There are signs that BetMGM could be gearing up to launch online poker in Nevada and compete with the existing World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand that has been enjoying a de facto monopoly in the state for nearly a decade.
Last summer, partypoker NJ parent company and joint-owner of BetMGM, Entain, received a three-year extension to its online poker license in Nevada. With the extension granted, there were expectations that the company would soon make use of the license and go live, possibly connecting its existing New Jersey player pool to its Nevada platform, but that was not to be seen.
However, a recent development could be an indication that the operator may finally be progressing down its path towards bringing its online poker product to Nevada. A recent job posting for a Senior Manager responsible for Poker Marketing located in Las Vegas, Nevada by BetMGM lists a “[t]horough understanding of and experience with online poker” as a required qualification.
No further information is available and pokerfuse could not confirm any details regarding launch plans with the operator. However, if the company is indeed gearing up to launch in the Silver State, it would surely want the site to go live before the World Series of Poker 2022 kicks off. This would allow players heading to Nevada to play the in-person WSOP live series, which kicks off on the Las Vegas Strip May 31 to have a choice of two real money online poker rooms to compete at as well.
BetMGM is already live in Nevada for sports betting. A connected account experience at launch time could mean that Nevada players with active sports accounts would be ready to go as soon as the regulated online poker site is live.
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Will BetMGM Nevada Share Liquidity with New Jersey?
The big question is whether the BetMGM Poker Nevada will share liquidity with its existing network in New Jersey, where BetMGM NJ, partypoker NJ, and Borgata NJ already share a player pool within the state. There is good reason to believe they plan to do so from day 1.
There is legally nothing stopping them from proceeding with a shared player pool: WSOP already runs a tri-state online poker network with 888poker, connecting WSOP Nevada players with players on WSOP NJ. 888 also operates on this network in New Jersey, as well as the three “racinos” in Delaware — thus, the 888/WSOP network shares a player pool across NJ, NV, and DE, the three states that currently comprise MSIGA.
There are still lingering unknowns about the applicability of the Wire Act and online poker, which has stymied the expansion of the Multi State Internet Gaming Agreement MSIGA to Michigan and Pennsylvania to date. But the existing agreement between New Jersey remains in place today and there is technically no reason that BetMGM would not participate.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine that BetMGM would want to launch online poker in Nevada without the expectation to share liquidity. With a population of just three million residents, it would be tough to compete with WSOP’s existing multi-state online poker network.
With that said, there could be significant regulatory red tape in bridging the gap and sharing players between the two states. To do so will require approval from both sets of regulators, which could take time. It could be that BetMGM launches a segregated site initially while these approvals are under review, but that scenario seems unlikely.
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A Major Boost to Online Poker in Nevada and in the United States
Regardless, another multi-state online poker room in Nevada would mean that players in the state would have their first alternative to the WSOP poker platform in eight years, representing one of the most important developments in US online poker in recent history.
The Nevada online poker market opened almost a decade ago. Fertitta Interactive launched Ultimate Poker Nevada on April 30, 2013, the very first of its kind in the country. It was soon followed by WSOP Nevada. A third online poker room — Real Gaming — came in early 2014. More brands were expected to follow and launch in NV, like 888 and Treasure Island.
But the harsh reality of closed liquidity in small markets quickly became apparent. Ultimate Poker shut before the end of 2014. Real Gaming never got off the ground, and today is defunct (though its license in Nevada is still current.)
WSOP Nevada remains the only active online poker room in the state, and its survival is likely only because of the connected player pool with New Jersey.
BetMGM NV going live and launching under shared liquidity would be a huge step forward for players and the industry. It would mean, for the very first time, we would see a competitive marketplace for multi-state online poker. It would also act as a clear signal to operators and regulators that interstate online poker is a legally sound model to help safe, regulated online poker proliferate.