The major US gambling group Harrah's Entertainment Inc set the Internet message boards alight as the week ended by announcing the establishment of a new subsidiary, Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, Inc. (HIE) to manage the global growth of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and explore a European interactive strategy.
And it confirmed rumours from earlier this year that Mitch Garber, an experienced lawyer and the former Party Gaming.com CEO, would head up the new division.
Harrah's Entertainment chairman, president and CEO Gary Loveman said: "As the world's largest gaming company, Harrah's is taking a proactive approach toward international and interactive expansion. It is important we position ourselves to explore new markets as well as new technologies with our best in class brands."
Harrah's has also appointed Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the World Series of Poker, as president of HIE. The connections of the two men with online and land poker immediately re-triggered speculation that a partnership between Harrah's and Party Gaming.com could be in the frame.
In addition to growing the World Series of Poker, HIE will explore the use of interactive gaming technologies to expand the reach of Harrah's brands globally, starting in Europe. With its Total Rewards customer-loyalty program, HIE will be deployed to develop new opportunities to strengthen and grow Harrah's customer base.
The World Series of Poker, now in its 40th year, will start its 2009 season shortly, and has experienced record growth in the last five years. Participants from 124 nations competed in last year's tournament, up from 24 just five years ago and entrants have gone from 13 036 to 58 720 during the same span. The WSOP expanded into Europe in 2007 with the creation of the World Series of Poker Europe held each fall in London.
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