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PLANS TO FORM NEVADA - NEW JERSEY POKER PLAYER POOL?
The release Tuesday of MGM's second quarter results was notable for both improvements in performance in reducing losses, but also for comments made on the group's internet poker ambitions.
CEO Jim Murren told the Reuters news agency that MGM Resorts International is working with Nevada officials on a project that could lead to New Jersey and Nevada combining into one online poker market, establishing better player liquidity for both states.
"I think it's likely that in 2014 we'll see a compact between New Jersey and Nevada. We've really been focusing on Nevada's ability to compact with other states, create more liquidity," Murren said in an interview following the company's second-quarter earnings call.
The relatively small size of Nevadas online poker market, and the consequent risk that it may become saturated by too many operators, is a concern previously voiced by Murren and others.
Murren's opinion is shared by A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, who told Reuters:
"Nevada is striving to do what it can in regards to compacts. We do not jump into the fire without having done a lot of cautious research and study into the particulars of such agreements, and that phase is nearing completion," he said.
David Rebuck, who heads up the New Jersey regulator, seemed to support the idea of shared player liquidity, saying that New Jersey anticipates allowing for future growth and development in online gaming through compacts with like-minded states.
MGM's Murren told analysts on a call after the earnings announcement that the company has dedicated a team to its online efforts.
"We have a big team that is preparing us on a state-by-state basis and on the states that we believe will be the most productive for us. And we've been working with the state of Nevada on their efforts to compact with other states," he revealed.
"I think at least 40 of the 50 states are in some stage of debating this internally. The ones most visible are New Jersey, New York State, Illinois and California," he added.
"We're providing all the support they ask of us."
Reuters reports that analysts project Nevada's online gambling market will yield $50 million to $250 million in annual revenues. The larger and more populated New Jersey is pegged to generate $500 million to $1 billion yearly.
MGM and Boyd Gaming have partnered with European online gambling group Bwin.Party to provide software and other services to their online gaming efforts across the U.S., including in both New Jersey and Nevada.
Murren's earlier hopes for a federal online poker-only solution across the United States appears to have cooled a little; during his interview he admitted that whilst a federal regime remained his first prize, prospects for such an outcome were "very challenging".
He also conceded that rival Caesars Interactive Entertainment would be the next to launch intrastate online poker in Nevada, following in the footsteps of the Station Casino's Ultimate Poker operation, which was first to market over three months ago. But he added that MGM would be following Caesars.
MGM Resorts International posted a net loss of $93 million in Q2 2013, improving on the $145.5 million loss from the same period a year earlier.
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