Saturday, April 21, 2007

Electronic Poker Tables at the WSOP?

Well, we hope not, but that doesn't mean that Harrah's, owners of the World Series of Poker, and PokerTek, a leading manufactuer of electrnic, 'dealerless' tables, couldn't find ground in common. Harrah's and PokerTek announced this week an agreement which will ultimately bring PokerTek's PokerPro-branded tables into the sphere of Harrah's casinos. And that's a big deal for PokerTek, which has been beset by legal difficulties lately and needed a spot of good news.

PokerTek's deal with Harrah's allows the firm's tables to be placed in Harrah's casinos across the country, whenever regulatory approval is achieved. That stuff is governed by each state, and each state has its own timetable for regulatory approval, so if you're looking to play on a PokerPro table at a Harrah's property near you, it's a crapshoot as to exactly when they'll appear. Harrah's currently maintains 50 casinos in 13 states, with something like 450 live-dealer poker tables scattered across the Harrah's universe.

Not all Harrah's properties offer live poker, and so this means that poker might make its debut at those locations in the form of electronic tables. PokerTek also locked up the deal to do a 'World Series of Poker'-branded table... and also picked up the rights to market these tables to non-Harrah's locations. You probably won't see a lot of these new WSOP tables at the Wynn or the MGM Grand, but as Harrah's strengthens its network of WSOP tie-ins with Indian casinos and similar outlets, the reach of these new tables will enter areas where Harrah's itself has no presence.

Further, PokerTek manufacturers two versions of its PokerPro table. One version is a full, 10-seat game, while the other is a two-seater, designed to fill small spaces. Depending on the venue, these machines miight see more distribution than one would otherwise assume.

Interesting times for PokerTek. A full-blown Harrah's deal probably represents a comparable opportunity as that represented by sum total of tables they've placed in other locations to date. In a market niche where placement of a few dozen tables still represents a sweeping change for the business, it's a very big deal indeed.

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