While MGM Mirage is the first major U.S. gaming company to obtain a license for an online casino, it will be the last of the three licensees of the Isle of Man to launch its site.
“We’re hopeful we’ll have it up and running within a year,” Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM Mirage, told RGT Online Friday.
The Isle of Man, a self-governing, dependent territory of the British Crown, is the world’s newest jurisdiction to license and regulate online casinos. It announced its first three licensees Thursday: MGM Mirage, Sun International Hotels and Littlewoods Leisure.
Littlewoods Leisure, a veteran of the British gaming industry that operates two online sports books, is likely to be the first licensee to open an Internet casino based in the Isle of Man. The company said it expects to launch Littlewoodscasino.com at the end of October.
Sun will probably be second. It plans to open its Atlantis online casino in the fourth quarter. The site will be named for Sun’s flagship resort, Atlantis, which is on Paradise Island in The Bahamas.
One of the tasks facing MGM Mirage is a decision on the site’s software. Littlewoods Leisure is using CryptoLogic for its software, and Sun is expected to use Boss Media, whose software is used on a beta site that Sun recently launched.
“We’re in the midst of talking with many vendors,” Feldman said. “We’re also taking a look at the possibility of how much of this we’ll develop ourselves, as we have a rather extensive staff of wonderful IT experts.”
MGM Mirage has play-for-fun casino games on the Web sites of six of its casinos, including Bellagio and MGM Grand. Software for these games was developed by WagerWorks, which was spun off from Silicon Gaming. Silicon Gaming had a reputation for developing technologically advanced real-world slot machines, but was unsuccessful financially and was purchased by International Game Technology in March.
“I don’t know to what extent WagerWorks is participating in the for-cash site,” Feldman said. It’s not clear whether WagerWorks has capabilities for the back end, the e-cash transactions, of a real-money gaming site.
One issue that MGM Mirage has to worry about, unlike Sun and Littlewoods Leisure, is the wariness of U.S. state regulators towards online gaming. MGM Mirage has billions of dollars invested in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan, and is developing projects in New Jersey. It can’t afford to risk its gaming licenses in those states.
Nevada regulators have already said, in effect, that if any of its licensees get involved in online gaming, they better not accept bets from U.S. residents or from minors.
MGM Mirage is convinced that it can handle the matter of “border control” – the ability to restrict access from jurisdictions where online gaming is illegal.
“We think that between a combination of technology and policy, we should be able to deal with it,” Feldman said. “There are three issues that need to be managed carefully: Jurisdictional control, or border control, is one; prevention of underage persons from using the site is two; and all of the issues surrounding problem gambling, compulsive gambling, compulsive behavior would be the third.
“In all three cases we’re confident, based on meetings that we’ve had thus far, that a mixture of proper application of technology implemented with well thought-out policies can provide very appropriate means of addressing those three issues.”
The company has been careful, Feldman said, to keep its regulators informed about what it was doing in the Isle of Man. “We also have brought any of their concerns to the fore in our discussions with the folks in the Isle of Man in terms of what the regulatory scheme might look like,” he said.
“The biggest issues that the regulators have identified, first and foremost, was that there would be true probity in licensing, as opposed to simply writing a check to get a license. Secondly, that there be a requirement for border control, and thirdly, that there was an ongoing regulatory scheme that was real and had teeth and was properly staffed and financially supported by government. Isle of Man has shown that it is comporting with all of those.”
The MGM Mirage best online casino singapore site will not accept wagers from the U.S. or Canada, Feldman said, “nor anywhere else where it’s not clearly legal to do so.”
He said he didn’t know if the company would use its Internet gaming site to drive traffic to its land-based casinos.
“The marketing issues are still a bit out in front of us,” he said. “Right now we’re dealing more with the regulatory and technology issues. We’ll get to the marketing in the next few months.”
The site will be run by a subsidiary that reports to William J. Hornbuckle, president of MGM Grand Las Vegas.
MGM Mirage has been the most eager of the major U.S. gaming companies to do business online. One of its executives led the successful lobbying last spring to get the Nevada legislature to authorize the state’s regulators to license and regulate interactive gaming.
And the company is believed to have pushed the American Gaming Association, the industry’s powerful trade group, to drop its historic support of Congressional efforts to ban Internet gaming.
In a press release Thursday, chief executive Terry Lanni said MGM Mirage “is actively working with the American Gaming Association to develop a code of conduct for Internet gaming sites.”