Gaming regulators grant interactive licenses to three companies

Three companies were granted interactive gaming licenses by the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday as the lineup for the state’s potential online poker market grew more crowded.

Commissioners licensed Boyd Gaming Corp. the Golden Nugget ownership and Fertitta Interactive – which includes the owners of Station Casinos and operators of Ultimate Fighting Championship – to launch online poker websites as soon as the technology is approved.

The website can be accessed only by people age 21 and older playing on computers or mobile devices within Nevada.

Boyd Gaming Executive Vice President Bob Boughner told gaming commissioners the company believes online poker in Nevada will be a $180 million a year business and would damage the state’s live poker business.

“The total revenues in the state from poker will be twice what they are today with online poker,” Boughner said.

The company has an agreement with bwin.party to operate online poker and the website can’t be launched until the European partner is licensed, which may not happen until early 2013.

Also, Fertitta Interactive is hoping to launch its for-pay Ultimate Gaming brand as soon as its technology, which the company owns through its purchase last year of Cyber Arts Licensing, is approved.

Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling told the panel the company’s partnership with UFC and Station Casinos creates a huge pool of online poker players.

The commission had few questions for Golden Nugget representatives.

“You benefit by being the third one we’ve seen today,” commission Chairman Pete Bernhard said.

The downtown casino has a partnership agreement with Bally Technologies, with the slot machine manufacturer operating the website and the Golden Nugget providing the branding.

“We’re set up to participate in the revenues when there is revenues to participate in,” said attorney Kate Lowenhar-Fisher of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, who was representing the Golden Nugget.

The commission also approved the takeover of the LVH by Navegante Gaming at the end of the month. The LVH, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton is expected to be sold at foreclosure to its lenders.

Navegante, which is controlled by longtime gaming executive Larry Woolf, would take over operations of both the casino and the 3,000-room hotel Nov. 1 if the foreclosure sale is completed.

Goldman Sachs Mortgage would own 70 percent of the LVH and Gramercy Capital Corp. would own the other 30 percent.

Woolf told the commission the hotel’s more than 2,200 employees would be retained and he expects to hire additional sales and marketing professionals to help boost the property’s room occupancy.

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