RIO Poker in Delaware -- RSI, Lottery "Working Together" for Online Poker Launch RIO Poker in Delaware -- RSI, Lottery "Working Together" for Online Poker Launch

The Lottery and RSI are working together toward making poker available … [we plan] to launch new online gaming sites and apps as soon as possible, with the goal of launching this winter. Rush Street Interactive (RSI), the parent company of Run it Once Poker, is working with the Delaware Lottery to launch online poker, pokerfuse can confirm.

It is one of the strongest signals yet that RSI is moving towards launching a multi-state US online poker network, a so-called Run it Once Poker USA, next year. It could conceivably span New Jersey, Michigan and Delaware.

Pokerfuse reported last week how RSI had been picked by the Delaware Lottery to serve as its exclusive igaming vendor for at least the next five years, replacing 888.

Today, the 3 licensed “racinos” of Delaware operate online poker rooms powered by 888. These connect to the WSOP USA network — a player pool spanning Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. That will be closing down.

But a change to RSI raises many questions. Did RSI commit to offering online poker as part of this partnership? If so, is there a deadline? Is it possible that Delawareans — who have had access to legal, regulated online poker for almost a decade — could lose access to online poker, either for at least a few months, or potentially much longer?

Answers to some of those questions began to trickle in on Monday.

Delaware Lottery Confirms Partnership Involves Online Poker

In an exclusive, Delaware Lottery Director Helene Keeley confirmed to pokerfuse that RSI plans to offer online poker in the state — though could give no clear timeline.

RSI has announced previously that it is developing a poker platform that they are excited about sharing with players,” Keeley said. “The Lottery and RSI are working together toward making poker available to Delaware patrons, though we’re not prepared to discuss a specific timeline at this stage.”

“However, we can share that RSI and the Delaware Lottery are planning to launch new online gaming sites and apps as soon as possible, with the goal of launching this winter.”

A spokeswoman for RSI said the Chicago-based operator declined to comment further at this time. So, too, did Jason Senti, who serves as head of Run it Once Poker at RSI.

RSI will replace 888 as the Lottery’s exclusive igaming vendor. The UK-based operator has provided online poker and casino gaming through skins at three racinos — Bally’s Dover (formerly Dover Downs), Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway — since November 2013.

Shared liquidity through the so-called WSOP USA or WSOP/888 Network has given 888 an edge over its chief rivals for online poker in the US — BetMGM and PokerStars — for a decade. That’s because until recently, the network has been the only one able to take advantage of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state compact for online poker and some casino gaming.

Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, and Nevada are all MSIGA members, but only the WSOP/888 US Network has access in three of the four — via WSOP & 888 NJ, WSOP NV, and the three Delaware racinos.

At the beginning of 2023, PokerStars launched its own multi-state online poker network, PokerStars US, connecting Michigan with New Jersey, but it has no access to Nevada nor Delaware.

Is a Multi-State Online Poker Launch on the Cards for RIO?

Keeley’s commentary, as well as the tacit nod from RSI and RIO, are the clearest indications yet that RSI is planning to launch a multi-state online poker network under MSIGA across Delaware, Michigan, and New Jersey.

As pokerfuse has reported throughout 2023, Rush Street has had US online poker intentions ever since acquiring the Run it Once Poker team and platform in March 2022. It bolstered this with the media acquisition of Poker Night in America in August of that year.

Launching in a single state would be an uphill battle: Legal online poker states are small and already saturated with three or more sites (there are five active online poker rooms in New Jersey, and four in Pennsylvania). So a coordinated, multi-state poker launch seems most likely.

A launch in Delaware — population 1 million — would never gain traction without multi-state. So the plan to launch poker in DE would indicate that RSI may plan to go live in one or more other MSIGA states in a coordinated launch: namely Michigan, New Jersey and Nevada. RSI’s BetRivers brand is already active in the first two.

Timeline in Question — But Lottery Could Keep 888 Around for a While Longer

On first reading, Monday’s statement could also suggest that may be an extended period of time where Delawareans are without online poker. The request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Lottery in January articulates that it wants to go live with a primary vendor no later than November 1, 2023. Three months seems much too aggressive to bring the RIO Poker platform to one state, let alone multiple connected states.

However, a blackout period for regulated online poker in Delaware — with 888 closing and a gap before RSI launches — would be problematic, to say the least. The racinos will want to smooth transition for customers. Shutting services — leaving only the black market to serve consumer needs — is surely not what the regulator has in mind.

One section of the RFP offers a clue over to what could happen next. Under Section 2.5, entitled “Emergency Extension,” the Lottery says it reserves the right “to reactivate or further extend the initial contract, or any renewal thereof, at the rates and upon the terms and conditions then in effect on thirty (30) days’ notice for one (1) or more thirty (30) day periods if a different vendor is chosen for a subsequent contract.

“To meet this requirement, the primary vendor for this contract must maintain the solution in a state of readiness through the date of full conversion to the new vendor and for thirty (30) calendar days thereafter.”

That suggests the Delaware Lottery could require 888 to continue to offer online poker in the state until RSI is ready with a platform of its own, and that 888 would have to keep its online poker solution at the ready for another 30 days, just in case something were to go wrong with the new platform.

Considering how long it will likely take RSI to launch online poker in Michigan and New Jersey, it could be some time before a new online poker product is available in Delaware.