A Las Vegas company that launched the first legal online poker site in the United States this year will partner with Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort to bring Internet gambling to New Jersey.
Ultimate Gaming's alliance with the Taj Mahal comes as some Atlantic City casino operators race to line up Web-based partnerships to capitalize on the state's new Internet gambling law. Other casino companies appear to be taking their time in making formal announcements about their partners or have not yet worked out their agreements.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement had given Atlantic City's 12 casinos until Monday to submit plans for Internet partnerships. The division said all of the casinos notified the agency they have entered into partnerships or are in the process of negotiating deals. However, the division is leaving it to the casinos to make announcements about their partners.
The next step is for Web companies to file formal applications for New Jersey Internet licenses by July 29. The plan is for the division to complete its regulatory review of the partnerships in time for the scheduled Nov. 26 launch of Internet gambling, agency spokeswoman Lisa Spengler said.
"For applicants that meet this filing deadline, the division will be in a position to determine if they can commence Internet gaming operations by the go-live date," Spengler said. "The division cannot guarantee that entities failing to meet this filing deadline will be authorized to engage in Internet gaming by the go-live date, but will continue to consider proposals as received."
Ultimate Gaming and the Taj Mahal were the only companies to make a formal announcement Monday. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Caesars Entertainment previously announced their Internet gambling partners.
The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Resorts Casino Hotel, Revel Casino-Hotel and Tropicana Casino and Resort all declined to comment Monday about possible Internet partners. Other casinos did not respond to requests for comment.
Atlantic Club's would-be partner for Internet gambling is now its enemy. PokerStars, the world's largest online poker website, had plans to buy the Atlantic Club for $15 million before the deal imploded and both sides became embroiled in a court battle. Atlantic Club contends it had every right to end the sale after PokerStars missed a deadline to secure regulatory approvals. PokerStars' parent company, the Rational Group, is asking a New Jersey appeals court to rule the sale valid.
Michael Frawley, Atlantic Club's chief operating officer, did not announce any new partners for Atlantic Club to replace PokerStars, but did issue a statement Monday reaffirming the casino's intention to offer Internet gambling.
"The Atlantic Club remains committed to the aggressive pursuit of the opportunities presented by online gaming," Frawley said.
While some of the Internet partners for Atlantic City's casinos remain unclear, Trump Taj Mahal, Borgata and Caesars Entertainment appear to have found strong allies.
Previously, Borgata announced it is teaming with Gibraltar-based Bwin.party, one of the online gambling giants in Europe. Foreign companies are allowed to seek Internet licenses under New Jersey's regulations. The Borgata-Bwin.party partnership combines a European powerhouse with Atlantic City's top-grossing casino.
Caesars Entertainment Corp., the world's largest casino company, previously announced it is partnering with 888 Holdings for Internet gambling at the Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City. Based in Gibraltar, 888 Holdings operates high-profile gambling websites in Europe.
Trump Taj Mahal's new partner, Ultimate Gaming, is controlled by Station Casinos, one of Nevada's best-known casino outfits.
"We are excited to be entering into an agreement with Trump Taj Mahal Associates to bring online gaming to New Jersey," said Tom Breitling , chairman of Ultimate Gaming. "This represents a huge step forward in our desire to offer Americans across the nation the opportunity to enjoy safe and regulated online games."
Ultimate Gaming's UltimatePoker.com brand went live on April 30 for online wagering in Nevada. The site was the first legal online poker operation in the United States.
Under the terms of the Taj Mahal agreement, Ultimate Gaming will supply a wide range of online casino games and poker using its proprietary technology platform. Ultimate Gaming is also the exclusive online gambling partner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"Ultimate Gaming is a pioneer in the online gaming space and can provide a turnkey solution for our online gaming needs in New Jersey," Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer Bob Griffin said in a statement.
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Taj Mahal's sister property, is not involved in the Ultimate Gaming partnership, Ultimate Gaming representative David Kass said.
"It is my understanding that Trump Plaza was working on a separate deal that fell through some months ago," Kass said. "UltimaAte Gaming's relationship is only with Taj Mahal."
Trump Entertainment spokesman Brian Cahill did not return messages seeking comment about Trump Plaza's plans.
New Jersey plans to offer Internet gambling on Atlantic City slot machines and table games by late this year. Although Nov. 26 is the target day, the Division of Gaming Enforcement will announce the formal "go-live" date at least 45 days prior to commencement, the agency said.
Andrew Zarnett , a casino analyst for Deutsche Bank, said most casino operators have told him they are optimistic everything will be in place for a November start, but he remains "comfortably skeptical."
"In our view, targeting a November kick-off is too aggressive," Zarnett said in a report to investors.
He believes that the process will take longer because "unforeseen issues are bound to be unearthed."
New Jersey will initially allow online wagering on computers and mobile devices located only within its borders, although multistate Internet agreements may be explored later. Gamblers will set up accounts to play on casino websites. New Jersey regulators say there will be safeguards to prevent cheating and underage gambling.
Internet betting represents the biggest expansion of gambling in Atlantic City since the land-based casinos began operating in 1978. Internet gambling is expected to provide a huge boost for the casinos, with revenue estimates ranging anywhere from $200 million to $2 billion annually.
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