With the majority of the sporting world either postponing their marquee events or canceling them altogether – the All-England Tennis Club’s cancelation of the 2020 Wimbledon tennis tournament is the most recent occurrence – due to the COVID-19 (or coronavirus) outbreak, there are few events that haven’t been touched. One of the events that hasn’t taken any action yet is the 2020 World Series of Poker. As of the beginning of April, officials with the WSOP and Caesars Entertainment have yet to make any decisions on the tournament, which is set to begin on May 27.
But this doesn’t mean that those officials are sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Poker News Daily talked to Seth Palansky, the Vice President of Corporate Communications with Caesars Entertainment and the Editor in Chief of WSOP.com, who said that nothing has changed since the start of March regarding their stance on the WSOP. “Everyone’s health and safety are paramount in the decision-making, but there is no need to make a decision today.”
When asked about a timetable for a decision, Palansky did delve into some of the “inside the room” discussions going on regarding the 2020 WSOP. (There’s) No finite date (for a final decision), but sometime next month,” Palansky began. “The more information we have, the better to make a decision.”
“It is important to understand this event is eight weeks in duration from when we take over the space (the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino convention center grounds), until we give it back,” he continued. “There is no way for us to pick up and move this event and find an eight-week hole in the convention center calendar. Maybe by waiting, other conventions may cancel or postpone their plans, and maybe a window opens up that will suffice.”
“Maybe there will be no openings, which would be a good sign that life is getting back to normal for everyone,” Palansky said. “But none of this is important today. Everyone doing their part to physical distance and help our front-line workers during this pandemic should be the focus.”
“Poker is at the bottom of the priority list for everyone right now, us included. Rest assured, the WSOP will make the right decision. But coming to that decision, it is beneficial to use the time we have to continue to gather information and use that information effectively.”
Neither Palansky nor the WSOP officials are taking these decisions lightly. “If we can’t host an event like we have in past 50 years in Las Vegas, where everyone can participate safely and without undue risk, we won’t,” Palansky flatly stated. “There’s a plethora of factors to consider, especially when you conceptualize alternatives. That said, the only factor that matters for the WSOP to be held as planned is the health and safety of guests and staff. We will rely on the health experts and our government and regulatory leaders in making our decision and follow their guidelines.”
There has also been some discussion about how the current worldwide pandemic might affect another event on the international poker schedule, the WSOP Europe. Held at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, in October, this is the timeframe where an announcement regarding that schedule would have been released. While Palansky couldn’t offer any insight into the plans for the European event at this moment, he was able to offer some words from Leon Tsoukernik, the owner of King’s Casino, as to the potential for the October festival.
“I’ve heard nothing else, but Leon would best know,” Palansky noted (in an Italian interview, Tsoukernik has stated that the WSOPE will be “the first major (poker) festival held since the crisis”). “Obviously, no one can schedule new live events with this amount of uncertainty on the horizon, so we won’t make announcements until picture clears up. That said, yes, plans ha(ve) been (discussed) for the 2020 WSOP Europe during its normal Fall schedule.”
We also are forgetting that there are people behind these decisions, both at the WSOP and at Caesars, who are trying to get through the coronavirus crisis also. While he wasn’t aware of how Caesars was doing overall, Palansky did note that “I do know that our Strip properties, old ones like the Flamingo and Caesars Palace, had never closed their doors since opening, so you can imagine how devasting it is to have all your properties shuttered.” It is a key thing to remember that not only poker players are waiting for news on the WSOP…those that are employed in the industry that literally depend on the game of poker for a livelihood are probably more apprehensive about any decision.