European online gaming giant bwin.party digital entertainment plc is moving forward with licensing in Nevada to operate Internet poker websites with MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming Corporation, despite comments to the contrary from the company's chief executive, an attorney said.
Gilbraltar-based Bwin.party is still awaiting approval from state gaming regulators after filing its application more than a year ago.
In interviews with online gaming publications last month, Bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger said the company chose "not to operate in Nevada" and would focus its attention on New Jersey, which enacted Internet gaming laws earlier this year.
Las Vegas gaming attorney Frank Schreck, who represents Bwin.party, said the New Jersey licensing process is being expedited time period by the state. The online company wants to be in the first wave of the application process.
"New Jersey is the focus because there is a definite time table," Schreck said. "The company is still moving forward in Nevada."
Teufelberger's comments were made after Bwin.party announced 2012 earnings had declined 17 percent. The company also educed its profit estimates for 2013.
Teufelberger told media outlets he believes Bwin.party could split New Jersey's potential online gaming market with Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns four of the 12 casinos in Atlantic City and is planning to launch a World Series of Poker branded website in New Jersey.
Bwin.party would enter the market through its partnership with Boyd Gaming, the operator and 50 percent owner of the market-leading Borgata.
In April, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith said the Borgata brand would allow the company "to capture a substantial share of this lucrative market."
Operation of New Jersey's online gaming websites is limited to the owners of Atlantic City's casinos. Like Nevada, New Jersey's gaming regulations only allow wagers to take place on computers and mobile devices located only within New Jersey's borders.
Because of the state's proximity to East Coast population centers, such as New York City and Philadelphia, and New Jersey's population of 8.1 million, analysts speculate the market could be substantial.
Smith said Boyd wanted to be one of the first casinos to launch online gaming in New Jersey. Smith also said Boyd Gaming was "evaluating the opportunity" to offer online poker in Nevada.
In 2011, MGM Resorts, Boyd and Bwin.party announced a partnership to create a Nevada-based online gaming company to offer Internet poker. Bwin.party would own 65 percent of the business, MGM Resorts would have 25 percent and Boyd would have the remaining 10 percent.
"We're committed to the partnership and we're evaluating the best way to enter the market," said MGM Resorts spokesman Gordon Absher.
MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming have both been licensed by state gaming regulators to operate online poker in Nevada. Officials from both companies said they would not launch a website until Bwin.party was licensed.
"(We) are determining the best way to enter what is shaping up to be a robust yet crowded market," Smith said in April about Nevada.
State gaming regulators have approved nearly two dozen casino operators and technology providers for interactive gaming licenses. However, just one website, Station Casinos-controled Ultimate Poker, has been approved to operate and launched on April 30.
Bwin.party was formed in 2011 through the merger of Bwin International and Party Gaming, which created the world's largest online poker company.
PartyGaming operated online poker in the U.S. before the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act became law in 2006. The company ceased its U.S. operations on the same day.
Three years later, PartyGaming signed a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and paid a $105 million fine. The company was cleared from ever being prosecuted for its pre-2006 online gaming operations.
According to an article on CalvinAyre.com, Teufelberger said the Nevada licensing application "was intended to benefit from federal online poker laws."
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