Strangest Gaming Bedfellows of 2016: Match Ups We Never Saw Coming (But Sometimes Saw Going)

Posted on: December 26, 2016, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2016, 09:06h.

No question, 2016 saw some strange partnerships, interesting deals, and all kinds of dramatic decisions hit the headlines when it came to the gaming industry worldwide.

James Packer and Mariah Carey
Strange bedfellows (and not for long, either): Aussie billionaire James Packer and perennial entertainer Mariah Carey were one of 2016’s unlikeliest, and briefest, couples. (Image: AFP/Philippe Lopez)

From the weird (an Australian billionaire gaming mogul and his overly dramatic diva) to the downright odd (a former defense secretary tries out the world of online gambling), 2016 was all about the gruesome twosomes that shocked the gambling industry.

Gruesome Twosome #1: James Packer & Mariah Carey

Take one billionaire gambling mogul from Down Under, add an eccentric and also-loaded Las Vegas entertainer, mix for six months, throw in a sprinkling of diamond rings, and voila, you have the recipe for one of the year’s strangest engagements.

Crown Resorts boss James Packer may have devolved himself from many of his casino duties in 2016, but there was still room for one last deal. His relationship with American singer Carey first got tabloid tongues wagging in late 2015. However, the affair (both parties were still going through divorces) proved to be a lot more serious than just a jet-set fling.

In March, Barbuda was set to be the venue for the star wedding. By the time 2016 had ended, however, the celebrity shindig had been called off. Maybe Mariah couldn’t agree on who the wedding singer should be. At any rate, word is she got to keep her $10 million diamond as a souvenir of the romance, so all’s well that ends well.

Gruesome Twosome #2: Sheldon Adelson & the Oakland Raiders

Gambling and sport have been jumping into bed like a pair of over-excited teenagers for years. The English Premier League is awash with shirt sponsorships from online sportsbetting sites. In Australia, meanwhile, some of the biggest rugby sides have official betting partners.

But in January, scourge of pro-online gambling campaigners, Sheldon Adelson, struck up an interest in building a billion-dollar football stadium in the heart of Las Vegas. The stadium plan would see the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) host an NFL franchise, a first for the city.

And set for relocation was the Oakland Raiders team. Commitees were formed and stadium locations scouted, as a hotel room tax was planned to help subsidize the odd couple. But by the time the 2016-17 season kicked off in September, a deal hadn’t been finalized, and NFL team owners were yet to vote.

Then Oakland woke up and started campaigning for its own new stadium to keep the boys at home. The prospect of the Las Vegas Raiders kicking a ball anytime soon still seems to be at least a season away, if it ever touches down at all.

Gruesome Twosome #3: Stockton University Hits the Boardwalk

It would be amiss of us to suggest that all of New Jersey’s residents can’t do without a regular visit to the boardwalk empire. However, it still came as something of a shock when a prominent Garden State university to decided to up and move to the gambling mecca.

Stockton University, home to almost 9,000 students, successfully upgraded from a college in 2015. However, some $17 million of reinvestment was approved in January to help the university move into the site of the old Atlantic Club Casino.

It’s not known whether a Stockton card-counting team will be set up in honor of the famous MIT legends of the ’80s and ’90s.

Gruesome Twosome #4: Donald Rumsfeld & Online Card Games

Politicians have long had an affinity with card games: Truman and Nixon were both fiendish poker players, of course. But what do you do when you’ve finished your political career and all you have to look back on is an invasion of Iraq and a few billion-dollar oil contracts?

That’s the fate that has affected former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Now 83, Rumsfeld entered the lucrative “freemium” app market by launching Churchill Solitaire.

Named after the legendary British Prime Minister, who loved the game (without access to the internet, presumably), the online version is free to download. However, as with all good apps, the game comes with many in-app purchases. Whether invading countries is part of the bundle is not known at this time.