Entain, the parent company of partypoker US and a joint owner of BetMGM, has received a three-year interactive gaming license extension in Nevada.
The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC), the body responsible for administering regulations and granting gaming licenses, unanimously approved the British sports betting giant on May 20, allowing them to operate in the Silver State as an “Interactive Gaming Service Provider” under the application name BWIN.PARTY (USA).
In Nevada, Interactive Gaming refers to online betting and gaming, which is currently limited to internet poker.
In 2019, the company, then named GVC Holdings, received the same approval for a provisional two-year license. However, it opted not to launch online poker in the state during this time—presumably due to the market size and the complications with the Wire Act putting a halt to cross-state shared liquidity.
That license was slated to expire this month. Entain applied for a permanent extension of its interactive gaming license but had to settle for another provisional license following the recommendation of the Gaming Control Board (GCB) for three years.
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Scrutiny Over Regulated Markets
Last time, the company, under its previous management, took some heat from the regulatory board for its links to unlicensed gaming activities in various countries, particularly Turkey. This time, the NGC was impressed with the changes that the company had carried out since their hearing two years ago.
One of the board members stated that they have “done a remarkable job changing the face of the leadership.”
Indeed, in the past few months, the company has carried out various initiatives to improve its white-market credentials: It changed its name to Entain plc, launched various responsible gambling measures, and announced a plan to operate only in jurisdictions that are 100% regulated by 2023.
It also said goodbye to long-standing CEO Kenny Alexander.
However, despite all its efforts, the board stuck with the three-year limitation as recommended by GCB instead of granting them a permanent license.
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When Will partypoker or BetMGM Launch Regulated Online Poker in Nevada?
The license extension gives Entain another three years in the market. Whether the company goes live with its online poker offering in the Silver State durign this period remains to be seen.
However, given the preparations it made for the recent hearing, it seems almost certain it plans to make good use of its interactive gaming license extension and go live.
But the question is, when?
Nevada is among the three states to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) allowing operators in these states to merge their player pools with players in other states that have joined the pact.
WSOP.com is the only network to take advantage of this pact combining their Nevada player pool with New Jersey and Delaware through the 888 brand. PokerStars is not allowed to operate in Nevada and hence it cannot share its player pool with its existing New Jersey network.
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Meanwhile, partypoker has been operating in New Jersey for almost a decade sharing its player pool with BetMGM Poker NJ and Borgata Online NJ skins under the partypoker US Network umbrella. Unlike PokerStars, it has the opportunity to offer online poker in the Silver State—but, to date, it has chosen not to.
Nevada Online Poker Could Soon be a Much More Attractive Proposition
However, things are changing that will certainly make the US online poker market more attractive. This year, the market got off to an auspicious start, with new market launches to a favorable ruling regarding the Wire Act, and there more positive developments expected to take place this year.
The Wire Act case, which almost put an end to the shared liquidity project in the US after the DOJ reinterpreted the statute to apply to interstate poker, is likely to be put to bed by mid-June. It would give other operators, like BetMGM, the confidence to launch in Nevada and connect it with its existing operation in New Jersey.
It should also give confidence to states that have legalized online poker to join the multistate agreement. Michigan is already in talks with other states; Pennsylvania is thought to be in a similar position. This would expand from a three-state market—where two are very small and restrictive—to four- or five-state cross-border liquidity pool with multiple large states open for online poker and casino.
The more states combine their pool, the more attractive the market becomes and the more revenues the state generates—which will then persuade other states’ lawmakers to legalize online gaming, including online poker. Smaller stakes like Nevada, Delaware and West Virginia, which would otherwise fail to survive as a standalone market, would benefit thanks to the games being shared with big states.
Another factor that could convince Entain to prioritize its iGaming launch in Nevada is the opportunity for online casino games. The NGC is considering amending its interactive gaming regulations to open up online gambling beyond poker and move forward with online casino games. These generate much higher revenues than peer-to-peer games.
All these factors are likely to incentivize Entain to go live in Nevada, perhaps by the end of this year.
Pokerfuse reached out to BetMGM (previously Roar Digital, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Entain) about their plans to launch online poker in Nevada, but the company remained tight-lipped and chose not to comment.
BetMGM recently expanded its poker operations in the US by going live in two states within the space of two months. BetMGM MI went live in March and BetMGM PA a month later, alongside sibling Borgata PA. It ended the de-facto monopoly of PokerStars in both the markets.
A launch in Nevada would allow them to combine their player pools with its existing partypoker New Jersey player pool and become only the second operator in the country after WSOP to do so.