[Launching in Nevada] is something that we evaluate on an ongoing basis. There’s no immediate plan to come there, but we are looking into it. Online stalwart poker brand PokerStars is live in nearly all US states where online poker is regulated, but one state where it hasn’t yet set foot is the state of Nevada.
Nevada is one of the first states that legalized online poker in the USA and is considered the most mature market, having opened up in 2013. Yet, today, WSOP NV remains the only licensed and active online poker room in the Silver State.
While it is true that the Nevada online poker market is small, with a population of just 3.1 million residents, it is still a key market. Firstly, Nevada is quite a popular destination for poker players, especially during the summer when thousands worldwide descend to Sin City to play in the World Series of Poker.
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Secondly and more importantly, it is a signatory of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) — an online poker compact that allows operators to share their respective player pools across state lines between member states. The compact also includes Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Michigan.
Going live in Nevada would allow PokerStars to expand its newly launched shared liquidity network in the US that currently spans between New Jersey and Michigan.
So, the question remains — why hasn’t PokerStars considered launching in Nevada over the past decade?
Well, Nevada interactive gaming law (AB114) has a “bad actor” clause that restricts companies, individuals and assets associated with offering online wagers in the US after December 31, 2006, from obtaining an interactive gaming license. The legislation particularly targeted PokerStars, and lawmakers were content to keep the operator out of the state.
The brand itself is not the bad actor. The original PokerStars business and its key persons would likely be considered the bad actors. Since PokerStars continued to offer its services to US players following the passage of the UIGEA until 2011, it got onto the wrong side of Nevada regulators. As a result, the lawmakers barred PokerStars from entering the market once the Nevada interactive gaming law was passed.
However, the bad actor clause had a lockout period of five years after the law’s enactment (February 21, 2013), which was deemed expired back in 2018.
So, what’s holding PokerStars back from applying for a license in NV and opening its doors to Nevadans?
We don’t know the answer yet. Perhaps, PokerStars has determined that the market opportunity is too small, or perhaps complexities with the laws or significant regulatory red tape could be the hindrance.
However, gaming experts think otherwise. When asked whether PokerStars could regain market access in Nevada, the gaming experts said it is quite possible.
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Is FanDuel a Potential Path for PokerStars to Enter in Nevada?
Whatever may be holding PokerStars from launching in the Silver State, we think that FanDuel is one of the potential avenues the Red Spade giant could take to enter and break the monopoly of WSOP in Nevada.
Saiber LLC’s Jeremy Kleiman, in an exclusive interview with pokerfuse last year, said that if FanDuel were allowed into Nevada, he suspects PokerStars could re-enter the market, too.
“The brand itself is not the bad actor,” Kleiman told pokerfuse. “The original PokerStars business and its key persons would likely be considered the bad actors.”
You can’t legislate to exclude a particular player from a particular industry — you can’t do that under the Constitution. And that’s exactly what Nevada did because they were trying to exclude PokerStars, and that’s why it’s illegal. “The company has now been sold two times — to Amaya and now Flutter — so apart from using the brand, it is not the same company that may have been a bad actor. Moreover, so much time has passed since PokerStars’ original transgressions that their original player database from the US is so stale it is virtually useless,” Kleiman added.
FanDuel is a subsidiary of Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of PokerStars. It was granted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) last year to rebrand the retail sportsbook at the Fremont as a FanDuel Sportsbook. The rebranded FanDuel Sportsbook went live in January this year.
Meanwhile, Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law PLLC dismissed that law that Nevada enacted in 2013 to keep PokerStars out “totally illegal and unconstitutional, and when it’s challenged, it will fail.”
“It’s preposterous, it’s not the way the law works, and on top of that, it violates the Constitution because it’s an illegal bill of attainder,” Ifrah said in an exclusive interview with pokerfuse last May. “You can’t legislate to exclude a particular player from a particular industry — you can’t do that under the Constitution. And that’s exactly what Nevada did because they were trying to exclude PokerStars, and that’s why it’s illegal.”
Currently, PokerStars has “no immediate plan” to launch in Nevada, the operator told PokerNews. However, it is very much interested in the market.
“[Launching in Nevada is] something that we’re always looking at on a regular basis,” said Severin Rasset, Managing Director of North America for PokerStars. “It’s also important to notice that our sister brand, FanDuel, also got licensed over there. So, this is something that we’re working with them [on] to see what would be the right requirements for us to be able to be there. It’s something that we evaluate on an ongoing basis. There’s no immediate plan to come there, but we are looking into it.”
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What About BetMGM/partypoker in Nevada?
If Nevada players were to get a second online poker option, it would likely be from BetMGM & partypoker ahead of PokerStars.
The operator has shown encouraging signs of launching online poker operations in the Silver State and competing with the World Series of Poker brand.
Unlike PokerStars, the operator does hold a license in the state. BetMGM & partypoker’s parent company — Entain — was first issued a two-year provisional online gaming license from the state regulator in 2019. Two years later, the company was granted a three-year extension to its online poker license in 2021.
The network already operates in New Jersey as well as in Michigan and Pennsylvania — though each of the networks is segregated. But the launch of BetMGM Poker NV would allow the operator to connect BetMGM Poker NJ with BetMGM Poker NV and BetMGM Poker MI, creating a true BetMGM Poker US Network.
While the operator has remained tight-lipped about its plans for the Nevada online poker market, it is only a matter of time before WSOP loses its monopoly in the Silver State and players get their second online poker choice.