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By the end of 2014, it’s entirely possible – you could even argue likely – that Nevada will be home to as many as six distinct online poker networks.
Here’s the who and the how, along with some guesses as to the when.
There are currently three active online poker networks in Nevada’s market.
At the front of the pack in terms of traffic is WSOP.com Nevada. The site opened last fall and built momentum for a few weeks before snatching the lead away from Ultimate Poker.
Ultimate Poker was, of course, the first regulated site to launch in Nevada (and ergo the U.S.) back in April of 2013. The site maintains a healthy player base but has struggled to find growth in a rapidly maturing market.
The third and final active player in the Nevada market: Real Gaming. Backed by South Point, Real Gaming boasts a platform-agnostic HTML5 client but has failed to attract any material levels of traffic since launching in mid-February.
Our fourth room could arrive in the form of a Nevada edition of 888’s All American Poker Network (AAPN).
The plan as it stands is for AAPN to be comprised of an 888 skin and a Treasure Island skin at launch. Wynn was announced as a partner at one point, but it’s unclear if those plans have persisted post-Wynn’s recent strategy shift regarding online gambling.
Now that Delaware and Nevada have signed an agreement to share player pools, 888 – which operates the sole network in Delaware – will likely do anything and everything to accelerate their Nevada launch.
Another room slated for launch in the near-term is the American Casino & Entertainment Properties-backed Ace Play Poker.
Ace Play currently operates as a free-to-play site utilizing the Ongame platform. The site offers a number of promotional tie-ins with ACEP flagship property Stratosphere.
While no official launch date for Ace Play has been set, indications are that the site could be going live before the end of summer.
The sixth and final network likely headed for launch in Nevada: bwin.party, in cooperation with partners Boyd and MGM.
The trio has been immensely successful in New Jersey via the Party / Borgata network. While that success will be difficult to immediately duplicate in Nevada, the group will forge ahead regardless – especially now that Nevada sits at the heart of a structure for interstate pooling of online poker players.
As far as I understand it, bwin.party is not finished with the licensing process in Nevada. That fact, and the lack of any tangible indications that launch is approaching, suggest that Party Poker Nevada will likely be the last of the three new rooms to come online.
There’s a strong argument to be made that Nevada can really only support one flourishing poker network.
It’s also reasonable to assert that two networks can warily co-exist in Nevada, as that’s what’s happening in the status quo, although it’s not yet obvious if that arrangement is sustainable in the long run.
The notion that the state can support three tests credulity. And the idea that some number above that is feasible appears false on face. After all, early data from New Jersey’s market – home to more than four times the population of Nevada – implies that the Garden State only has room for three networks.
Voluntary consolidation among the six sites listed seems unlikely, with the possible exception of 888 and WSOP.com, who share a common platform.
Liquidity-sharing agreements with other states will ease the strain. But, save Delaware, it’s not immediately clear who those partners will be or when they’re meant to come online. Even in most optimistic cases, you’re looking at several months (likely well into 2015) before an additional state joins Nevada and Delaware.
The logical outcome of those conditions is that not all six networks will be financially viable.
That doesn’t guarantee they’ll be shuttered, as many of the companies involved will be willing to shoulder losses to stay in the game. But for those who aren’t, their tenure in Nevada’s online poker market could prove to be very brief indeed.