IGT, Bally Win Nevada’s First Online Casino Licenses

The Nevada Gaming Commission issued its first two licenses for online betting, bringing the U.S. state with the most casino revenue a step closer to real wagering on poker from home.

International Game Technology (IGT), based in Reno, Nevada, and Las Vegas-based Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI) received approvals yesterday, according to Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The approvals pave the way for the U.S. casino industry to expand into online gambling, a market that may reach $13.4 billion in five years, the estimate of researcher H2 Gambling Capital. Nevada last year was the first state to pass a statute authorizing Internet gambling. Two dozen companies have sought licenses, including Caesars Entertainment Corp. (CZR) and MGM Resorts International (MGM), the largest operators of U.S. casinos.

Online poker betting may start late this year or early in 2013, Gaming Control Board ChairmanMark Lipparellisaid in a telephone interview.

IGT and Bally must get their technology vetted by a state-approved testing lab, Lipparelli said. Then they can start to offer service to casinos, which also must win approval.

``The dominos are starting to fall,'' Lipparelli said.

Online gambling accounted for $32.8 billion in revenue worldwide last year, the largest contributors being Japan, the U.K. and Germany, according to Simon Holliday, an H2 Gambling director.

The U.S. Justice Department issued an opinion last year clearing the way for online gambling within state borders, and 10 states have authorized or are considering some form of interactive betting, according to a report from the investment firm Macquarie Capital.

Casino Partners

Bally and IGT, both slot-machine manufacturers, said they intend to offer online gambling technology to other licensed operators and not compete directly with casinos for customers.

``We look forward to Bally expanding its leadership role in this exciting new arena of online gaming,'' Chief Executive Officer Richard Haddrill said in a statement.

``This license, backed by our decade of interactive experience, will allow us to enable our casino partners with a way to provide wager-based online poker to their players,'' said Robert Melendres, vice president of emerging businesses at IGT.

Bally lost 2.2 percent to $46.44 in New York yesterday and has added 17 percent this year. IGT dipped 0.1 percent to $14.92 and has declined 13 pecent so far in 2012.

Separately, London-based William Hill Plc (WMH), which takes bets online and in betting parlors in the U.K., got a traditional license in Nevada today after purchasing three businesses that collect sports bets there in the past year.

The company is seeking an online license, CEO Ralph Topping said in a telephone interview.

“Our view was, you’re better off having a presence in Nevada,” Topping said. “Most people say it’s the platinum process you have to go through. You’re ready for anything that happens elsewhere in the U.S.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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