S., behind only the Super Bowl, and its cancellation leaves no feasible way to make up that revenue. Obviously, there are dramatic health and economic concerns for everyone right now, but the loss of revenue will be felt by Pennsylvania’s gambling industry for quite some time.”

$118.3 million, or 90.1%, of March’s handle came from online betting. FanDuel Sportsbook/Valley Forge Casino led online sportsbooks with $53.7 million in March wagers, down from $138.5 million in February. That yielded $2.8 million in taxable revenue. Rivers-Philadelphia led the retail market with a $2.3 million handle, down from $7.2 million in February, and produced $146,281 in revenue.

“The bottom line is that Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks will not be healthy again until the sports world begins to reopen,” Gouker said. “No one yet knows for sure when that day will come. But sports leagues everywhere are trying to figure out ways to begin games again, so there is at least some reason for some optimism.”

Online casinos and poker

Online casino games and poker generated a record $24.3 million in revenue, easily surpassing the record $19.5 million in revenue set in February. March’s gains yielded $5.9 million in state taxes.

Poker tallied $3.1 million in revenue, all by Mount Airy/PokerStars. Before New Jersey broke it in March, the all-jurisdiction record for poker revenue in a month was $3.1 million, set in October 2016 by New Jersey. Online casinos boosted monthly revenue to $21.1 million on $871.6 million in wagers.

“Pennsylvania’s online product has been slow to develop, but the revenue the industry is generating now is vital to the gaming industry and the state budget,” Gouker said. “Ideally, Pennsylvania’s online casino industry would’ve had the opportunity to mature more quickly. But it is definitely better than if it didn’t exist at all, as is the case in most states.”

Rivers-Philadelphia led the market with $6.8 million in revenue on $293.2 million in wagers. That is up from $4.8 million in revenue on $194.7 million in wagers in February.

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