Outside the online sphere, the biggest hitter in the poker world is without a doubt Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. The gambling firm run a string of casinos in Las Vegas and, most importantly, are the owners and organizers of the World Series of Poker. Online giants such as PokerStars and Full Tilt have established themselves as huge players in the poker industry. Even traditionally land-based companies such as the WPT have dipped their toe into the world of online poker. Meanwhile, Harrah’s have stayed steadfastly focussed on the WSOP. Now, things may be about to change.
The industry began to consider the idea of a WSOP backed online client in May of this year. That month saw the appointment of former PartyGaming chief Mitch Garber as Harrah’s new CEO of Interactive Entertainment. Garber had been instrumental in steering Party towards a massive market share in the pre-UIGEA days. Garber also made waves by setting up an office in his native Montreal. From here he was able to manage teams operating in Las Vegas and England, while many speculated that his new base was located conveniently close to the Kahnawake Nation. This Mohawk territory is the home for scores of online casino and poker companies.
A permanent WSOP online poker client now seems to be a definite possibility, following the news of a deal between Harrah’s and online gambling mega-company 888 Holdings plc. The World Series owners have inked an agreement with 888 subsidiary firm Dragonfish, who specialise in creating online gaming platforms. The intention appears to be to launch an online client for the World Series and Caesars Casino. Garber commented that the firm intended to “offer online gaming in the U.K. and potentially elsewhere in Europe where it is legal and government-licensed.”
888 have themselves been making headlines of late, with rumours that they are preparing to strike a deal with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The company admitted that they have entered ‘preliminary discussions’ towards reaching a large cash settlement. This would likely be similar in nature to the actions of PartyGaming, who agreed to pay the U.S. government $105 million in return for protection from any legal action. Such a deal looks even more likely when you consider that the Freshfields law firm who advised PartyGaming on their payment are also employed by 888.
With news of the Harrah’s deal disseminating among investors, stocks in the 888 Group have risen 14.3% to 12.2p.