It’s been a long time coming, but at long last there seems to be hope, and optimism, circulating the poker players of Las Vegas who are desperate to start earning money through the clicking of buttons. Ultimate Gaming is the first company to turn passed legislation into a tangible product with the launch of Ultimate Poker a fortnight ago, and despite their teething problems, any launch is better than no launch for the people who are desperate for a chance to get back to playing. It seems that the next brand to follow Ultimate Gaming into the market will be Caesars Entertainment, after the gang at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) broke the news during their annual WSOP conference call just a few days ago. There is no launch date at the time of writing but it is believed that players will see something materialize in the summer to coincide with the WSOP festival.
We caught up with the very busy Vice President of Corporate Communications at Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc., Seth Palansky, to pick his brains on the future of WSOP.com in the Nevada online poker market, and this is what he had to say.
Ultimate Gaming were the first company to enter the Nevada online poker market, with the launch of Ultimate Poker a fortnight ago. Was there ever a race, and were Caesars one of the runners?
No…kudos to Ultimate though. They worked hard to be first and have worked hard since launch. We’re happy for them and excited to one day share the stage with them and others. We intend to be around in 100 years, when we launch is inconsequential for our long-term goals.
Ultimate Poker has used Cyber Arts to create their software from scratch. What route have you chosen to go down from a development perspective?
We have partnered with 888 who will provide us their software to power WSOP.com poker.
In the rush to be the first into the market Ultimate Poker have had a horrific time with customer service complaints. Is that a benefit to you? Can you now learn from their mistakes and create a better product?
I think their issues have been greatly exaggerated. People have to understand that they are truly the first ones to ever take a real bet of an online poker game legally in Nevada. They have a very reputable and popular casino company involved with them and the team running their online operations is very smart, savvy and successful men and women who know what they are doing. The reality is you don’t really know all the issues until you have real customers and are up operating. I liken it to a restaurant or hotel opening. It takes some time to work the kinks out. They care, they will always do their best and the right thing, and I think people have to be patient and less critical. Help them, work with them and they will deliver I’m sure.
We will be no different. There will be growing pains. We will make mistakes. We will stumble at times. It’s not intentional, it’s just reality of business and getting a team to work and gel together. Everyone involved in online poker in Nevada is trying their best. It will get there. Just like the land-based WSOP, we have issues each and every year. We learn from them, we work hard to fix them as best we can. But there is always room to improve and strive for betterment. This new space in the U.S. will be no different.
Interstate poker means you are restricted to a Nevada only player pool. Does this mean that it’s dog-eat-dog? Is it going to be a slugfest between all parties to drag the numbers onto their site?
We compete with each other up and down the Las Vegas Strip every day. Competition is good for the consumer. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
What in your opinion is the single biggest mistake that Ultimate Poker has made than WSOP will not be making?
I certainly wouldn’t sit in judgment of anyone who has been up and running with a new product for two weeks. That’s not fair. Give them credit for being first, for being responsive and for addressing issues as fast as they can. The Verizon issue for example. They aren’t Verizon. They have to deal with people at Verizon. There’s an education. There’s a learning process. There are growing pains. It takes many folks and companies outside the control of the poker company to make things go properly. This is not a mature business here. It has not been legal before. Legitimate companies weren’t involved. Thus, it just takes time and with the education and awareness, things will go slower. We should celebrate the fact you can now do the activity in Nevada and encourage and not discourage others to get involved.
What technology are you going to use to ensure your players are playing from within the state borders?
We won’t divulge specifics but the process is known as triangulation and we will use a location targeting company along with triangulation to ensure players are within Nevada borders. That plus proper documentation, etc., will be a part of it too. Our testing shows this technology is very reliable and effective.
Can anyone from around the world play as long as they are in Nevada?
Yes, Nevada allows anyone who is physically in the state of Nevada to play. You can be a visitor, etc.
Are you going to be offering WSOP and WSOPC satellites?
We will have tremendous promotional opportunities for players. We are very excited about what is in store and we believe the players will love some of what we have planned. At the WSOP this summer, anyone playing our land-based events will see and be able to be the first to take advantage of our fantastic promotions.
The proposed Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2013 has surfaced in California and it is quite specific in as much as it will not participate in intrastate action. What’s your opinion on this?
A proposed bill is far from a passed and signed bill. We will conform to any bills that are passed and comply with any regulations required. We are just happy to hear from multiple jurisdictions across the U.S. that they are considering legislation that will legitimize this great American pastime.
What lessons have WSOP learned from the failures of the likes of Full Tilt and recently Lock Poker?
We can’t wait to show players that there should be no real wait for cash outs or processing THEIR money. A real, regulated business for online poker should run like your relationship with your bank. It’s your money, you deposit it and you should be able to withdraw it as you see fit. Next time you see a transaction from GolfCenter.com or BicycleBigShop.com when you make a payment on an online poker site, should be the last time you ever play on that site. The reality is this is going to be a totally legitimate business in Nevada with proper safeguards and consumer protections and accountability of the operators and the people behind the operations. The WSOP became part of the Caesars portfolio because of mismanagement of a casino by the prior owner. Their doors were locked up one day. There are real teeth in the regulations and laws here and players should have great comfort that a company in business as long as ours, with a lot of land-based properties, values their licenses, reputation and role in the community. We will work hard to help alleviate any fears that may exist for poker players who have been burned elsewhere.
Are you going to be using affiliates at all or just rely on the weight of Caesars?
We will use a combination, but likely not in the same manner people in online poker previously viewed and used the model.
Do you know what types of games you will be offering?
We will disclose these plans around launch. We do have concerns about liquidity and thus offering too many variants out of the gate may not allow the best experience for players.
Are we going to see any sponsored pros wearing the WSOP logo in the near future?
This is to be determined. We do have concerns about perceptions. We still intend to run land-based tournaments all over and as such, don’t want our other customers at the table to feel like they are at a disadvantage in an event that features a pro we are paying. We certainly think there is a way to work with players on the sponsorship side, but the model for us will sort itself out as we navigate the operation of both offline and online as we proceed.
What is going to set WSOP apart from the rest? Why should the players choose you?
That is really up to players to answer. I think most players have preferences in software but at the end of the day it’s a pretty commoditized product without major differentiation. We will certainly bring to bear the power of the WSOP and Caesars brands and work hard to cultivate a long-lasting relationship with the playing community. We will provide opportunity and access and great unique promotions and take advantage of the best loyalty program in the business to earn the players’ business. Liquidity is important to players and we hope we are fortunate enough to gain enough to satisfy everyone’s needs.