Caesars Entertainment Corp. said last week that it will spin off its interactive gaming business, Planet Hollywood and a planned casino in Baltimore into a separate company owned in part by the casino operator, the company’s stockholders and private equity firms Apollo and TPG.
Apollo Management and TPG Capital are expected to invest a combined $500 million in cash into Caesars Entertainment as part of the deal, which would create a “growth-oriented entity” controlled by Caesars Acquisition Co., a company created to facilitate the transaction.
Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber will serve as CEO of the acquisition company and continue in his role with the interactive division, which owns the World Series of Poker.
In a statement, Caesars Entertainment, which has long-term debt of more than $20 billion, said the transaction would allow the company to fund growth opportunities in “a less levered and more flexible vehicle.”
How will the worlds of social gambling and real-money gambling collide once regulation becomes a reality in the U.S.? Marco Valerio recently sat down one of the people who will have a front-row seat for that intersection, Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber, for a wide-ranging interview covering poker and gambling issues both local and global.
Below you’ll find a few of the highlights from their conversation:
A World Series of Poker real money website based in Nevada took a step forward Wednesday.
The Gaming Control Board tentatively approved Caesars Interactive Entertainment to operate online poker in Nevada.
The company, the interactive arm of the Caesars Entertainment Corp., manages the promotion and advertising aspects of the annual World Series of Poker.
Caesars Entertainment general counsel Michael Cohen told the board during a meeting in Carson City that the Nevada website would be run as a World Series of Poker brand.
If approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission on Dec. 20, Caesars would become the 17th company granted an interactive gaming license to offer online poker to players who are physically within the state’s borders.
Prediction: there will be a WSOP-Cleveland this year … or maybe a WSOP-Cincinatti next year … if not both. The Caesars poker empire has made no bones about its expansionist desires … and now the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, through his company Rock Gaming, has bought a $61 million stake in the Empire’s online division, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, parent company to the WSOP, according to filings with the SEC.
Neither Gary Loveman nor Mitch Garber could be reached at Caesars to confirm or deny the rumored buzz Pokerati was hoping to start on this one — that Cleveland is the new Pennsylvania.
Many of our lives changed five years ago today, as George W. Bush signed the Port Security Act into law.
At the time, many wondered if this marked the end of online poker, which had been booming at a rate that woulda had virtually the entire planet + Jupiter playing by now. Ironically, what was supposed to be a death knell for online poker would actually be what made several of my friends and colleagues (temporarily) rich … and the principals of Full Tilt and PokerStars and Ultimate Bet (momentarily, in the scheme of things) extremely powerful.
Let’s have a little flashback, shall we … to slightly more innocent-til-proven-guilty times … commemorating this uber-significant day in poker history:
Since it seems the Feds aren’t gonna allow the world to come to the WSOP (via the internet) … the WSOP is now taking steps elsewhere across the world. Caesars Interactive Entertainment, formerly HIE but still parent company to the WSOP, announced Italian partnerships that will allow the Montreal-based company (with operational headquarters in Las Vegas) to establish its presence live and online in the regulated Italian market — and ultimately make it easier for these poker paisanos to get to Vegas in the summer.
None of this should come as a shock … after all, we saw this summer that Team WSOP employees were all wearing name tags that clearly identified them as worker-bees for HIE, Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment, the year-old parent company formed around online poker capo Mitch Garber. Also, we noticed that the wristbands identifying live tournament players clearly were pushing WSOP.COM … it wasn’t just because that’s where they wanted players to go for chip counts!
Anyhow, latest development on that progression … with their 888 partners Dragonfish, Harrah’s is set to launch a new suite of products that includes more real-money offerings for their (fully legal) UK customers and expanded play money options for (someday soon to be legal) Americans and others worldwide.
A shocker but not really … Jeffrey Pollack and Harrah’s are breaking up.
The WSOP Commissioner, President, and Twitterer in Chief‘s last day with Harrah’s and the World Series is today.
“I’ve made the decision after four years of successfully leading the WSOP as a global sports and entertainment property,” he says. “[Today] is my last day. Friday the 13th.”
