ESPN May Nix PokerStars NAPT Coverage
In the wake of Friday’s indictments of the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, ESPN may be forced to adjust its programming in the coming week. The North American Poker Tour (NAPT), whose PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Super High Roller final table and Bounty Shootout were scheduled to air on Monday on ESPN2, may be pulled from the schedule.
An ESPN representative told Poker News Daily on Saturday, “We are aware of the indictment only through what has been announced publicly. For the immediate future, we are efforting to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.” When the “further review” will take place remains to be seen, but as of Sunday morning, cable television listings in the United States still showed the NAPT as airing on Monday.
On Saturday afternoon, ESPN officials told Poker News Daily that the network was searching for alternative content. The ESPN family of channels airs a variety of poker programming, including the NAPT and World Series of Poker, the latter of which features a bevy of commercials for sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton were slated to call the NAPT.
PokerStars also sponsors the “Big Game” on Fox, although there has been no word on whether the series will continue given Friday’s Federal actions.
On Saturday night, GSN aired the PokerStars-sponsored “High Stakes Poker” as normal. Several commercials for PokerStars aired during the hour-long program, which hit the airwaves at 8:00pm ET and 11:00pm ET. Comedian Norm Macdonald calls the action for Season 7 of “High Stakes Poker,” while PartyPoker pro Kara Scott conducts interviews with players.
Besides the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Bounty Shootout, ESPN had announced that it would air action from the NAPT L.A. Bounty Shootout, the NAPT Mohegan Sun Bounty Shootout, and the NAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event final table. The latter two tournaments saw Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst repeat, respectively, last week. In fact, Mercier won just hours before the Justice Department seized the domains belonging to the four largest online poker sites in the U.S.
The PokerStars-backed “Inside Deal,” which starred Poker News Daily Guest Columnist Bernard Lee, has been removed from ESPN’s website. In addition, the worldwide leader in sports has yanked all PokerStars banner advertising from its domain. When PokerStars launched Home Games in the beginning of 2011, ESPN’s website was skinned with a PokerStars advertisement for several days.
The future of sites like PokerStars, once the largest site in the industry, is unknown. Its operations were moved from the seized PokerStars.com domain to PokerStars.eu and its representatives Tweeted on Friday, “1) We have had to suspend real money poker for people based in the U.S. due to legal developments there. 2) Please be assured, players balances are safe, there is no cause for concern. 3) For players outside the U.S., it’s business as usual. 4) PokerStars Support can be contacted at Support@PokerStars.eu.”
PokerStars front man Daniel Negreanu has been quiet over Twitter in relation to what’s being dubbed “Black Friday.” However, on Saturday, the Canadian explained his reticence: “Not ignoring #BlackFriday and as much as I’d love to discuss it, I’ve been advised not to for now. As soon as I can, I’ll add my two cents.”
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