WPT Season XII World Championship Moved to Borgata Hotel Casino
The World Poker Tour announced that their signature season-ending event will be moved from the Bellagio in Las Vegas to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. The announcement was made via WPT President Adam Pliska’s twitter account and then confirmed via a press release made available during Day 2 of the Borgata Poker Open Main Event taking place this week.
In another surprise, it was announced the PartyPoker would become the official sponsor of the Season XII World Championship event. It should be noted that PartyPoker currently does not have a presence in the United States. Clearly, this is a strategic move on Party’s part and can be seen as a precursor to PartyPoker software powering New Jersey-based online poker rooms in the near future. Pliska stated about the sponsorship, “The partnership of the WPT, PartyPoker and Borgata brings together three of the most respected names in poker, and we look forward to making the World Championship more impressive than ever before.
The dates for the WPT World Championship for Season XII were not announced, but traditionally have taken place in May. For many years, the event has trended downwards for attendance. Looking at recent numbers, the event attracted 220 players in 2011 and went down to just 146 in 2013. Last year, Chino Rheem defeated Erick Lindgren heads-up for the WPT Championship title and over $1.1 million.
Fallout with Bellagio Due to CEO?
While the WPT has maintained their “World of WPTCraft” financial model to their online poker room (ClubWPT), where players simply play a monthly fee and then engage in a series of “freerolls” to win prizes, it’s clear that they have their eyes set on a real money poker room. Back in June, Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson became a lightning rod for controversy with his bold stance against online gaming. Poker players were appalled and called for boycotts of top MGM properties, including the Bellagio. While no comment was made by the WPT, it stands to reason they wouldn’t want to strongly align with Bellagio moving forward given their stance on potential future WPT endeavors. It was stated, however, that the Bellagio will remain the home of the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December of 2013.
What this Means to the WPT
The World Poker Tour has been focusing their attention on the East Coast in recent years, including major events in New Jersey and Florida. There are three separate televised tournament series at the Borgata, consisting of the WPT Championship, the Borgata Poker Open and the Winter Open. Clearly, with Harrah’s owning the WSOP and launching a real money poker site in Nevada, the WPT could be planting a foothold in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the tournament’s move to the Borgata has received positive reaction from notables in the industry. Players will be able to conveniently play in both WSOPC and WPT Championship events in Atlantic City, separated potentially by only a handful of weeks.
At the end of the day, the WPT is clearly trying to shake things up for an event whose attendance continues to slip. In time we’ll see if the new venue and sponsorship equates into a bigger field of entrants.