Online gaming software provider 888 was approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) as an Interactive Gaming Manufacturer during the most recent meeting of the board.
888 currently provides both B2B and B2C online poker services in the US with its platform powering brands that include 888poker and WSOP.com. Both 888 PA and WSOP PA could appear in Pennsylvania as Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), the owner of the World Series of Poker and its WSOP.com online poker arm, also holds a license in the state that would allow it to offer online poker.
The approval paves the way for the second online poker operator to launch in the state, however, the latest word from the PGCB is that no launch plans for another online poker room have been scheduled.
On the day before the September 30 board meeting, PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach told pokerfuse, “[w]e have no timeframe that has been provided to us for a launch of the poker app.” Subsequent requests for information on when an online poker room powered by 888 might launch in the Keystone State went unanswered by both 888 and WSOP.
However, it is not a foregone conclusion that an 888-powered online poker room will be the next online poker room to go live in Pennsylvania.
In July, Cyrus Pitre, Chief Enforcement Counsel for the PGCB stated that he expects ROAR, the US igaming and sports betting company jointly owned by MGM Resorts International and partypoker USA parent company GVC Holdings, to receive final approval “in the very near future.” But so far there has been no approval that would allow partypoker PA to launch, and the applications for ROAR, GVC and MGM are still pending.
Currently, PokerStars is the only online poker room operating in the state. PokerStars PA launched in November 2019 and has generated over $30 million in revenue in its first 10 months.
In addition to Pennsylvania, 888 has its sights set on further expansion within the United States.
888 Makes the US its Top Priority
The company views the US market as “the biggest opportunity for the next five years,” and as a result, it has placed the US at the top of its strategic agenda, according to comments delivered by 888 CEO Itai Pazner during a webcast to announce the group’s financial results for the first half of 2020.
We are pleased with our continued progress in the US where revenue increased by 90% year-on-year reflecting the Group’s outstanding B2C growth in New Jersey as well as strong performances from our B2B partners.
In New Jersey where 888 operates an 888-branded online poker room as part of its B2C business, the company reported an 85% increase in revenue and a 76% increase in first-time depositors (FTD) over the first half of 2020. Poker accounted for a 59% increase in FTDs while its casino operation saw a 138% increase.
Acknowledging that the company benefited from the lockdown to prevent the spread on the coronavirus, Pazner expects 888 to continue to benefit from a “higher new normal level of business,” and with regards to poker specifically, he thinks further growth is possible.
We’re now seeing a [return] to what we call a 'higher normal level’ in poker, so it’s not as high as it was in the peak but it’s definitely higher than what it was before the lockdown period. We think that there is future potential in growth in poker.
Pazner also indicated that the company is looking to launch into “three or four more markets next year” and it hopes to rollout its online gaming products in even more states towards the end of next year and into 2022 with a preference for states that allow gaming and not just sports betting.
As part of its expansion plans, the company is touting “major platform and product upgrades.”
The major upgrade for poker will be in the form of Poker 8, the company’s new generation poker product that has already been deployed in other markets around the world.
Poker 8 is our answer to the changing consumer demands in the mobile world. Its portrait mode – you can play poker in one hand in poker – you can swipe between tables, you have cool gaming-type avatars and images … basically it’s everything that a millennial recreational poker player would be looking for and expecting from a leading online poker product.