iGaming Informer: 888 Expands; NJ Brakes; Ghosts of Online Poker Past

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888 moving fast in US igaming marketIn a decision whose prestigiousness cannot be understated, 888 Holdings has been tapped by Wynn Resorts to be its online gambling partner. The deal brings the highest-regarded brand in gaming together with 888’s All American Poker Network.

It also makes for strange bedfellows, since 888.com runs WSOP.com in tandem with Caesars Interactive, one of Wynn’s biggest potential rivals. (Since only Ultimate Poker has had any tenure as a domestic operator, almost everything in U.S. i-gaming is “potentially” this or that.)

888.com is rolling up a good chunk of the U.S.-based casino industry and tucking it under its umbrella. It also has inked pacts with independent operator Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island and with Golden Gaming, which has a 40-tavern network in Nevada, along with numerous slot routes. Given the taint that still clings to the PokerStars brand (formerly aligned with Wynn), one can understand why the image-conscious company would shift its loyalty to up-and-comer 888.

Given the thinly populated nature of Nevada, operators would like to tap the i-gaming revenues possible by interfacing their intrastate sites with those in New Jersey and Delaware. It could mean going from $100 million in annual revenue to $1 billion. Divide up that rake among multiple operators and grotesquely in debt Caesars Entertainment would still be able to score enough cash to stay out of bankruptcy.

New Jersey: iGaming reach exceeding grasp?

While it’s more important to get Internet gambling right than fast, there’s no avoiding the fact that New Jersey is having trouble getting out of the starting blocks. The state has set a deadline of Nov. 26 and the Division of Gaming Enforcement is trying to make that date.

However, in decimating New Jersey’s regulatory apparatus, Gov. Chris Christie has left swimming in a significant amount of additional materials from the casino licensees on behalf of their Internet gaming applicants. That’s nine casinos that need approval – although the Caesars/888 deal makes a four-for-the-price-of-one package.

Revel slow to online gamblingGargantuan Revel is among the casinos failing to get its act together. While others make deals (such as the Golden Nugget/Bally Technologies partnership or Resorts Atlantic City’s partnership with PokerStars), the bankrupt megaresort appears to be dawdling.

Since Revel’s history is one of missed opportunities, this would be just one more. Revel’s apparent myopia aside, with so many partnerships requiring regulatory scrutiny and two months left on the clock, an extension of the rollout date for Internet gambling in the Garden State looks mighty likely.

The most interesting twist in this matter, reported by The Press of Atlantic City, is that Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta may use the Internet gambling rights he obtains as an enticement to ‘flip’ the Golden Nugget hotel-casino. Fertitta has succeeded in several markets but, given low monthly revenues in Atlantic City, he’s evidently conceding defeat. Using an i-gaming license as the clincher on a sale would certainly set a precedent for the United States … a most unusual one at that.

SunFirst makes waves at G2E

Online gambling’s misdeeds continue to haunt it, lent unexpected prominence by this year’s Global Gaming Expo. The latter presented former SunFirst Bank compliance officer Cathy Scharf to tell an aghast audience of how her employers illegally funneled $200 million to Full Tilt Poker and to Poker Stars.

While two offshore poker giants cleansing money through a small bank in St. George, Utah might make a piquant tale (a Lifetime Channel original movie) it also shows the desperate lengths that some were willing to go to get around UIGEA. I-gaming operators should rejoice in their good fortune: People have been barred from casinos for life for doing far less to game the system.

Executive briefings: Expanding its i-gaming practice, WhiteSand Consulting has appointed Jason Rosenberg as vice president of online gambing. Rosenberg is the founder of American iGaming Solutions.

- David McKee has been covering the gaming industry for the past 18 years. During that time he has held editorships with Casino Executive Magazine, Casino Executive Reports, Casino Journal, the Las Vegas Business Press and Casino Life. He's also written for USA Today, Las Vegas CityLife, Casino Enterprise Management, Las Vegas Luxury and Desert Companion magazine, among many others. His thoughts on the casino business can be found most days at Stiffs & Georges .
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