Fertitta Interactive, the online arm of Las Vegas-based Station Casinos’ owner Fertitta Entertainment, will launch its free-to-play Ultimate Gaming site this week. The site will be powered by games developer CyberArts, which Fertitta Interactive acquired in October after scuttling its prospective joint venture with Full Tilt Poker following the events of Black Friday. The first game on the site will be Ultimate Poker, which will make its Facebook debut this Friday. Fertitta Interactive chairman Tom Breitling told eGamingReview that a bingo product would follow the poker launch. A mobile app is planned for release later this year.
At a press conference in Vegas announcing the deal, Breitling said the company would draw heavily on the parallels between online poker and Fertitta Entertainment’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) mixed martial arts franchise, run by Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta (pictured right). “[MMA] is almost the same demographic as online poker.” Ultimate Gaming CEO Tobin Poster said the UFC’s broad social networking reach – 8m Facebook ‘likes’ and 2.4m Twitter followers – will enable the company to ramp up awareness of the gaming site tout de suite. The official promo campaign will kick off July 7 during the UFC 148 broadcast on the FX Channel.
Fertitta Interactive has applied for a Nevada online poker license, and Breitling says the company will be ready to switch from free-play to real-money “from Day 1” following the regulatory okay. CyberArts founder/Fertitta Interactive CTO Chris Derossi said the company’s mission was “to provide an authentic experience for people who care about the game. As we move from the social side of gaming to a real money space, we will have serious players.” (Serious, or Cereus? The first association many online poker players will likely make with Ultimate Poker will be Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker, the two scandal-plagued Cereus Network sites that have been injected with formaldehyde ever since the Black Friday legal actions. Just sayin’.)
Like most US-based casino outfits looking to branch out into online poker, Breitling is “fully supportive” of a federally regulated scheme. “We would prefer an online poker-only bill, which would make all other games illegal. But it’s moving very quickly on a state-by-state approach.” Breitling says the company is prepared to follow a “partnership model” on a state-by-state rollout. (Before Fertitta acquired CyberArts, the software outfit had inked a partnership with Skip Bronson’s US Digital Gaming to tackle the US on a state-by-state basis.) Regardless, Breitling is thinking beyond US borders, believing the site represents a “global opportunity.”