The Euros are Coming!

Nevada gives thumbs up to 888 to provide WSOP, TI, and WMS with online poker

by , Mar 11, 2013 | 1:00 pm

888 logoThe Gaming Control Board spent almost two hours Wednesday delving into the background of European online gaming operator 888 Holdings, which is seeking an interactive Nevada gaming license.

After recommending that Gibraltar-based 888 be approved the state’s 20th interactive license, the three control board members spent all of five minutes discussing Treasure Island’s request to hold the state’s 21st interactive license.

“I don’t have any questions, unless you want me to make some up,” Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett told Treasure Island attorney Frank Schreck.

It took board member Shawn Reid longer to read the license conditions into the public record than it did to approve Treasure Island.

Why?

Treasure Island’s Nevada-based online poker website will be a “turnkey operation.” 888 Holdings will handle the technical side of the business and use the Treasure Island logo and images to create a poker room.

“Treasure Island just hopes to collect the money,” Schreck said.

888 Holdings’ entry into Nevada’s upstart online poker business could be a game changer, several observers said after the hearing.

The company, which was found suitable in 2011 to be a partner of Caesars Entertainment in legal European online gaming businesses, views Nevada as one of the its top growth initiatives in 2013.

888 Holdings operates World Series of Poker websites with Caesars in several European markets. The company also has its own online gaming operations in several countries and has been in business for more than a decade.

888 CEO Brian Mattingley told the control board the first order of business if the company is licensed will be to launch a World Series of Poker website in Nevada in partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which won approval from Nevada gaming regulators last year.

888 is providing online poker technology to slot machine maker WMS Industries and will run the Treasure Island website.

“I’m impressed with the stature of the corporate applicants,” Burnett said. “I find all the individuals suitable for a Nevada license.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission will take up the control board’s favorable recommendations for 888 and Treasure Island on March 21 in Las Vegas.

Mattingley said 888 is looking at expanding the company’s business opportunities in Spain, while improving the company’s casino, sports book and social gaming platforms.

888 Chief Financial Officer Aviad Kobrin told the control board that his company’s 2012 total revenues were $376 million, which represented 23 percent compound annual growth since 2003. Online poker revenues increased 31 percent.

Attorney Gil White, who represents 888, said that before the signing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in October 2006, the company had accepted wagers from American customers.

“The company was advised it was not unlawful to offer nonsports betting to U.S. customers,” White said.

Within 24 hours of the act being signed by President George W. Bush, 888 Holdings blocked access to its websites from American gamblers.

White said 888 complies with the provisions enacted in Assembly Bill 114, Nevada’s new interactive gaming law, which would preclude any online gaming company from receiving a Nevada license if it accepted wagers from Americans after 2006.

“888 is ready and able to operate in Nevada,” Mattingley said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.
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