A few days ago Chartwell Technology Inc of Calgary, Alberta (Canada) announced that it has been selected to provide play-for-free casino games to Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE:HET) for the re-launch of Harrah's internet site (www.harrahs.com). This move has been widely seen as one of the first important steps by a large casino corporation toward establishing an online gambling presence. We stopped by to check out the site.
As with Chartwell's standard gaming package the games at Harrahs.com are JAVA-based, requiring only brief applet download times. The games themselves appear to be slightly tweaked and upgraded from the standard package most notably in the use of brighter colors, faster play and what appears to be a couple customized Slots games.
Play For Fun at Harrahs.com includes a typical complement of games: Blackjack, Caribbean Poker, Baccarat, Pai Gow, Craps, Roulette, Sic Bo, Slots and Video Poker (Jacks or Better, Joker Poker, All American, Deuces Wild). The Roulette is American style (double zero), Blackjack is an 8 deck game where the dealer hits on a soft 17 and you can double on any pair and Craps offers 2x odds.
Other features at the Play For Fun site include a Preview section where you can see what the games look like and check what's been added recently, a nicely illustrated Gambling Guide with basic rules and strategies for the games, and a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section to help you with common problems you might have. And last but not least there's the convenient 1-800-eHARRAH toll-free number to assist you with any immediate problems you might encounter.
All in all the site is a professional, easy to use and high quality effort, on the scale that you'd expect from the Harrah's corporation. What's the catch? Nothing major, but you will need a Harrah's Total Rewards number before you can access the games. And to get that Total Rewards number you'll have to visit one of the twenty Harrah's properties. They've got two or three booths at each of the casinos that can process your application and assign you the number on the spot.
While the Play For Fun games are nice, it sounds like it's only the beginning. David Norton, Vice President of Loyalty Marketing at Harrah's Entertainment, said that they've signed a three year contract with Chartwell "because of their ability in custom designing the Harrah's slot machines to reinforce several important branding elements for us." Looks like we can expect ongoing development and enhancement of the Play for Fun games, and Chartwell will be well positioned should Harrah's decide to expand their online gambling facilities.