Thursday, July 23, 2015

Caesars’ Swoon and the WSOP

Noticed earlier this week that Twitter-related flare-up that saw poker pro Matt Glantz tweet a list of suggestions for improving the World Series of Poker, and the initial response from WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel less than half an hour later to block Glantz. (He’s since been unblocked, Glantz reports.)

Was kind of hilarious to see that playing out on the timeline Monday afternoon in between my reporting on the penultimate day of poker in Peru. Of course, those of us who have followed the WSOP’s various accounts on Twitter have gotten used to this sort of behavior. I’m talking about these seemingly hostile responses (or non-responses) to criticism or even just vague references that something is less than ideal.

Goes without saying this kind of thing doesn’t help at all when it comes to promoting the WSOP as a friendly brand. In fact it almost seems self-sabotaging in a way, although obviously not intentionally.

Was thinking again about this sort of digging-a-hole-even-deeper sort of dynamic yesterday when reading the news about Caesars’ stock falling so fast they had to stop trading for a short while.

Caesars Entertainment Co. has been trying to deal with a nearly $23 billion debt over the last many months. They restructured in the spring of 2014, splitting into three units and moving most of the debt over into one of them, Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. Then this past January the CEOC filed for bankruptcy, which then prompted a bunch of lawsuits from creditors angry about the restructuring and viewing the whole rigmarole as having been rigged to dodge billions’ worth of debt.

Caesars had tried to stop the creditors’ lawsuits from going forward, but a judge in June ruled against those efforts in one case, then another yesterday ruled in favor of the creditors in the others. That’s what spurred the sudden plunge in the CZR stock on NASDAQ, which hit a nadir at $3.30 per share, I believe, amid a crazy surge in trading (causing the brief halt during the afternoon).

If you bought a share of CZR back in late February 2014, it would have cost you almost $26. It closed today at $5.14 just a little while ago.

The WSOP and are not part of the embattled CEOC unit -- they belong to Caesars Interactive. That said, the news on Wednesday that the lawsuits can go forward means that the parent company might also be forced to declare bankruptcy. Which one assumes would ultimately affect the WSOP, perhaps sooner than later.

Gotta be a pressurized place to be right now, I imagine, so like the amiable Glantz I’m inclined to cut Effel and others doing what they can at the WSOP a little slack. Still, curious to see how Caesars can avoid continuing its downward spiral, and what might happen to the WSOP if it cannot.

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