Harrah’s Now Offering Free Online Poker to U.S. Residents
Site Will Award WSOP Seats and Las Vegas Trips
Technically, the free WSOP online poker site has been open for Americans for over a month now. But just recently, Harrah’s has started a PR barrage to introduce its newest project to the world.
A week ago, Harrah’s advertised its new venture in USA Today, and now the company will promote its new online poker software on TV with commercials during the WSOP broadcasts on ESPN.
It’s official — Harrah’s and the World Series of Poker are in the American online poker market.
But for now, no money is exchanging hands.
The completely free-to-use website allows U.S. residents to merely compete for play chips at the moment, but WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky said significant prizes, like a seat into the 2011 World Series of Poker or exclusive trips to Harrah’s properties in Las Vegas, will be unveiled in the near future.
“This was the next logical step for us,” said Palansky. “We’ve seen a very good response, with a lot of folks downloading the game.”
Harrah’s is running the site with its gaming partner Dragonfish, which also runs its real-money online poker operations in the UK.
Last week, the passage of Rep. Barney Frank’s poker bill out of the House Financial Services committee stirred up buzz that a completely open and regulated U.S. market may not be all that far away, and Harrah’s recent actions might indicate that they are gearing up for such a scenario. But Palansky says that’s not the focus right now.
“We watch these things closely, but it doesn’t affect how we operate on a day-to-day basis,” said Palansky. “We have enough opportunities to seize and deal with currently that we don’t have to worry what may or may not happen.”
Although Frank’s bill cleared its initial committee, it remains a long-shot to become law in this legislative session.
The WSOP also launched a poker application for social networking sites on July 27, according to Palansky.
“We’ve had video games in the past. We’ve had a very successful WSOP mobile game that’s in the market now, and has done really well. Now, you can play through Facebook,” said Palansky. “This and [the play-money poker software on wsop.com] both basically have the same intent — a brand-building World Series of Poker official online game.”
Harrah’s signed a multi-year contract with 888 Holdings Plc, which runs Dragonfish, to provide online gaming services, support, and payment software in September 2009.
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