During the monthly meeting of the Board on July 8, Cyrus Pitre, Chief Enforcement Counsel for the PGCB, stated that ROAR, the US online gaming and sports betting company operating under the name BetMGM and jointly owned by MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings, is expected to have its igaming operator license approved “in the very near future, hopefully by the next board meeting.”
The next meeting of the PGCB is scheduled for Wednesday August 5, 2020.
Partypoker PA Already in Testing
In a statement to pokerfuse, PGCB Communications Director, Doug Harbach confirmed that testing of the partypoker platform has already begun.
“PGCB staff have been working closely with Roar to launch the Party Poker and BetMGM apps, which will include interactive slots, table games and poker. This includes testing of ROAR’s interactive gaming platform and games. PGCB anticipates overseeing a soft launch sometime this summer or early fall.”
ROAR Digital Secures Additional Funding for BetMGM
Also on July 8, ROAR Digital announced that shareholders have approved a second investment round of $250 million. This additional funding follows the $200 million initial commitment and brings the total to $450 million.
“We launched this business to combine the best of MGM Resorts and GVC, and establish BetMGM as a leading brand in the US sports betting and iGaming markets,” said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of ROAR Digital, LLC.
ROAR Digital operates BetMGM in the US which includes the partypoker platform in New Jersey. Currently the network hosts its own partypoker branded online poker room along with poker rooms under the BetMGM and Borgata Poker brands.
“These are exciting times for BetMGM, as it continues to expand its iGaming business while also offering customers an outstanding sports betting experience as live sports returns to the US,” said Kenny Alexander, CEO of GVC.
“We see enormous potential for the US market and are delighted to have such a strong foothold in it through our partnership with MGM Resorts,” Alexander continued. “Our stake in BetMGM is, by some distance, the most important and exciting investment that GVC has ever made. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the Company has the funding and technical resources needed to achieve long-term market leadership, whilst delivering significant value for shareholders.”
The notion that GVC is prioritizing operations is the US was also raised by Rob Yong, self-professed partner of partypoker parent company GVC, who earlier this week on the Poker Life Podcast with Joey Ingram stated that GVC has “big plans for America.”
The idea that the US is a priority for GVC is in direct contrast to comments made a year ago by partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters when he along with Yong were guests on the pokerfuse podcast.
Less than 30 before the launch of the igaming market in Pennsylvania, Waters downplayed the prospects for online poker in the US.
“[The US is] going to be enormous for sports, but for poker, I think, yes there is an opportunity there in that market, however, the opportunity only really materializes when the big states come in and they share liquidity. You need California in there, you need New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, all of these states together, working together as a shared liquidity market.”
However, Waters did acknowledge that his involvement in the US was limited. “I know that there’s a lot of activity happening. There’s a lot of focus from GVC with regards to the US, but from a poker perspective, at the moment, it’s not sat with me.”
WSOP PA Still Waiting
The World Series of Poker branded online poker room, WSOP.com, was expected to become the second online poker operator in Pennsylvania with the launch of WSOP PA – PokerStars PA is currently the only online poker room operating in the state – but it looks like partypoker may beat them to market.
Caesars Interactive Entertainment, owner of WSOP.com received approval from the PGCB in February 2020, but its online poker software provider, 888, still has its application pending.
In April, Harbach told pokerfuse that “888 is currently in background with our investigative unit. I do not know the timetable on when that applicant will be ripe for approval by the board, but that must occur before WSOP can be launched on the Caesars site.”
When asked this week when a decision on the 888 poker platform is expected, Harbach replied, “[t]here is no estimated timeframe for a soft launch.”
WSOP.com is currently holding an online version of the 2020 WSOP for players in New Jersey and Nevada after the coronavirus pandemic forced tournament organizers to postpone its live poker festival that traditionally takes place in Las Vegas.
Pennsylvania Soon to Become the Mecca of US Online Poker?
Pennsylvania is currently batting New Jersey for the honor of being the state that generates the most revenue from online poker. The two states have traded the lead several times since PokerStars PA became the first online poker room in the state back in November 2019.
However, with the addition of partypoker this summer or fall and the possible launch of WSOP.com later in the year, Pennsylvania should become the new undisputed heavyweight in US online poker.
Another potential player in the Pennsylvania online poker market is GGPoker whose parent company NSUS Group Inc also has an application pending with the PGCB. However, the regulator did not have a progress report or timetable to share.
It is also possible that we could see an end to the Wire Act case (which has prevented Pennsylvania from joining the other states in a shared liquidity compact) this year as well, either by a loss in the case by the US Department of Justice without an appeal to the Supreme Court or by a loss for Donald Trump in the November presidential election which would likely result in the DOJ dropping the case.
Should two more online poker rooms open in Pennsylvania and the path be cleared for the state to join the MultiState Internet Gaming Agreement – allowing the online poker operators in the state to share their player liquidity with their operations in other states like New Jersey – Pennsylvania would surely become the online poker capital of the US for the foreseeable future.