he Las Vegas-based company's subsidiary, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, said it had come to terms with Microgame, which operates the largest online poker network in the newly regulated Italian market. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. "There is plenty of upside to this deal if we execute it properly," Seth Palansky, a spokesman with Caesars Interactive, said this week.
The European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, opened the Italian online gambling market to offshore firms after a ruling in May. Before Italy changed its law, the Italian Olympic Committee and the National Horse Breeders Enhancement Society had the exclusive right to organize sports betting, including online gambling.
"This agreement is a logical step in our European and global expansion strategy to partner with leading local companies as we look to expand the WSOP brand," said Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber. Garber is former chief executive officer of PartyGaming, an online gambling site founded in 1997.
Microgame's People's Poker, a network of over 120 sites, will be co-branded using the WSOP brand and will serve as the online hub for poker in the Italian market.
As part of the agreement, Microgame become the exclusive satellite provider in Italy of WSOP events, a spokesman said. Microgame will also act as the exclusive pre-registration booking office for Italian players for the WSOP even in Las Vegas.
The company, formerly Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, already has agreements to brand three gaming websites in the United Kingdom. Palansky said the company's British properties are WSOP.com, caesarscasino.com and caesarsbingo.com. "We do expect at least one more European Union market next year," he said. "Our mind set has been to look at expansion (possibilities) market by market."
Palansky said Nevada gaming regulators were aware of the company's European partnerships. The company's latest expansion comes less than a month after a bill to legalize online poker in the U.S. introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, failed to be voted on in the Senate.
Palansky declined to discuss Reid's bill or online gaming regulations. The Italian online poker market that Caesars has entered is considered to be one of the biggest and most lucrative in the world, according the European Commission.