The answer seems clear to me. For many local searches, Google feels that Places give a better and more dependable result than the classic organic results. And after all, those Places Pages are created by local businesses themselves - they're not just pulled out of the air willy-nilly.
It's certain that there are still games going on in Places pages, but local organic results often seem a lot worse to me, and with all the location names that exist, it seems almost impossible to clean up organic local results.
Let's face it, the average user doesn't care whether the link they click on is organic, or Places, or even an ad, as long as they get accurate help for their particular search.