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As Nevada gaming regulators prepare to give the greenlight for additional online poker sites to join Ultimate Poker in the state’s online poker regime, MGM executives have been in discussions aimed at forging interstate compact agreements.
James Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM, revealed during an earnings call yesterday that the company’s focus remains on increasing online poker liquidity by exploring interstate partnerships.
Citing Nevada’s small population that renders a viable intrastate online poker model nearly impossible, Murren argued that the inclusion of other states to the overall scheme is essential.
After the earnings call wrapped up, Murren told an interviewer that he thinks “it’s likely that in 2014 we’ll see a compact between New Jersey and Nevada.”
Murren should know. As he tells it, MGM has been “working with the State of Nevada on their efforts to compact with other states.”
Nevada Gaming Control Board head A.G. Burnett told Reuters that the state is “nearing completion” on the initial phase of building a regulatory framework for compacts.
But Burnett did not specifically speculate on the chances of a compact with New Jersey or the timeline for the introduction of interstate online gambling compacts.
“We have a big team that is preparing ourselves on a state-by-state basis in the states that we believe would be the most productive for us,” Murren stated in the conference call.
Only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have so far enacted online gambling regulations.
Though not elaborating on who the other states may be that MGM is focusing on, it is believed that discussions may also have taken place with states that are still considering online poker and gambling legislation.
Murren told reporters that he thinks “at least 40 of the 50 states are in some stage of debating this (online gambling) internally,” citing California, Illinois and New York as the most “visible” example.
Murren expects Caesars to be the next poker site to go live in Nevada with WSOP.com.
South Point Poker, under the rebranded Real Gaming, is also rumored to be nearing an online launch. MGM’s Internet poker offering in the Silver State will likely follow those launches.
When those sites join the party and compete against Ultimate Poker, a dilution of available players among several sites is sure to present liquidity issues that can best be remedied by interstate compacts.
Murren also pointed out that MGM has not given up on a federal online poker bill eventually gaining approval among lawmakers. He did admit that such a possibility is “becoming very challenging.”
Currently, proposals by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) are on the table. Barton’s bill is restricted to poker-only, while King has introduced a broader Internet gambling measure that would also permit online casino games. Both are considered by many to be longshots at advancing.