Casino operator Sun International in deal to explore Internet gambling

Sun International Hotels Ltd. became the latest gaming operator to flirt with Internet gambling Tuesday, when it announced an agreement with a Swedish company to explore an Internet gaming product.

The Bahamas-based casino concern, led by South African businessman Sol Kerzner, said it has entered into an agreement with Boss Media AB of Sweden “to develop an Internet gaming software solution.”

However, Sun was reticent to provide more details on its Internet gaming plans.

“The company sees this as a first step in exploring the provision of an Internet product,” Sun’s press release said, without elaborating. Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Because they’re a Bahamas-based company, the company has more freedom than an American-based company, and they are able to explore areas of gaming that would be off-limits to MGM, Park Place and Harrah’s, as well as other large U.S. companies,” said Jason Ader, gaming analyst with Bear Stearns. “They’ll explore their options, but because this is a company that might want to get back in the U.S. market, they won’t do anything to jeopardize their options.”

Sun is selling its Resorts Atlantic City casino to Colony Capital for $140 million, and pulled out of an earlier deal to buy the Desert Inn on the Las Vegas Strip. Still, Ader noted the company still has an interest in the Mohegan Sun tribal casino in Connecticut.

Kerzner is also campaigning to bring casino gambling to Hawaii.

Sun’s move follows efforts by other gaming companies, including MGM MIRAGE, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and Park Place Entertainment Corp., to make “for-fun” Internet casino games available on their Internet sites. The most aggressive has been MGM MIRAGE, which owns a minority stake in a for-fun Internet gaming company called WagerWorks — and has hinted it wants to enter the Internet gaming market if it can address regulatory concerns about Internet casinos.

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