888 receives initial Nevada license nod despite AGA double standard

TAGs: 888 Holdings, AGA, American Gaming Association, Nevada, Nevada gaming control board, treasure island

888-nevada-approvalThe quest by Gibraltar-based online gambling operator 888 Holdings for a Nevada interactive gaming license has won preliminary approval. Two years ago, the Nevada Gaming Control Board had deemed 888’s technology partnership with Nevada-licensed casino operator Caesars Entertainment a ‘suitable’ match, and on Wednesday, 888 reps were back in front of a GCB panel to successfully plead their case for a license. The matter now goes before the state Gaming Commission for final approval on March 21.

It’s a big week for 888, having just released its first real-money casino app on Facebook. 888 had previously released its Bingo Appy real-money bingo app on the social network in December, but MAGIC888 represents the first attempt to bring 888’s slots, table games and live dealer product to Facebook fans in the UK.

In addition to providing Caesars with a technology platform for the World Series of Poker brand, 888 also have plans to supply gaming device maker WMS Industries and Nevada casino operator Treasure Island with online poker product. Treasure Island also received the GCB’s interactive nod on Wednesday, in a total five-minute ‘grilling’ that included GCB chairman A.G. Burnett saying he didn’t really have any questions to put to Treasure Island advocate Frank Schreck “unless you want me to make some up.” (H/T to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz for live-tweeting the hearing.) Schreck was equally candid in his testimony, stating that Treasure Island intended to be a dumb, silent partner that “just hopes to collect the money.”

The issue of 888’s ‘suitability’ for US gaming licenses has been a hot topic ever since the American Gaming Association (AGA) launched its attack on PokerStars’ suitability to hold a New Jersey gaming license. The brief filed by the AGA on Monday alleged that not only had PokerStars failed to pull out of the US market following passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, but that Stars had also operated in violation of the laws of at least eight states that had declared online gambling illegal prior to 2006.

888 did pull out of the US market in 2006, thereby avoiding being on the wrong side of the ‘bad actor’ deadline in Nevada’s interactive gaming legislation. But according to the AGA’s arguments against PokerStars, 888 would be equally guilty of breaking those state laws. The same would go for other European operators, including, which has struck an online gambling partnership with AGA members MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming.

The AGA-defined scarlet letter could even be extended to individuals who worked for these companies, including former PartyGaming exec Mitch Garber, who now heads Caesars’ digital division, Caesars Interactive Entertainment. Small wonder then, that IGT CEO Patti Hart admitted on Tuesday that the AGA board’s vote to file the brief against PokerStars “wasn’t unanimous.”


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