Nevada regulators approve plan for online poker network

By Emma Rumney
The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has given preliminary approval to a system devised by 888 Holdings that would link online poker rooms from multiple operators and which could serve as a model for an intrastate network between Nevada and Delaware.

It’s hoped the shared poker network, which was proposed to regulators on 9 July, would allow for a larger player pool, potentially boosting revenues which have so far fallen short of projections.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Yehoshu Gurtler, one of the attorneys representing 888, said a larger player base will increase “product attractiveness and player participation”, resulting in more gaming taxes for the state.

The approved proposal would see 888 develop an inter-operator network including the firm’s own online poker site, the site operated by 888’s local casino partner Treasure Island and Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s WSOP.com.

Players will be able to access the system via WSOP.com or Treasure Island, increasing the number of players in a single online poker room at any given time.

Mark Clayton, also an attorney representing 888, explained that both large and small casinos will be able to join the network, creating more common online poker tables.

Gurtler added that this will also allow casinos to gain a higher return on their marketing efforts and offer a wider range of poker products.

Revenue will be distributed between operators on the platform based on a registered player joining a game.

Of the three sites included in the proposal, WSOP.com is the only one currently operating in the state, although the remaining two 888-powered sites are expected to launch shortly.

WSOP.com launched last year, but Treasure Island’s online poker room is still awaiting approval despite the casino already being given the go-ahead for interactive gaming from state regulators.

The first online poker site in Nevada launched in April 2013, and since then revenues have been below par – a story common across the three US states to have legalised online gaming.

However The Las Vegas Review Journal quotes gaming analyst Adam Krejcik, of Eilers Research, as noting in a report to investors that many would argue the regulated online poker market in the US remains in its “early innings” and setbacks “surrounding payment processing and geolocation have negatively impacted results”.

He continued: “Looking forward, we believe states considering adopting real-money online poker should have cautious expectations and believe it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger issue, which is to grow overall gaming revenues.”

It’s hoped this will be better achieved by an intra-state network with Delaware and A.G. Burnett, NGCB chairman, said after the panel voted unanimously in favour of the 888-Caesars-Treasure Island Proposal that everyone at the NGCB has been “working hard to make the agreement with Delaware a reality”.

In February Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed the first multi-state gaming agreement in the US, allowing players from both states to play online poker against one another.

If the Nevada Gaming Commission rules favourably on the matter on 24 July, it is expected 888 will begin to devise a platform to support this.

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