It’s been a busy week in the online poker world, with news emerging so quickly, it’s a bit tough to keep track of it all. A couple potential players in the future U.S. online poker industry have made headlines, namely Caesars Entertainment and Zynga. Meanwhile, on the government side of the issue, two online poker hearings are scheduled to take place on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Moreover, the State of Nevada will soon start accepting applications from companies to set up intrastate online poker operations. In short, there’s plenty of activity in the march towards (eventual) U.S. online poker regulation.
First a little history: Last year, Caesars Entertainment scrapped an IPO attempt to raise public funds to the tune of approximately $530 million, citing a struggling economy. At the time, company CEO Gary Loveman commented on the withdrawal saying that Caesars would not try going public again unless there was a clear growth opportunity, such as that presented by regulated online poker in the U.S.
Lo and behold, earlier this week, Caesars filed IPO papers with the SEC, requesting to be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the symbol CZR. Though the company press release provided no details on how many shares will be offered, and though their stated goal is to raise just $50 million (a fraction of last year’s cancelled IPO attempt), the move clearly reflects increased preparation on Caesars’ part for the onset of legal online gaming in the United States.
In the wake of the SEC filing, Loveman openly noted that his company would need approximately 1 year to set up their own U.S. based Internet poker website and that Caesars would be ready if a bill was passed on the Federal level to legalize online poker. It should be noted that Caesars Entertainment already has a small foothold in the online poker industry, mainly thanks to its partnership with 888 Holdings, which operates Internet gaming sites in Europe. Of course, the company is more widely-known for its ownership of the World Series of Poker brand as well as dozens of land-based casinos throughout the United States.
Determined not to fade out of anyone’s consciousness as online poker regulatory talks continue in the U.S., Zynga will be participating in the International Federation of Poker’s Nations Cup today. The duplicate poker event will feature teams from 11 countries as well as a 12th “digital country” team (i.e., Zynga Poker). Scheduled to take part in the event are Poker Hall of Famer Barry Greenstein, who will captain the U.S. squad, Gus Hansen, David Benyamine, 2011 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event Champion Sam Trickett, Antonio Esfandiari, Vanessa Selbst, Liv Boeree, Tony G., and 2011 WSOP Main Event Champion Pius Heinz, who will lead Team Germany into battle at the felt.
The online games company last made a splash in the live poker world in March, when it hosted the Zynga PokerCon. While Zynga has yet to dealt a hand of real-money poker online, the company has slowly but surely been taking steps to ensure they get a slice of the future U.S. online poker pie.
U.S. Online Poker Regulation at Federal or State Level? Perhaps Both!
On the Federal level, hearings will be taking place today and tomorrow in both the Senate and the House of Representatives as proponents of legalizing online poker attempt to sway lawmakers in their favor. In the Senate, the Indian Affairs Committee will listen to testimony from Poker Players Alliance Chairman Alfonse D’Amato as well as representatives of various Native American tribes. The House, for its part, will hear from Representatives Barney Frank, John Campbell, and Frank Wolf.
On the State level, Nevada’s Gaming Control Board announced this week that it will begin accepting applications in about 3 months from parties seeking licenses to run intrastate online poker sites. According to reports, it appears that current holders of Nevada gaming licenses will have a “fast tracking advantage” to securing online poker licenses. Importantly, this would only make it legal for residents of the state of Nevada to play online poker against each other, which is perfectly legal even according to the UIGEA.