Pollack — who has never played a poker tournament — took over the reigns shortly after the 2005 WSOP, the first year Harrah’s ran the 35-year-old tournament series bought from Binion’s.
The list of accomplishments under his aegis include drawing more competitors from more countries (putting it on par with the Olympics in terms of numbers), supporting women in poker, helping Don Cheadle and Annie Duke build Ante Up for Africa into a Hollywood A-list charity event, and working closely with players (via the Players Advisory Council) to steadily improve what is undeniably the biggest and arguably the best annual festival of poker tournaments in the world. He credits his team for incorporating TV broadcasting (most recently securing a new long-term contract with ESPN), new media, sponsorship, licensing, and summer-time side events that have made the Rio a real home for the WSOP and part of sure-to-endure poker lore.
“I’ve achieved everything I set out to do and more,” Pollack says.
Phil Hellmuth — fresh off the announcement of his coaching relationship with Harrah’s-hater Jeff Shulman and apparently still on tilt about having to pay for his own room at the WSOP this summer — appeared on the Hardcore Poker Show today (on the internet and Sirius 98) to reveal a Glenn-Beckish unease amongst some big-time pros about the WSOP’s intent to launch its own online poker site … and hints that Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Ultimate Bet might be talking about colluding cooperating to start their own WSOP alternative … a move he suggests could make the WSOP “worth nothing”.
Phil Hellmuth on Hardcore Sports Radio – excerpts Sep 23 2009
“There’s a huge battle brewing …”
In addition to the warning, Hellmuth calls out Harrah’s for “not giving any of [money] back to the players” and takes a pop at Jeffrey Pollack for not reassuring him that everything is gonna to be alright; but it seems, without naming names, that his fear and vitriol is really directed at Mitch Garber — FTP, Stars, and UB’s old rival at PartyPoker, who’s never really played nice with any of them before.
My question: How did UB outplay Doyle’s Room for third position in the unofficial alliance of American-friendly online poker rooms?
It was no secret that Harrah’s Entertainment planned to enter the online gaming business, especially after hiring former PartyGaming bigwig Mitch Garber as the CEO of its new Interactive Entertainment division in May of this year. But the next big step was announced today.
Gaming Intelligence reported that Harrah’s signed a deal with Dragonfish, a subsidiary of online giant 888, to support Harrah’s entry into the online market with the World Series of Poker and Caesars Casino.
“This is a ground breaking deal for 888 and demonstrates our ability to provide real value to globally renowned, land-based casinos and their leading brands,” said Gigi Levy, Chief Executive Officer of 888.
“We have the structure in place to realise our B2B division’s full potential over the next 18 months and beyond and today’s announcement of our partnership with an industry giant is further vindication of this strategy.”
Mitch Garber, CEO of Harrahâ€™s Interactive Entertainment, added: “As we develop and roll out our interactive strategy, we have chosen to work with 888, primarily for their world-class technology, scalability, and a strong commitment to compliance, and responsible gaming,” said Mitch Garber, Chief Executive Officer of HIE.
No specific time frame was given for the official launch.
Not a big deal at all, I’m sure … just a little report about a new company coming to Canada — Harrah’s. The new CEO of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment, Mitch Garber, will be setting up shop in his old hometown of Montreal … which, of course, is kinda like a suburb of the Kahnawake (Online Poker) Nation.
Furthermore, it seems to be less and less of a secret that the WSOP, which retakes control of its own website later this year and not too long ago successfully fought a court battle for control of WSOP.com, has plans to take its brand of poker tables online. From the Montreal Gazette:
Harrah’s agreed that he could manage the World Series of Poker teams already in Las Vegas and England out of a Montreal office and still focus on growing the 40-year-old Vegas-based competition.
“There is a hunger for World Series of Poker events, like PGA golf, with events taking place everywhere, whether it is Moscow, Montreal, Rome. Our intent is to deal with government and licensing authorities in every jurisdiction to grow the World Series of Poker,” he said yesterday.
