Caesars Entertainment Corp., the largest owner of U.S. casinos, will offer real-money online poker in Nevada starting Sept. 19, becoming the second operator to do so since the state legalized Web gambling in February.
The game will be marketed under Caesars’ World Series of Poker brand, the Las Vegas-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. The announcement coincides with plans to raise as much as $1.18 billion by selling stock in Caesars Acquisition Co., an entity that will own a stake in the online gambling business, as well as casinos in Las Vegas and Baltimore.
“This is really the beginning of a domino effect,” Mitch Garber, chief executive officer of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, said on a conference call with reporters. “The same way that the state of Nevada started land-based casino gaming and you’ve seen the proliferation of casino gaming across the U.S. We believe that the digital age will repeat that very same pattern.”
Online gambling is projected to be a $7.4 billion business in the U.S. by 2017, according to researcher H2 Gaming Capital. Nevada will represent about $400 million of that. Caesars Chairman and CEO Gary Loveman has said he hopes to begin taking online bets in New Jersey later this year. New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware are the only states that have legalized online betting and are vetting would-be operators.
Ultimate Poker, a unit of Las Vegas-based Station Casinos LLC, was first to offer legal online betting in the U.S. In August, the company said it had dealt more than 10 million hands since the April debut in Nevada.
Caesars collected 12,000 names of prospective players at a recent World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas and plans to market the online service on television, billboards and on room keys at its Nevada hotels, company executives said on the call.
While states and online operators may pool bets to allow customers access to more players, profitability in Nevada doesn’t hinge on that, Garber said.
“Nevada will have a very healthy business on its own,” he said.
Caesars rose 1.7 percent to $24.98 at the close in New York. The stock has more than tripled this year.
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- By Christopher Palmeri | Bloomberg