Casino Giants Place Their Bets On U.S. Online Gaming Boom

Investor's Business Daily

Caesars Entertainment (CZR) and 11 other Atlantic City casinos have begun the process of getting Internet gaming permits ahead of a Sunday deadline set by New Jersey regulators.

They're part of a rush to get in on the ground floor as online gambling gets ready to go mainstream nationwide.

New Jersey will in November be the third state to launch statewide online poker and other gaming, after Nevada and Delaware.

The new gaming outlet became possible when the federal government did an about-face in December 2011. After adamantly opposing online gambling for years, the government said states could issue licenses, but must limit gambling to residents who live within that state.

Las Vegas casinos Las Vegas Sands (LVS), the world's largest casino resort operator, MGM Resorts International (MGM) and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) are expected to jump into online gambling.

Sands, MGM and Wynn all have multibillion-dollar hotel casino complexes in Macau and rely on it for the bulk of their growth.

Former Portuguese colony Macau, on China's southern coast across the straits from Hong Kong, is the world's top gambling destination and fastest-growing.

Caesars, which missed the boat to Macau, hopes to rake in the chips online. Analysts project the online gambling revenue opportunity in New Jersey alone at $500 million to $1 billion annually.

Analysts speculate online companies such as leading social network Facebook (FB), which offers non-money games now, might join the party. Facebook rose 0.5% Wednesday.

Caesars fell 1.2% Wednesday in stock market trading.

Sands was unchanged, MGM Resorts rose 0.4% and Wynn Resorts edged down fractionally.

Caesars has focused mainly on its U.S. properties and is one of the biggest casino operators in Atlantic City. It also has resorts in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities, as well as in Cairo, London and Emerald, South Africa.

It was one of the first to file for a permit earlier this year.

Caesars CEO Gary Loveman told reporters on a May earnings calls, "We're pursuing emerging opportunities, including real-money online gaming in the United States and international expansion.

"The successful launch of real-money online gaming in Nevada and New Jersey could be a model for other states considering the legalization of online gaming," Loveman added.

Like other casinos, Caesars is teaming with an established online gaming company. The four Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars paired with European online gaming operator 888 Holdings.

The Trump Taj Mahal casino signed an agreement with Las Vegas-based Ultimate Gaming to bring online gambling to New Jersey. In April, Ultimate Gaming launched online poker in Nevada.

And Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino, jointly owned by an MGM divestiture trust and Boyd Gaming (BYD), teamed with British territory Gibraltar-based Bwin.Party. Boyd fell 0.5% Wednesday.

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