Regulated online poker in the U.S. made history yesterday as Nevada and Delaware began combining player pools.
Shared liquidity between the two states entered a soft launch phase that allows players from both states to compete against each other, providing a larger player base. The result is that many players from Delaware who were turned off by the limited action available under an intrastate format may now take to the virtual felt.
Players in Nevada had more tables available to them prior to the interstate launch, with cash game player traffic typically averaging around 150. But we also may see more Nevadans climb aboard and log on as well. Delaware and its population of less than a million averaged less than a full ring game table previously.
When states began considering online poker legislation following the 2011 ruling by the DoJ that found the Wire Act to be applicable only to sports betting, many envisioned that interstate action would allow the the regulated U.S. industry to grow and prosper. That growth was severely hampered when no states approved ipoker legislation since Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey launched in 2013.
A Multi State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) was signed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in February 2014. Hopes of an interstate launch during the summer last year were dimmed by technical problems that forced the rollout to occur 13 months after the partnership was brokered.
Nevada currently has two poker sites in operation, but only WSOP.com will be pooling players with Delaware. The MSIGA requires participating poker rooms to be licensed in each state, which leaves Real Gaming behind. 888 Holdings provides software to the three racinos operating gaming sites in Delaware and is also a WSOP.com partner in Nevada.
Previous reports indicate that 888 will soon be launching its own poker site in Nevada and will form a network with WSOP.com and another site set to go live provided by Treasure Island. No concrete timetable has been given for such a rollout.
A look at player traffic finds the poker action in Delaware reaching a peak of more than 300 players in conjunction with its new partnership. Delaware players typically topped out around 25 or so cash players previously. That’s a whopping 1,100% increase.
What the industry needs now is for New Jersey to also join the MSIGA and put into motion interstate online poker that touches every state that has approved regulation. A report released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement at the beginning of 2015 revealed that the Garden State was looking into the matter, as well as international partnerships with European poker sites.
While Nevada and Delaware are two of the smaller states of the 50, the alliance is crucial to the future of online poker in America. It’s the first step of what many hope will be a bunch more steps as more and more states pass online poker legislation.