Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 | 2 a.m.
A Las Vegas casino has taken the foray into online poker for the first time.
South Point launched a free-play online poker site, SouthPointPoker.com, earlier this month and Monday opened it to the general public. It was previously only available to members of the casino’s players club.
“People talk about us being old school, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t on the forefront of technology either,” said Tom Mikovits, a South Point spokesman. “We still have the old school feeling in the casino, but we are looking ahead with this.”
South Point is specifically looking ahead to a day when online poker is regulated in the United States. Although the Justice Department shut down Americans’ access to the largest online poker sites earlier this year, some lawmakers have made efforts to get the game legalized.
South Point officials are hopeful it could happen as early as next year and wanted to be in position to offer real-money poker on the Internet when the day comes. Having existing software could help South Point with the transition. A couple other notable factors could also prove beneficial.
“The obvious reason is you would want people on your site already playing so we are hoping to get that with the free site,” Mikovits said. “We wanted them to get comfortable with an aesthetically-pleasing, good-looking site that’s easy to play on.”
South Point owner Michael Gaughan was the first casino operator to speak out in favor of legalizing online poker. The site is a testament to that.
“SouthPointPoker.com proves Nevada is at the forefront of the regulated gaming market,” Gaughan said in a press release. “It’s a great accomplishment and honor to offer the first Nevada-licensed, land based casino property.”
South Point is offering one seat per week into the $10,000 buy-in 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event through the site. SouthPointPoker.com will host nine tournaments every week and the winners will meet at the South Point, with their accommodations paid for, to play a final table for the entry.
The South Point determined the promotion was the best way to attract players to a free-money site.
“It’s the biggest event in poker and we know that,” Mikovits said. “Michael was very smart in creating that prize and I believe the word will spread. There’s no better way to get your name out there than to have a seat for the Main Event.”
Mikovits reported a solid response so far. South Point opened the site to its cardholders first so they could provide feedback and offer suggestions.
Now it’s time to go a step further. Although Mikovits said South Point had no specific expectations for the numbers of players, it only expects steady increases beginning this week.
“I know it’s not new to the poker-playing world, but this is a new field for us and it’s the first casino-branded site,” Mikovits said. “We haven’t done much advertising or marketing for it yet, but I think when we start getting the word out, the numbers will go up.”