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September 17, 2014

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New Jersey OKs Wynn for online gambling deal with Caesars

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Justin M. Bowen

Steve Wynn meets with the media in a villa at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Updated Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 | 2:59 p.m.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — In the decades since he left Atlantic City for the more prosperous sands of Las Vegas, casino mogul Steve Wynn has repeatedly considered a return here, only to decide against it.

This may be another one of those instances.

New Jersey gambling regulators have approved Wynn to offer an Internet gambling site in the state where he once ruled the roost. But a Wynn spokesman said plans by Wynn Interactive to offer online gambling in New Jersey are on hold as it studies the fledgling market.

In actions taken late last month but made public on Monday, the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement granted authority to Wynn Interactive to conduct Internet gambling with partner Caesars Interactive. The division also granted a request by Wynn and Caesars Interactive to conduct Internet gambling operations with the All American Poker Network and 888 Atlantic Limited, an affiliate of a Gibraltar-based online betting firm.

The approval of so-called transactional waivers for Wynn enables the company to offer Internet gambling with Caesars Interactive, which has two of New Jersey's Internet gambling permits.

"We are allowing them to use one of our permits," said Seth Palansky, a spokesman for Caesars Interactive. "I'm not aware of if they are going live, or when."

Not any time soon, says Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver. He cited an interview Wynn gave to Las Vegas journalist Jon Ralston over the weekend in which Wynn said Internet gambling "is not a good entrepreneurial opportunity."

But in the same interview, Wynn held out the possibility he could change his mind.

On Monday, Weaver said Wynn is not rushing to go online in New Jersey.

"As Mr. Wynn said this weekend, online gaming does not appear to be a good entrepreneurial opportunity," Weaver told The Associated Press. "Consequently, our plans are on hold until we understand the business opportunity."

Caesars Interactive currently operates six gambling websites, including the 888 and WSOP sites.

Wynn, who once owned Atlantic City's original Golden Nugget casino, has flirted repeatedly with a return to Atlantic City. Within a few years of opening the Golden Nugget in 1980, it was the top-earning casino in Atlantic City.

He later sold it and returned to the Las Vegas market. His former casino here was most recently known as the Atlantic Club. It closed on Jan. 13, having been bought in a bankruptcy sale by Tropicana Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment and dismantled.

There are currently 15 Internet gambling sites in New Jersey. Casinos licensed to operate the sites are the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa; Caesars Atlantic City and Bally's Atlantic City; the Golden Nugget Atlantic City; the Tropicana Casino and Resort; Trump Plaza Hotel Casino and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

Resorts Casino Hotel also has an Internet permit, but is not currently offering online gambling. Its partner for an online venture, PokerStars, has been suspended from Internet gambling activities in New Jersey for up to two years. The state cited an unresolved federal indictment against PokerStars' company founder Isai Scheinberg.

Internet gambling began in New Jersey in late November. Through the end of December, it took in nearly $8.4 million. January's revenue figures will be released by the state next week.

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