On Wednesday morning, the poker world was shocked by the announcement that the World Series of Poker Europe was leaving the Casino At The Empire in London for a new venue in France — the Casino Barrière de Cannes Croisette. It was also revealed that Caesars Interactive Entertainment had entered into a three-year agreement with Lucien Barrière Hôtels & Casinos and BarrierePoker.fr that would see some new changes to the WSOPE. You can read about those changes in the breaking news story from Wednesday.
PokerNews had the opportunity to sit down with Ty Stewart, a five-year veteran of Caesars Entertainment, who oversees marketing, event management, television, sponsorship and licensing for the WSOP and WSOPE, and ask him some questions about the recent changes to the WSOPE.
The announcement that the WSOPE was leaving the U.K. for France came as a surprise to the poker world. Was this something that has been in the works for quite some time or did it come together just recently?
It’s something that has been in the works for a while. The brand is always WSOP Europe, not WSOP UK. I’ve always been on recording saying the goal was to bring the WSOP experience to different venues throughout Europe. We’ve been working for some time to find the best formula to support the tournament because we know while WSOPE can and should get a lot better. So we’ve been wanting to bring that formula to the market.
Why move the WSOPE from the U.K., which has some of the most liberal gaming laws in the world, to France, which is known for its strict regulation?
I think it’s a combination of factors. First of all, France is just absolutely white-hot for poker right now, so we’re very confident the turnout in participation is going to go up. For us it was a lot about the venue and the partnership. We’re talking about an unbelievable set of partners as far as the type of system they’ll put behind the WSOPE including relaunching the Barrière Poker Tour to be a qualification series. They also have a large number of casinos and a big database that they’re going to be able to market to bring new customers to the event. We’re even going to have a scratch-off lottery ticket for the WSOPE to qualify folks for the event. We really have a comprehensive marketing system behind the event now which we really didn’t have in London that will more than compensate for some of the issues as it relates to the regulatory environment.
How big is the venue?
From a venue standpoint, Cannes is one of the great destinations in the world, and we’re talking about a group that owns both the hotel and casino and will have the ability to offer a truly comprehensive experience including discounted hotel room rates, real hospitality when it comes to restaurants, parties, and the casino itself. We have the ability now to be at 80+ tables, which is two to three times what we had in London. So the space and the facilities are a significant improvement and allows us to offer the kind of nonstop action and diversification of games that we’ve always wanted to do.
We’re going to be playing at both the hotel and the casino itself, which are directly across the street from each other. We’ll be utilizing the hotel and the casino much like we do the Amazon and Pavilion Rooms in Vegas, such that while you’ll do your buy-ins at the casino cage, the Day Ones will start in the hotel property while the restarts will move over to the casino. Again, the venue is just unbelievable and one of the nicest lodging facilities that any WSOP event has ever been housed at.
The Main Event was previously £10,000 — will it be the equivalent to that, or will it be €10,000?
Ten thousand is sort of the magic number when it comes to the WSOP, so we’re going to keep it at €10,000.
How many events are you planning and can you elaborate on what those events are?
There are going to be seven events, but we’re not finalized with the schedule. We’re looking at a few innovative events that have never been played in France before, so we need to get some regulatory approval for those events, which is why we’ll wait to release the schedule, which should be available in the upcoming months.
Can players expect the same tournament staff and structures in France as previous WSOPEs, including Jack Effel as tournament director?
Jack Effel will be the tournament director. We plan to bring a contingent of American staff to work alongside those from Barrière. This is probably going to be analogous to how the EPT has worked in Deauville, a property owned by Barrière, where the tournament director works alongside the French-speaking, experienced Barrière staff. So we will have a combination of local staff and staff from the U.S. and many of the familiar faces from the WSOP. We’ll also use all our structures and rules that you’re accustomed to at the WSOP.
Will the final table be televised as it has in the past?
I’m glad you brought this up. Part of the agreement with Barrière is actually an increase in production support. We’re not only going to film the final table, but also we’re going to be able to expand the number of television hours. While I can’t tell you how many we’ll do this year, I can tell you that it will be at least double the amount that we shot in 2010. That was another huge component in the agreement.
Thanks for your time Ty, is there anything else you’d like to add?
One last thing, while it’s reported that this is a multiyear deal with Barrière, which it is, for various aspects of the online initiative, etc., it is not solidified 100% that we’re in Cannes all three years. We have the strategy that we want to move the WSOPE around, so it is possible we could do that sometime in the future; however, we excited about our relationship with Barrière and expect Cannes to be amazingly successful, so it very well could end up staying there all three years.
We’re really excited about this, and come October, there won’t be anyone that’s second-guessing or questioning the decision. There is a firm commitment for Barrière to qualify people to the tournament to the tune of about a 33 percent increase in the historical attendance. We know the prize pools are going to be bigger, we know the facilities are going to be superior, we know the marketing is going to be greater, so there is a bigger focus than ever. It is very exciting to know that the WSOPE is finally going to get the care that it deserves.
Photo courtesy of WSOP.com.