Wynn Interactive Pulls New Jersey Online Gambling Application
Two years after Wynn Gaming’s online unit, Wynn Interactive, hedged its bets regarding US-based online gambling by filing a preliminary service-provider application in New Jersey, the company has reversed course and withdrawn that still-pending application.
According to various media reports, Wynn Interactive filed its withdrawal request back on September 2nd. A letter authored by Wynn’s corporate counsel and sent to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement read, in part, “[A]t this time, Wynn does not wish to proceed with its application. Therefore, kindly accept this correspondence as a formal request to withdraw such application.”
The New Jersey DGE responded quickly to Wynn’s request, authorizing termination of the original Wynn Interactive application just two days later, on September 4th. Wrote the DGE’s Director, David Rebuck:
“… [S]ubject to one condition, Wynn [will] be permitted to withdraw its application for initial licensure as a CSIE [Casino Service Industry Enterprise]; and the Director of the Division having considered his matter;
“It is ordered that the application of Wynn for initial licensure as a CSIE is withdrawn, subject to the condition that Wynn is financially responsible for the payment of any fees that remain due and owing to the Division.”
Several of today’s reports commenting on the Wynn Interactive withdrawal note that casino mogul Steve Wynn has in recent years been cool on both online gambling and on the New Jersey market in particular. Wynn owned the Golden Nugget Atlantic City back in the first years of legalized gambling in New Jersey, though he son sold the property and established a larger casino empire to the west, in Las Vegas and abroad.
Wynn also wasn’t quite as anti-online gambling as he and his company made it seem in an early-2014 interview with Jon Ralston’s “Ralston Reports.” Talking about online-identity and geo-location protocols, corporate spokesman Michael Weaver sounded the typical Luddite alarm, telling Ralston, “[T]he technology was impressive if you were a cyberguy. But it was bullshit.” Most people with knowledge of the industry, including governmental jurisdictions around the globe, would disagree with Weaver’s scoffing.
Nor has mogul Steve Wynn and his company always been against online gaming. Back in early 2011, he was allegeded to have met privately with PokerStars co-founder Isai Scheinberg, thus discussing a deal through which Stars would market itself to the US via Wynn’s casino properties. The two sides announced such a deal in March of 2011, only to see Wynn Gaming back out of the arrangement just a month later, when PokerStars and other sites were targeted by the US Department of Justice in the broad “Black Friday” series of indictments.
Since then, Wynn has moved ever closer to the rabidly anti-online position of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson in proclaiming to be against all forms of US-based online gambling… the better to protect both Wynn’s and Adelson’s land-based casino empires. But while Adelson has been pro-active in trying to buy the votes of US legislators to do his will (including the much-maligned RAWA act), Wynn has been quieter on the political front. Nonetheless, Adelson, with Wynn’s support, successfully split the important American Gambling Association in two; despite the belief by most AGA members that regulated, US-based online gambling was vital to the industry’s long-term survival, the powerful AGA has essentially been neutered on the topic. (Yes, neutered, not neutralized.)
Wynn Gaming also owns a major casino complex in Macau, and in the past couple of years may have suffered an even larger financial hit, in percentage terms, that Adelson’s Sands Macau operation. Both Adelson and Wynn have seen the revenue streams of their Macau casino complexes chopped by at least a third in the face of mainland China’s crackdown against the underworld-controlled junket system, which serves as the primary pipeline for bringing wealthy Chinese gamblers to Macau.
Or at least it did. In the face of China’s crackdown and Macau’s decline over the past three years, the entrenched junket system has responded simply by taking their wealthy clients elsewhere, to non-Macau casino-resorts not governed by Chinese authorities.
That Sands’ and Wynn’s smaller but relatively profitable US casinos a bit more important with every passing day, and gives the two moguls plenty of reasons to try and cripple the nascent US online-gaming industry. Wynn’s tentative deal in New Jersey was with Caesars Interactive, but given Caesars’ heavy pro-online position, those two companies have drifted farther apart in recent years. As of now, there’s really no likely partner for Wynn to do business with in New Jersey anyway, pending license application or not.
So Wynn is again totally gone from the New Jersey gambling scene, and the US gambling industry in whole is just a little bit more split in two.