WSOP livens Internet-game pot with Caesars Entertainment

Oct 1, 2013 3:08 AM

Talk has turned to the importance of “liquidity” now that Caesars is welcoming real money players on its World Series of Poker Internet site and the start of Internet action in Delaware and New Jersey is less than two months away.

Nevada resort executives and gaming regulators here and elsewhere are continuing the conversations aimed at beefing up Internet poker action by expanding the player pool. They are not saying much because there is not much to talk about yet, but everyone wants as much liquidity as possible.

“The bigger the player pool the more games you can spread, particularly at the higher levels,” explained the WSOP’s Seth Palansky.

Players get the action that keeps them coming back and state treasuries get the tax revenue that makes it all worthwhile when there are budget deficits in need of reduction.

Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey are the only three states that have given green lights to Internet gaming systems open to players within the borders of each state. Nevada’s sole focus will continue to be on poker for the time being whereas the systems in Delaware and New Jersey will allow cash play on a number of games.

More states will sign on eventually but no one wants to speculate publicly about a time frame although a lawyer familiar with some of the private whispering sees Pennsylvania and New York as good bets for eventual action. Just about everyone with an interest in the subject says it makes sense that California will eventually take the big leap but getting the various parties there within spitting distance of a consensus, well…it will not be easy.

Federal action that creates a sense of unity in the regulation and tax structures affecting participating states would be nice. But that is not likely with Congress unable to accomplish much of anything involving issues far more important to the country as a whole than Internet gaming.

A second lawyer familiar with the tone and direction of some of the compact-related discussions said there is some “creative thinking going on,” particularly with regard to the possibility that interstate agreements for sharing taxable revenue might eventually involve foreign jurisdictions. He said it will probably be necessary to construct those agreements in a way that does not require some sort of congressional review.

The Caesars software appeared to work well as the company’s Internet poker system for Nevada players was turned on last week. My very unscientific sampling of players registering at the Caesars site did not turn up any complaints about the software and its “player friendliness.” But some players registering at WSOP site did experience some of the same glitches, if you will, found at the Ultimate Poker site.

Poker pro and author Tom McEvoy who was writing a magazine piece on the Caesars system, reached WSOP.com only by hooking up with a different server than the one he customarily uses.

Some cell phone servers, banks and credit card issuers are still reluctant to get involved with Internet gaming. Their focus is on federal regulations, which are still seen as prohibiting involvement in the financial transactions that make Internet gaming possible.

People such as Palansky and Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett acknowledge the reality of this issue. They say the answer is an education process that lets people know Internet gaming has become a legal and regulated business in the three states where it now exists.

Wake up! Impressions of Las Vegas are 10-20 years out of date in many cases because people rely on movies and television as sources of defining information.

Barry Shier, a former high level executive in Steve Wynn’s organization shared this thought with me several years ago as he was discussing the marketing challenges associated with an Elvis Presley resort project he was working on at the time.

These ongoing misimpressions and changes are what enable a lot of people working as analysts to stay busy with discussions about Las Vegas’ changing personality.

There was plenty of this at last week’s annual G2E at the Sands convention center as senior executives and the spokesmen for assorted interests talked about the gaming and entertainment industry’s changing face.

There’s more to Las Vegas than the chance to gamble. It’s been that way for a quarter century although lots of people are still waking up to this fact.

Steve Wynn made this point in his multibillion-dollar kind of way with his 1989 opening of The Mirage, a resort that was hyped in a company press release that did not make any significant reference to the casino until page three or four, something like that.

The Mirage touched off an era during which it became popular for top executives to point out that the “non-gaming stuff” was generating more revenue than the “casino stuff.”

Terry Lanni liked to make that point during his years at Caesars and later at the helm of MGM. Glenn Schaeffer did the same at Circus Circus Enterprises before it became Mandalay Resorts and was absorbed by MGM.

Schaeffer as CFO and president had an uncanny ability to wow the Wall Street crowd with his talk about the number of “cash registers” that represented spending opportunities far beyond any of the company’s casinos.

Don’t I know it, current Caesars CEO Gary Loveman is saying in one way or another as he discusses the expected benefits of The Linq opposite Caesars Palace. It’s lined with an assortment of fun and games where the 520-foot High Roller stands as a towering exclamation point.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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