The CEO of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., Gary Loveman, took part in a panel discussion at the Global Gaming Expo on Wednesday, November 14th in Las Vegas. He chose the largest casino industry trade show of the year as a forum to say that he is considering a foray into the world of internet poker for the World Series of Poker brand.
While Loveman admitted that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) prohibits U.S. banks from funding online gaming sites, thus eliminating the possibility of internet poker in the U.S. for Harrah's, the realm of Europe is certainly a possibility. "If you take a look at the legal landscape in continental Europe and the United Kingdom," he stated, "there are countries where it's demonstrably legal and there's absolutely no encumbrance. Those are areas that are very attractive to us."
According to the Associated Press, WSOP tournament spokesman Gary Thompson added that Harrah's is currently studying the online gaming market and legal conditions before moving forward with the idea.
Harrah's may be following the lead and taking notes from the failed attempt by MGM Mirage several years ago; by examining why that particular online casino was not successful, there may be an opportunity to revisit that market with a brand known all over the world - WSOP. With the recent success of the World Series of Poker Europe, Harrah's seems to have gained the confidence of much of the European market by showing its dedication to that area of the world.
In addition, Harrah's can look to the World Poker Tour's launch (and relaunch) of the WPTOnline, an online gaming site based outside of the U.S. and catering to a world audience that has become familiar with the WPT brand through its television shows and licensing endeavors. While it may take some time to see if the WPT has any success with their gaming site, this is time available as Harrah's has certainly not committed many resources - if any - to an actual gaming site at this point.
By Loveman and Thompson planting the seed for Harrah's, talk among executives, not to mention the poker public, can ensue, and they will be able to gauge the public opinion that emerges. They will undoubtedly come to a conclusion prior to the 2008 WSOP to ensure that they can begin the marketing process, or to squash the idea and any media attention before it begins.