- PokerStars US, WSOP, and Run It Once must partner with WV’s land-based casinos.
- WV Lottery confirms the need for alliances per the state’s gaming laws.
- Each operator needs a casino tie-up to launch online poker in West Virginia.
- Five land-based casinos offer skins, creating opportunities for strategic partnerships.
- Brand confusion concerns arise, necessitating careful casino-operator collaborations.
Per the legislative rule, operators — West Virginia casinos, in this case — can partner with three individually branded interactive wagering MSPs [management services provider] to offer [online poker]. PokerStars US, WSOP, and Run It Once Poker (RIO) will all need to form partnerships with land-based casinos in West Virginia before being allowed to launch multi-state online poker there, the state regulator confirmed to pokerfuse.
In an exclusive, Brian Nickerson, general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC), confirmed that the way the state’s gaming laws are worded, each operator would need to partner with one of the state’s five land-based casinos in order to offer real money online poker in WV.
Nickerson cited Section 179-10-20 of the West Virginia Code, which addresses limitations on licensed igaming operators. Subsection 20.1 articulates that “each interactive gaming operator, at its discretion, may provide no more than three individually branded online igaming websites and accompanying mobile applications.”
Essentially, the state equates “brand” with “skin” in its gaming laws. The distinction is important as WV officially joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) on Tuesday, joining Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey.
“PokerStars would be considered a separate skin in this case,” Nickerson told pokerfuse on Wednesday. “Per the legislative rule, operators — West Virginia casinos, in this case — can partner with three individually branded interactive wagering MSPs [management services provider] to offer such wagering.”
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Five Skins Still Available to Potential Operators
One can see the brand confusion that would be introduced into the market if we were to allow several different brands under one skin. The state’s five land-based casinos are Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Mardi Gras Casino, Mountaineer Casino, Wheeling Island Casino, and the private Greenbrier Resort. Hollywood and Greenbrier are both running three skins, but Mountaineer only uses two skins, and Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island are active with one.
That means there are still five skins left for poker operators that need a land-based casino partner. It should be plenty to accommodate the main US online poker brands likely to launch in WV — PokerStars, WSOP, and Run It Once.
“It is my understanding that Flutter Entertainment owns both FanDuel and PokerStars — and therefore have the same parent, but [they] are two individual brands.”
FanDuel operates under the Greenbrier license, as does BetMGM and Golden Nugget. That means PokerStars would have to partner with a different land-based casino than FanDuel, despite being owned by the same company — Flutter.
PokerStars could partner with Mountaineer, but the two skins currently on the Mountaineer license are Caesars Palace and BetRivers — the latter being RSI’s flagship online casino gaming and sports betting brand. But RSI would deploy Run It Once, an online poker platform currently in development.
WSOP may also want to launch in the Mountain State. If it plans to do so, it could compete with Run It Once for the last skin under the Mountaineer license. WSOP and/or Run It Once could also enter the market by partnering with Mardi Gras or Wheeling Island.
“I cannot opine as to the situation with RSI because I have no knowledge of its plans or structure in developing any of its offerings, including the [Run It Once] poker platform,” Nickerson said.
“However, one can see the brand confusion that would be introduced into the market if we were to allow several different brands under one skin.”
Betly runs one skin under the Mardi Gras license and another under Wheeling Island.