Garber already has a Montreal office in the core of the city and about 10 people, mostly business-development types, working there. Should all go according to plan, the office will expand to “hundreds” of people, mostly customer-service employees and a scattering of Web designers.
The business plan has two main goals, said Garber, who has invested “substantially” in the privately held Harrah’s.
The first is “to offer online gaming in the U.K. and potentially elsewhere in Europe where it is legal and government-licensed.”
The former CEO of Party Gaming is on board with the WSOP to be sure … as CEO of the newly formed Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment. Jeffrey Pollack stays on board as WSOP Commish and President of the new parent company. All of this effective today, supposedly.
The official word:
HARRAHâ€™S ENTERTAINMENT FORMS HARRAHâ€™S INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT
NEW SUBSIDIARY TO MANAGE THE GLOBAL GROWTH OF THE WORLD SERIES OF POKERÂ® (WSOP)
AND EXPLORE EUROPEAN INTERACTIVE EXPANSION STRATEGY
LAS VEGAS, May 29, 2009 â€“ Harrahâ€™s Entertainment, Inc. (Harrahâ€™s) announced today that it has established a new subsidiary, Harrahâ€™s Interactive Entertainment, Inc. (HIE) to manage the global growth of the World Series of PokerÂ® (WSOP) and explore a European interactive strategy.
â€œAs the worldâ€™s largest gaming company, Harrahâ€™s is taking a proactive approach toward international and interactive expansion,â€ said Harrahâ€™s Entertainment Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman. â€œIt is important we position ourselves to explore new markets as well as new technologies with our best in class brands.â€
Mitch Garber, a longtime gaming lawyer and public company senior executive, joins HIE as CEO. Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the WSOP, remains in that role and will become President of HIE.
In addition to growing the World Series of Poker, HIE will explore the use of interactive gaming technologies to expand the reach of Harrah’s brands globally, starting in Europe. With its renowned Total Rewards customer-loyalty program, HIE will be utilized to develop new opportunities to strengthen and grow Harrah’s customer base.
The World Series of Poker, in its 40th year, has experienced record growth in the last five years. Participants from 124 nations competed in last yearâ€™s tournament, up from 24 just five years ago and entrants have gone from 13,036 to 58,720 during the same span. The WSOP expanded into Europe in 2007 with the creation of the World Series of Poker EuropeÂ® held each fall in London.
I’m just assuming they’re talking about WSOP.com … but really, it doesn’t have to be. Still, despite semi-denials of former PartyGaming CEO Mitch Garber’s coming on board, it looks like Harrah’s has something in the works regarding the web that may or may not be different from their current Bluff-run site:
From Monster.com …
Senior Web/â€‹Flash Developer
Working for the Director of Web Development, you will join a dynamic group of professionals to launch and maintain a premiere destination on the web for the world renowned World Series of Poker, a subsidiary of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.â€‹ This is a full-time IN HOUSE position located in Montreal with competitive compensation and growth opportunities, with the expectation to learn a wide range of business activities.â€‹
First thought: Boo, Flash! Second thought: Montreal?
With all the conflicting stories on the web, what are the real chances of online gambling regulation in the United States? Plus, we look at taking a bite out of the Grand Prive Affiliates, and other industry news including the launch of a brand new online casino!
According to the subscription newsletter Gambling Compliance:
Harrahâ€™s Denies Garber Hire Tale
15 Apr, 2009 / GamblingCompliance Ltd. / Scott Longley
Harrahâ€™s has moved to deny rumours that ex-PartyGaming chief Mitch Garber has joined the company to run an online operation which would incorporate the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas giant said the company â€œdid not have anything to shareâ€ regarding the Garber rumours. He added: â€œWe havenâ€™t announced anything, and we donâ€™t have any plans to announce anything.â€
Suggestions that Garber was about to join Harrahâ€™s have been circulating for months, and gained new currency when they were repeated in a Sunday Times story last weekend in the UK.
Garber left Party back in May 2008 having helmed the firm through a tough period around the time of the enforced UIGEA-related exit from the US market in October 2006. He handed over control to current chief executive Jim Ryan.
I dunno … doesn’t sound like that much of a denial to me. But maybe … who knows?