Online gambling law no threat to poker series

By Scott Long, Times Staff Writer
Published May 5, 2007

Jeffrey Pollack did wonders for marketing the NBA and NASCAR think in-car camera, and now he's trying to do the same with poker as the commissioner of the World Series of Poker, which kicks off June 1. But he's doing it amid a $17.1-billion private-equity buyout of Series owner Harrah's Entertainment and uncertainty over how a new federal law restricting online gambling will affect the legendary event.

Here are excerpts from Pollack's interview with Ante Up!, the St. Petersburg Times' poker podcast:

Beyond possible participation levels, what effect do you think the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is having on the World Series of Poker brand?
None. The World Series of Poker has a 38-year history that has become evergreen, in a way. Now with the backing of Harrah's, the world's largest gaming company, we're the only poker brand out there that is assured of another 38 years in business. I don't think there's anyone else that can say that.

You've eased the restrictions on the number of logos a player can wear this year. How difficult is it to manage the World Series brand with the reality that the players who make it what it is have their own business interests?
Go look at NASCAR. I spent some time in NASCAR before I came here. They have a terrific sort of everyone-is-an-independent-contractor model. And I've embraced that for the World Series of Poker. ... We want every player engaging in as much personal business that is good for them.

A deal to take Harrah's private now awaits only regulatory approval. How will the World Series change under private ownership?
It shouldn't. As far as I know, it won't. ... Every indication and statement is that the operation and management of this company will continue on the successful course that it has been on, and I'm not even thinking about it.

The poker climate is changing slowly in Florida. If it becomes possible, how interested are you in expanding the World Series brand to the Sunshine State?
We're always interested in having as broad of a footprint as possible. ... We have a preference to run World Series of Poker Circuit events in properties that we own. And that's probably not going to change. But promotionally, there's always interesting things to do.

Scott Long can be reached at long@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8556.