There Will be a Delaware Online Poker Blackout as Players Await Run it Once Launch There Will be a Delaware Online Poker Blackout as Players Await Run it Once Launch

In a spot of disappointing but not entirely unexpected news, the Delaware Lottery has confirmed that there will be a blackout period for Delaware online poker.

In the coming weeks, the casino and poker platform will go offline as it transitions to a new platform. When services return, online casino will relaunch, and a mobile sportsbook will go live for the first time. But there will be no online poker — at least not initially.

It marks the first time in US history that players will gain, then lose, access to regulated, real money online poker.

“Over the next few weeks, all Delaware Lottery online casino and poker platforms will be shutting down due to the upcoming provider change,” the Lottery issued in a statement, later confirmed by Poker Industry PRO. “We will no longer have a poker platform after the transition launch of our new online casino and online sports betting platforms.”

Rush Street Interactive (RSI) is preparing to serve as the Lottery’s exclusive provider for regulated igaming in Delaware, replacing 888. RSI does have an online poker platform — Run it Once Poker — but it has yet to go live anywhere in the US yet.

Will Run it Once Poker Launch in Delaware?

Delawareans have enjoyed access to the WSOP/888 US Network through the 888 platform since 2013, when the UK-based gaming operator was awarded the Lottery’s initial contract — although Delaware players were ineligible for some tournaments and promotions in Nevada and New Jersey.

With the switch to RSI, it is hoped that Delaware players will have access to online poker again through Run It Once Poker. The Chicago-based company purchased the platform in March 2022.

It is not known when this launch may take place, but a multi-state launch of Run it Once Poker US early next year is expected. Whether Delaware will be part of that launch remains to be seen.

Executives with RSI have said on several occasions that the RIO platform will launch in 2024. Under its most recent estimate, the operator hinted that online poker could launch in Q1 2024 or afterward.

In an interview with pokerfuse in August, Delaware Lottery Director Helene Keeley confirmed it was working with RSI “toward making poker available to Delaware patrons, though we’re not prepared to discuss a specific timeline at this stage.”

She also added 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.”

When RIO does launch in Delaware, look for RSI to deploy the platform in several states at the same time. It can do so because Delaware is a signatory of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state gaming compact that includes Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and — since last month — West Virginia.

Delaware, with just 1 million residents, figures to be the smallest part of any multi-state rollout of RIO poker. But RSI currently offers online casino and sports betting in Michigan, New Jersey, and West Virginia under its flagship BetRivers brand — so the operator figures to attract players to its platform in as many jurisdictions as possible.

Chance of a Smooth Online Poker Transition Gone

It was hoped that a section of the request for proposals (RFP) that the Lottery issued last January could have required 888 to stay put — at least for online poker — until RIO was up and running.

Section 2.5 of the RFP, entitled “Emergency Extension,” gave the Lottery 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.”

That verbiage suggests the Delaware Lottery could have required 888 to continue offering online poker until RIO was ready. But with the new message to players, that idea has apparently been ditched.

Online poker in Delaware is provided by the three racinos in the state: Bally’s Dover (formerly Dover Downs), Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway. Each has its own skin powered by a classic version of 888poker software.

That said, online poker players in Delaware won’t be making a seamless transition from 888 to RIO. Far from it.

According to the post on Two Plus Two, players on the Delaware Park were told that “account details and remaining bankroll funds will not be transferred to the new platforms. Please log in and play or withdraw any remaining bankroll funds.”

It’s also possible that RIO will ultimately not be the only online poker platform in Delaware. Consider that late last month, a panel of state lawmakers recommended that the Lottery more than one license for mobile sports betting, a new product for Delawareans. Lawmakers could decide to do the same for online poker and casino gaming.