Caesars exec's work about to become complicated - but he likes it that way


Life is about to get more complicated for Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber.

He wouldn’t have it any other way. With the World Series of Poker nearing the end of its six-week run at the Rio, Garber’s attention will focus on launching the tournament’s pay-to-play regulated online gaming website in Nevada.

Caesars Interactive — a Montreal-based subsidiary of casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. — is also moving forward with online gaming prospects in New Jersey. The casino operator owns one-fourth of the Atlantic City gaming market.

Garber’s division also handles Playtika, Caesars expanding free-play social gaming operation.

Meanwhile, Garber’s duties will soon include CEO of Caesars Growth Partners, an entity created by Caesars Entertainment as a growth oriented business.

Anything else?

“Very little will change in my role,” Garber said of Caesars Growth Partners. The company is in a Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated quiet period, so Garber can’t say much about the business, which was announced in April.

Caesars spun off the interactive division, Planet Hollywood Resort and its under-construction Horseshoe casino in Baltimore into a separate company.

“The assets are very well-known,” said Garber, 48.

What interests investors, however, are the operations that fall under Caesars Interactive.

The 44th World Series of Poker’s Main Event begins play Saturday at the Rio. The 62-event tournament expects to increase from last year’s 74,766 total entrants.

Garber and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte were the forces behind the World Series of Poker’s events to raise money for the One Drop Foundation water initiative.

Last year’s Big One for One Drop included 48 players who paid a $1 million each to play in the No Limit Hold’em event, raising $10 million for the charity. This year’s $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Roller attracted 166 players. The tournament donated $3,333 of each entry to One Drop.

This year’s World Series of Poker had added meaning, Garber said. It’s the first to converge online poker with live tournament play.

Players could sign up for the World Series of Poker’s online gambling website during the tournament at the Rio. Different incentives were offered to build the database.

Nevada’s interactive gaming laws allow online wagering to take place only on computers or mobile devices located within the state’s borders.

“We are not overly aggressive about it, but the sign-ups early on are going better than anyone expected,” Garber said.

Ultimate Poker, which is majority- owned by Station Casinos, launched April 30 and is the only regulated pay-to-play website in the United States. Caesars Interactive hoped to launch the World Series of Poker website during the tournament, but the introduction now looks like a late-summer event.

The website will be operated in partnership with Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings. Together, the companies operate legal World Series of Poker websites in Europe. 888 Holdings was licensed by Nevada gaming regulators in March.

“It has been a good process with the Nevada Gaming Control Board,” Garber said. “Our technology is more complex and thus has taken us longer to ramp up.”

Once launched, Garber said the goal is to “dominate” the Nevada market with the World Series of Poker website. He said the company is supportive of efforts to increase the state’s player pool, such as through interstate gaming compacts.

“Nevada is a very important state,” Garber said, “and we don’t underestimate the number of visitors who come into the market and might want to play on laptops or mobile devices.”

The company’s goal is to offer customers incentives to play online, such as seats at the live tournament World Series of Poker, hotel rooms at one of Caesars’ 10 Strip-area resorts, or free meals at hundreds of restaurants.

“We are able to benefit from the thousands of rooms we have in Las Vegas and Nevada,” Garber said.

New Jersey offers a potentially more lucrative market.

Atlantic City’s 12 casinos will be allowed to offer table games and slots on the Internet, along with poker, and the state’s proximity to East Coast population centers open the market to customers in New York City and Philadelphia.

Garber said Caesars Interactive wants to offer a World Series of Poker website, along with a Caesars-branded website with full casino games.

“New Jersey is a large state with huge pass-through traffic,” Garber said. “We are hopeful when you combine the WSOP and Caesars brands it will resonate with the marketplace”

Garber, who was CEO of online gaming giant PartyGaming before joining Caesars, said Internet gaming continues to gain in popularity.

“Online ‘blank’ is growing, whatever you put into the blank,” Garber said. “Online shopping, online commerce, online stock trading, online social games; real money online gaming is growing and that is going to be a fact over the next decade.”

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

 

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