PokerStars, Eldorado both expanding

PokerStars Inks Eldorado Deal; Is Nevada Online Gambling In The Cards?

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Thanks to a new agreement with Eldorado Resorts, the parent company of PokerStars could eventually have a digital presence in as many as 13 US states.

According to a press release from the Stars Group (TSG), it will offer real-money gambling — including online poker — through Eldorado’s license for a period of 20 years. The deal appears to be online-only, and implementation depends on the landscape in each market.

“The agreement grants The Stars Group the option to own, operate and brand real-money online sports betting, poker and casino offerings in each of the applicable states subject to license availability, state law and regulatory approvals. As it relates to sports betting, The Stars Group’s options will provide first skin access in states where Eldorado owns or operates more than one casino property and second skin access in all other applicable states.”

This new partnership does not seem to affect the existing sports betting alliance between Eldorado and William Hill:

“Pursuant to the terms of the agreement announced between William Hill and Eldorado on September 5, 2018, William Hill US remains Eldorado’s exclusive provider for land-based retail sports wagering and has consented to the Company’s agreement with TSG. William Hill US will share in the economics of The Stars Group transaction and will have access to Eldorado’s first and third skin for online sports betting in all states.”

Eldorado positioned for online gambling, sports betting

Eldorado currently operates casino properties in 13 states. The new union does not include access into two big ones — Pennsylvania and New Jersey — as PokerStars has existing partnerships in both.

Several other Eldorado states have legalized online gambling and/or sports betting, and many more are contemplating legislative action.

 Online gamblingSports bettingLegislative interest
New Jersey
West Virginia

An eye toward the future for PokerStars

Eldorado might be well positioned, but timelines for online gambling drag behind those for land-based expansion in most states. Even some that have recently begun regulating sports betting have held the reins on digital wagering.

Mobile betting in Mississippi is limited to on-property, for example, and West Virginia has yet to launch any online/mobile sports betting options.

Considering the deal doesn’t cover live markets in NJ or PA, it seems that PokerStars is mostly positioning its chess pieces for a future attack. Eldorado provides just one quick point of entry, and it could be a tricky one for PokerStars to navigate.

Nevada is the market in question.

The Nevada problem

At a glance, the deal appears to grant PokerStars immediate access to Nevada. When it comes to online poker, however, PokerStars is a persona non grata in the state.

As OPR previously reported:

“Current iGaming law in Nevada (with“bad-actor” language) appears to preclude that online poker operator [PokerStars] from serving the state into perpetuity. Barring a change in the law, which is unlikely to come, PokerStars is probably shut out of benefiting from the compact.”

It’s unclear if the bad-actor/tainted-asset clause that has prevented PokerStars from securing an online poker license carries over to sports betting. Even though it’s part of the state’s online gaming bill, the language doesn’t specifically mention poker. The clause(s) could theoretically apply to other forms of gambling.

PokerStars did not previously offer sports betting in the US, but it did provide online poker. I find it hard to fathom that the Nevada Gaming Control Board would impose a nonuniform restriction across verticals.

It would be a difficult circle for regulators to square. Allowing TSG to offer online sports betting while prohibiting a PokerStars online poker site would likely raise a few eyebrows.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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