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Caesars plans to launch online poker this summer in Nevada

Poker chips are seen on a table in London September 28, 2012 in this file photo. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Poker chips are seen on a table in London September 28, 2012 in this file photo. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Caesars Entertainment Group said it plans to go live this summer with an online poker site in Nevada, the only U.S. state so far to offer legal Internet gambling, and will promote the nascent service to thousands of poker players at its World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament in Las Vegas starting May 29.

Caesars is among several gaming companies preparing to go live with online sites in the United States which could eventually generate billions of dollars in revenue for the casino industry and local governments.

"We anticipate our arrival to be sometime this summer," Seth Palansky, a spokesman for Caesars Interactive, told Reuters, adding the online service will operate under the World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand name.

In 2012, total entries for all WSOP tournament offerings eclipsed 230,000. This year the event will run from May 29 through July 15. Parts of it will be televised by Walt Disney's ESPN.

Nevada, home to the Las Vegas strip, on April 30 became the first state where residents could legally play poker online for money when Station Casinos launched UltimatePoker.com.

Caesar's Nevada poker website will operate using technology provided by 888 Holdings Plc. The two companies already operate World Series of Poker websites in the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

Internet betting was banned in the United States by Congress in 2006, but tax-hungry states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are now relaxing rules.

Like Ultimatepoker.com, Caesars' site will only allow betting by players located within Nevada's state borders.

New Jersey is months away from going live with Internet wagering. Last week it released a draft of its regulations.

Several other states are considering such legislation.

Industry executives have speculated Caesars will seek to capitalize on the popularity of the WSOP and launch its online service in Nevada during the tournament. Palansky would not elaborate on launch dates.

Tobin Prior, chief executive of UltimatePoker.com's parent company Ultimate Gaming, said the first live online poker Web site in Nevada has dealt over 1.5 million poker hands since launching on April 30, and is prepared for a more crowded Nevada online market.

"It's going to become very competitive in a short space of time. There will be more offerings in the market place," he told Reuters, adding that he does not expect players to drop his service for Caesars' or others.

"History from what we understand is that people play at more than one site and have more than one account," he said.

(Reporting By Susan Zeidler; editing by Andrew Hay)

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