arrah’s said that the new interactive unit will look to grow the World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand internationally, beginning with launch of online poker under the WSOP brand in regulated European markets such as the United Kingdom and Italy.
HIE will also seek to establish a play-for-free online presence in markets such as the United States where real-money gambling is currently prohibited, in order to establish an online customer base for the company prior to any market liberalisation. It is expected that HIE will link the free-play sites to its ‘Total Rewards’ customer loyalty programme in order to boost the company’s traditional offline business through special rewards and promotions.
"As the world's largest gaming company, Harrah's is taking a proactive approach toward international and interactive expansion," said Harrah's Entertainment Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Gary Loveman. "It is important we position ourselves to explore new markets as well as new technologies with our best in class brands."
Heading the new interactive unit will be Mitch Garber, the former PartyGaming CEO who is credited with steering the company back to growth after its forced departure from the U.S. market following enactment of the UIGEA. Garber will be joined by Jeffrey Pollack, the serving commissioner of the WSOP, who alongside retaining that role will also serve as President of HIE.
The announcement from Harrah’s came ahead of Tuesday’s launch of the 2009 World Series of Poker at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. Now in its 40th year, the 2009 WSOP will culminate in the World Championship No-Limit Texas Hold'em final table, November 7-10 2009.