Harrah's ventures into UK, via Web

Harrah's Entertainment and a London-based online gaming company Friday announced an agreement that will help the casino giant enter the United Kingdom's online casino market with its Caesars Casino and World Series of Poker brands.

888 Holdings will provide Harrah's with online poker and casino service, including payment and customer services.

Financial terms of the agreement were not available, although 888 Holdings described it as a "multimillion-dollar" deal.

Friday's announcement is the latest in a series of moves by Harrah's to position itself online abroad, and the company hopes, in the United States.

The company announced in May it had hired former online gaming executive Mitch Garber as chief executive officer of Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, a new subsidiary overseeing Harrah's efforts to expand its World Series of Poker brand online.

Garber was CEO of Gibraltar-based PartyGaming, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and owns the popular PartyCasino and PartyPoker Web sites.

Harrah's also has backed legislation that was introduced in Congress that would allow Americans to play online casino games for money.

The proposed Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009, which was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., would establish regulations to allow licensed gambling operators to accept wagers from inside the United States.

The bill was referred in June to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Companies were barred from operating Web-gaming services in the United States after Congress stopped credit card companies from collecting payments to online gambling sites in October 2006.

888 Holdings, along with other online gaming companies, pulled out of the United States then. Half the company's revenue came from U.S. clients, 888 said at the time.

888 Holdings' top executive said its deal with Harrah's could expand if the U.S. market opens up.

"It's an amazing deal if the U.S. market opens up to online gaming one day and it's a good deal even if it's Europe only," 888 Holdings CEO Gigi Levy told Reuters. "We have more big American deals in the pipeline for the (888)."

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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