Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | 1:51 p.m.
The owners behind Station Casinos in Las Vegas are launching a free online gaming site this week, beginning with a poker game the developer calls the most authentic experience in cyberspace.
Fertitta Interactive today announced it would launch Ultimate Poker as the first step in preparing to move between social games, such as those on Facebook, and taking cash bets as the company applies for licenses in states that eventually legalize online gambling.
Ultimate Poker will launch Friday on Facebook as a free social game that Fertitta hopes will drive an eventual market for real money games.
Within weeks, the company will begin marketing its Ultimate Gaming brand through Ultimate Fighting Championship broadcasts, owned by Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta.
UFC fights have the potential to reach 1 billion homes in 148 countries, with a predominantly male audience that is also drawn to online gaming, developers said during a news conference.
“It is almost the same demographic as online poker,” said Tom Breitling, chairman of Fertitta Interactive.
Fertitta will control all of the content of its products, which also include a bingo game. All the games are being developed by CyberArts, a company Fertitta Interactive bought last year.
Chris Derossi, who oversaw development of the Macintosh 7.01 operating system for Apple and founded CyberArts, said the Ultimate Poker game will be more familiar to players of the real card game than other online versions.
“We are trying to provide an authentic experience for people who care about the game,” Derossi said. “As we move from the social side of gaming to a real money space, we will have serious players.”
Tobin Prior, chief executive of Ultimate Gaming, said the new brand will use the UFC’s knowledge of building social networks — UFC has a community of 8 million on Facebook and 2.4 million Twitter followers — in developing games that reach across online platforms. Ultimate Gaming plans to launch a mobile application later this year.
“We’re also going to utilize Station Casinos’ customer relationship model, which is very important in any online enterprise,” Prior said. “You need people to return to your product.”
Fertitta Interactive is developing its social games with an eye toward offering the same brands as they pursue government regulatory approval. “We’ll be ready to go from Day 1,” Breitling said.
“We view this as a global opportunity,” Breitling said. “When looking at online gaming, it’s going to be a domino effect with Nevada leading the way.”