The first relationship between a Nevada casino licensee and an international online gaming company is one step closer to reality. On Wednesday, the three-member Nevada Gaming Control Board approved the suitability of the relationship between Caesars Entertainment and 888 Holdings’ subsidiaries Cassava Enterprises (Gibraltar) Ltd. and Fordart Ltd. The next step in the process takes place March 24, when the Nevada Gaming Commission reviews the Board’s decision.
To alleviate the Board’s concerns over the fact that 888 had taken bets from US residents prior to the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Attorney Michael Horowitz noted that the company made the decision to pull out of the US market before then-President George W. Bush signed the UIGEA into law. The subsequent ass-kicking the pullout delivered to the company’s stock demonstrated 888’s “commitment to doing what is right and doing what is legal.” 888 CEO Gigi Levy rammed home that commitment message, taking the time to make his own pitch to the Board via closed-circuit television from Tel Aviv, Israel, where Levy’s wife is giving birth. (Mazeltov!)
Mitch Garber, the diminutive CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, could barely contain his elf-like glee, telling the Las Vegas Sun that the Board’s decision represented “a historic moment” that “confirms internet gaming is a reality. It should allow us to look more and more at a federally regulated environment in the United States.” Despite Garber’s happy dance, Board members were keen to point out that they weren’t recommending issuing US online gaming licenses to either party. Member A.G. Burnett said they’d only approved “a business-to-business agreement that would allow Caesars to offer games in the UK.” Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli was even more restrained, estimating that they were only “in about the third inning on working through the issues of internet gambling.” (For readers outside North America, a baseball game has nine innings, meaning pro-online gaming legislation at the federal level isn’t even halfway to the seventh-inning stretch.)