Caesars Entertainment’s online poker website, using the World Series of Poker brand, will launch Thursday morning, company officials said today.
Caesars Interactive will capitalize on the brand with online tournaments feeding into the company’s annual competition at the Rio that runs from late May to mid-July.
The site, WSOP.com, will launch with a variety of poker games, including stud and Omaha hi-lo as well as Texas hold ‘em. And unlike its lone competitor — Station Casinos’ Ultimate Poker — it will offer Mac-friendly computer compatibility.
Only residents or visitors to Nevada will be eligible to play, but Caesars is supporting efforts to enable “shared liquidity” that would involve compacts to allow players from others states to play in Nevada’s games.
The site will launch at 9:19 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Company officials said there was nothing significant about the 9/19 launch at 9:19 a.m., other than it makes it easier for people to remember the time and date of the start-up.
The start-up marks the beginning of the state Gaming Control Board’s field trial of the WSOP.com site, during which the public can play and regulators oversee all aspects of the game. Final approval of the site is expected by the end of the year.
Caesars is banking on its World Series of Poker brand to attract players. Company officials said 12,000 people — many of them from out of state and who could only play when visiting Nevada — already have signed up.
Caesars Interactive, the corporation’s online poker subsidiary, is partnering with 888 Holdings Plc., a Gibraltar-based company with online poker sites operating in the United Kingdom for 16 years, to produce the site.
Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Interactive, said the company’s lengthy wait for licensing was the result of Caesars and 888’s widespread network of offices and not because of any technical problems with the site.
“I think this is really the beginning of a domino effect, the same way that the state of Nevada started licensed land-based casino gaming and it proliferated across the United States, North America, Australia, Macau and Singapore,” Garber said in a conference call this morning.
“We believe that the digital age is going to repeat that very same pattern, and Nevada will once again play a leadership role,” he said.
“Already, we see that the state of New Jersey has legalized online poker and online casino games and we have made an application for a license in the state of New Jersey as well,” Garber said. “Delaware has legalized online poker. This momentum, we believe, is real, and the state of Nevada is at the very cutting edge and the beginning of what we think is going to be a very large wave of future legalization of online poker and online gaming.”
The company had hoped to be operating before the start of the 2013 World Series of Poker, which culminates with the final table of the Main Event in November. Regardless, the company took advantage of having thousands of poker players in town for that event to generate interest and sign up players.
Players must be at least 21 years old, age verified and vetted through responsible gaming screening.
Players must set up accounts and transfer funds through credit and debit cards or automated check-handling accounts, but players can’t deposit or withdraw cash from casino cages.
At the launch, here’s what the site will offer:
• Cash games, sit-and-go’s, satellites and multi-table tournaments.
• Buy-ins for cash games that start as low as 1 cent and tournaments that start at $1.10.
• Daily $100 and $25 freerolls for players of all levels.
• Limit and no-limit hold’em with full table and short-handed games. Omaha also will be offered, including Omaha hi-lo, as well as seven-card stud.
Caesars not only will leverage the World Series of Poker brand but also the Caesars properties and the company’s Total Rewards loyalty club, which has 43 million members.
The site will also have its own loyalty brand, called the Action Club, that will reward players for their online play and can be converted to Total Rewards points that can be used for rooms, dining, show tickets, merchandise and World Series of Poker buy-ins.
Caesars will advertise the site with television spots during sporting events and late-night television, as well as with building wraps, LED screens, branded key cards, banners at Caesars properties and in the company’s casinos and poker rooms.