Caesars Entertainment may be known for its Las Vegas casinos, but it also has a burgeoning business developing way off the Strip.
In its roadshow presentation released online today, the Vegas-based company, which manages 42,000 hotel rooms, said one of the biggest opportunities it had going forward was on the Internet, including social games and real-money gaming.
Mitch Garber, the CEO of the company’s interactive division, said it recently launched Caesars Casino in beta on Facebook, making it the first time that a brand name was used to compete in the casino genre.
Garber believes that the game, which includes video slots, blackjack and roulette, will displace Double Down Casino as one of the category leaders. The developer of Double Down Casino, Double Down Interactive, was recently acquired by video poker giant International Game Technology for $500 million.
Garber said over the past 13 months, so much of the business has changed.
With the sale of Double Down, and the visibility into social games leader Zynga, which went public in December, and the release of more information this week by Facebook in its public filing, there are lots of verifiable signs that this is a big business.
For instance, on Wednesday, Facebook revealed that Zynga made up 12 percent of its overall revenues. Zynga’s Poker game is the leading casino-based game on Facebook, and more recently, it launched Bingo as part of a casino series.
Over the past two days, Zynga’s stock price has soared based on the Facebook news, rising 8.11 percent today alone to close at $13.39 a share.
Caesars said yesterday it was applying to be listed on the Nasdaq market under the symbol “CZR,” and that it was planning to sell 1.8 million shares between $8 and $10 apiece.
Caesars Chairman, CEO and President Gary Loveman was positive about a number of aspects of the business, as he should be in a presentation to potential investors, but one of the highlights was online gaming.
“This is a big deal for us,” he said, calling out the opportunity for gambling online, across both mobile and social networks and across multiple languages.
In addition to launching Caesars Casino on Facebook, the company has been building up its online gaming chops for some time.
Garber said this past year the company purchased Israel-based Playtika, which operates Slotomania, a very popular slots game on Facebook, iPhone and iPad. It also has two software partners that will enable it to expand into online gambling in the U.S. as soon as it becomes legal.
“We aren’t aware of any other bricks and mortar company that has the online experience that is preparing themselves as we are,” he said.
However, Zynga told All Things D it was currently seeking partnerships to pursue real-money gaming, and MGM Resorts also recently unveiled a plan to partner with online poker company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.
Of course, the big driver for everyone is that the laws are changing in the U.S., which makes it nearly a foregone conclusion that online gambling — at least some games — will become legal over the next year.
Late last year, the Department of Justice issued a new interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961. Under the new ruling, it interprets the act as only outlawing bets on sporting events — not all events and contests.
With that clarification in place, it will now be up to every state to pass legislation outlining operating procedures.
“We see the odds being close to 100 percent,” Garber said. “It’s just a matter of whether it will be federally regulated or state by state. The states are already doing it, but the federal government is getting their act together, too.”
- By Tricia Duryee