Much has recently been made of the concerns of many within the poker industry that television coverage of the world’s favourite game might suffer following the damaging events of ‘Black Friday’.
However, with Poker After Dark and Big Game II set to return for new series, as well as the Fox Sports Network (FSN) recording a massive increase in viewers for their World Poker Tour (WPT) televised matches, it appears poker is on the up.
Additionally, the World Series of Poker (WSOP)’s live coverage of the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship main event has proved a hit with fans online to give many within the game hope of a full recovery following the US Department of Justice (DoJ) decision to shut down several online poker rooms – including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – on April 15.
So positive is the outlook – particularly following the WSOP’s ability to confound the doom-mongers by establishing a record entry for this summer’s series in Las Vegas – that American businessman and philanthropist JB Pritzker has teamed up with a former WSOP president to promote the expansion of a company which aims to showcase poker events on television and online.
The 46-year-old Chicago-based managing partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group – a private investment firm – is a member of a four-strong investment group which has provided $1 million (approximately £620,000 or €707,000) of $2.5 million (£1,550,000/€1,767,000) in private-equity backing for Federated Sports + Gaming Inc (FS+G).
A renowned champion of charitable causes, Pritzker has teamed up with former WSOP president Jeffrey Pollack – the founder of Washington, DC-based FS+G – Michael Brodsky, who is a former managing partner of New World Opportunity Partners, and respected sports and entertainment industry boss David Goldberg.
Former WSOP commissioner Pollack – who almost certainly chose to become part of this promotion due to his friendship with Hyatt Hotels Corporation principal owner Pritzker – reckons FS+G will lead the way to “celebrate the stars” of pro poker by webcasting poker events.
Certainly, Pollack’s track record is impressive, having overseen the WSOP’s rise in prominence over recent years.
Pollack – who has also been a prominent player in NASCAR and the NBA – was in charge when the WSOP hit $1 billion in total prize money awarded, was foremost in launching and promoting the fan-orientated and innovative ‘November Nine’ television format for the WSOP’s main event, and even ensured a 12-year broadcasting partnership with ESPN for the biggest game on the planet.
Pollack also introduced a first code of conduct and players advisory council for poker, and fronted the creation of WSOP Europe during his time in charge.
If all that wasn’t enough to convince you that this is a serious venture, Pollack also won two Emmy Awards while at NASCAR for interactive programming and innovative technical achievements.
He most certainly embraces digital media and will no doubt do his utmost to promote poker to increase fan accessibility and loyalty.
Former New World Opportunity Partners managing director Brodsky, meanwhile, also invested in FS+G after leaving the investment division of the Chicago-based Pritzker family.
FS+G co-founder Brodsky is also a 15-year veteran entrepreneur, executive and investor in Internet e-commerce, online media and software firms, and is undoubtedly a pioneer in interactive technology.
The FS+G board member – who has been a prominent promoter of the current efforts to legalise online poker in the USA – was also the executive chairman of YouBet.com, which is an online horserace betting firm that was sold to Churchill Downs Inc last year.
Finally, Goldberg – another founding member of FS+G – is highly thought of as an effective strategic planner and driver of new growth initiatives.
He worked with Brodsky at YouBet – the biggest independent legal online gaming site in the United States – as president and chief executive officer, but is probably best known for his work with sports marketing and technology company SportVision, which became famous for developing the yellow ‘First and 10’ line for American football on television, as well as other sports-related television enhancements.
It does seem likely that this venture into television and Internet broadcasting by FS+G – which recently bought the US-based Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) – will be a success, mainly due to the calibre of men behind the promotion.
But let’s just wait and see what innovations they come up with that can reinvent poker for a whole new generation of fans…
We want to thank Shia Kapos, lifestyles reporter and columnist of Crain’s Chicago Business for her source article, which you can find over here: J.B. Pritzker makes million-dollar bet on big-time poker company.