But what is happening on the ground for operators? We know more thanks to WSOP.com.
In reality, it will still take some time before this pooling takes place. Regulations vary between New Jersey and Nevada. Accordingly, operators need to first clearly understand what they need to do on a regulatory front. Then they need to put those things into action.
WSOP — via WSOP NJ and WSOP NV — is the only site operating in both NJ and Nevada right now. Therefore, it gets to be the guinea pig in addition to first to market. This is certainly a huge win for the online poker site. It also comes with its fair share of challenges though.
Online Poker Report spoke with WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini about the upcoming shared player pools.
While specifics are not clear yet, Rini does offer insight on what he is looking forward to, where there could be challenges, and what kind of tinkering is going on at the Caesars Interactive Entertainment offices.
OPR: Did WSOP.com management know very far in advance that player pool sharing was going to happen?
Rini: We had always known there were certain conversations going on in the background, but we were not made aware they had progressed to that point until after the fact. [We found out] when they were ready to release the information.
OPR: Obviously WSOP.com is the only operator in both New Jersey and Nevada. What are the next steps for you in terms of getting from where you are to shared player pools?
Rini: Well, there’s a few steps between here and there. First off, there’s the finalization of some regulations. Then, we are submitting our plans to all the regulators, who will then review those plans and let us know exactly what needs to be accomplished before they can give us the thumbs up to go live.
OPR: To clarify, you’re speaking with regulators in both New Jersey and Nevada, right?
Rini: Correct. To some extent Delaware…If we are going to be sharing cash games and tournaments, we want to keep all the interested parties in the loop in terms of what we are doing. We wouldn’t unilaterally make changes to our tournament schedules without bring a partner like Delaware into the loop first.
OPR: Do you have a sense of how long the process to go live will take?
Rini: We will probably know a little more after the first week of November. At this point, we are just assembling all of the information about what we have to do. Then we can start projecting out how long that will take. We are in ‘putting tasks together’ mode, then getting them all done. After that we can start putting some timelines together and discussing those timelines with the regulators.
OPR: Looking further down the line at the things WSOP.com can potentially do once player sharing launches, as the main guy at WSOP.com, what piece of this are you personally most excited about?
Rini: One of the things we have been most excited about even just thinking about the potential of additional states in a compact is the time zone difference. Being able to extend primetime for the players. Which is something we have tried to do promotionally in Nevada and New Jersey with happy hours before or after traditional primetime, trying to get people to play a bit more. Now with the time zone changes, that will happen more naturally between the two states.
OPR: There will be challenges that come with that too though, right? Especially since all of your promotions have been state-specific before now? Are there adjustments to make on that front?
Rini: There are a lot of adjustments to make (laughs). They don’t readily become apparent until you start getting into it, which is why it is difficult to give a timeline right now.
As you step into it, you start asking how to reconcile user names and this loyalty program we have here and how do we reconcile differences between the jurisdictions? Because sometimes there are even vast demographic differences.
Sometimes we gear things more towards one market and in another market we did something different or tweaked it. Now we have to come up with a solution that works for both.
OPR: The good news is you are almost certainly going to be first to market, but that also makes you the guinea pig. Is it safe to say some of these adjustments will come on the fly after this launches?
Rini: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a loyalty program or a tournament schedule or anything that ever rolls out perfectly right out of the gate. Even just introducing something new is going to inevitably change something else.
There is always a tweaking process once you get something out there, but you have to get it out there in order to get the feedback, then make the changes, then get more feedback, and dial it in over and over, over time.
Even without the compact, we are still always looking at how to improve our tournament schedules and how we promote cash games. That has never stopped over four years. I don’t think we will ever stop tweaking our offerings as long as we are offering it.
OPR: The reactions to the compact range from “I don’t think this is a big deal” to “this is a game-changer.” As someone on the front lines, how important would you say this player pool sharing is? And does that importance vary as it applies to Nevada and Delaware than it applies to New Jersey?
Rini: We haven’t really looked at it in terms of who benefits more. We always looked at it is better for everybody overall. If you have bigger guarantees, it is only going to attract more players, which allows you to increase the guarantees more. It has that sort of snowball effect. We’ve seen that historically in poker, in general.
Right now it has been a very stagnant period, and this gives some momentum towards increasing guarantees and prize pools. For us, we look at this as a game-changer in the sense that we are moving things in a positive direction that will benefit everyone involved. There is nobody who ends up coming out worse of this situation.
OPR: And, to be clear, the player pool is not simply going to be adding up active users in Nevada plus active users in New Jersey plus active users in Delaware, right?
Rini: Right, it is not an additive exercise. You can’t just add up those players in those market and have that be the result. Having all those players in the same game is going to attract the attention of people who were playing live and weren’t playing online or overseas sites. They are going to look and the site will become more attractive to them.
Overall, it is very difficult to put a mathematical formula to it because no one really knows, but it is definitely not just one plus one equals two.
OPR: Looking forward, do you think this compact will impact other states besides the three that are involved?
Rini: It has always been our wish that other states would see compacts in general as an opportunity to ramp up their operations as quickly as possible. Ultimately for a lot of states, it comes down to offer online gaming in a safe and responsible manner and generate tax revenues.
If it is very difficult for them to ramp up any sort of real business, then they don’t get any of the tax benefits. If they see that there is an opportunity for them to get into a pool of compacted states and it is being very well run with cooperation from all of the states, I think it does make it a little bit easier to take a look and say, “Hey ,this is something that already works.”
OPR: And then maybe eventually we might have a nationwide online bracelet?
Rini: That has always been our ultimate goal, to have an online bracelet that is available to anyone, anywhere. Obviously we are starting off with a more modest target of the United States, but we would love to offer it around the world.