Gaughan announced the website at a news conference at the Global Gaming Expo.

The South Point Hotel Casino and Spa launched a free play Internet poker website Wednesday, but owner Michael Gaughan hopes it’s just a beginning.

People who wish to sign up can access the site at The site will offer cash and noncash prizes to poker players, including trips to the 2,200-room hotel-casino on the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard to compete in live poker events.

Once at the South Point, players can win cash and additional prizes, including seats into the World Series of Poker’s Main Event that are worth $10,000.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do,” Gaughan said.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said the website was described to him as “amusement only” which would be allowed by regulators.

Las Vegas-based Zen Entertainment operates the Internet platform for the website, which was launched initially for the South Point’s players’ club members. It opens to the public nationwide on Oct. 17.

The irony of announcing the first free play Internet poker site operated by a Nevada-regulated casino at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which is run by Las Vegas Sands Corp., the owners of The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino and The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, wasn’t lost on Gaughan.

“It’s a way to get a head start,” Gaughan said. “It gets our name out there among the poker community for when Internet poker is finally legalized.”

Gaughan may not wait for the federal government to formally legalize and regulate Internet poker, which was the No. 1 topic of discussion at G2E.

Nevada gaming regulators are expected to pass the first set of regulations covering the activity within the state by January.

Gaughan may ask the state to allow South Point to operate an intrastate poker website that would accept wagers only from Nevada residents or gamblers within the state’s borders.

Last spring, Gaughan was the only casino operator to publicly support Assembly Bill 258, which was backed by PokerStars and called for Nevada to legalize Intranet poker.

After the owners of PokerStars and two other online poker websites were indicted in a federal government crackdown on Internet gambling, AB 258 was watered down. The final version directed Nevada gaming regulators to adopt rules governing Internet poker websites if the federal government makes the activity legal.


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