After years of delays, online poker players in all three regulated US states, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, will be able to participate in interstate play as of May 1.
The three US states where regulated online poker is currently available will collectively allow the pooling of online players as of May 1, according to Caesars Interactive Entertainment, the parent company of the World Series of Poker. The expansion adds New Jersey to the US’s nascent shared-liquidity market, as Nevada and Delaware have been pooling their online poker players since 2015.
Caesars Interactive, which operates one or both of its WSOP and 888Poker brands in all three states, will go live for interstate play combining the three on May 1, according to an announcement given to the Associated Press.
This is the first player-pooling deal among all three officially regulated states to come to fruition. A fourth US state, Pennsylvania, approved online gambling earlier this year, but the first sites in that jurisdiction won’t go live until June. Pennsylvania will likely consider participating in this interstate poker compact later.
“This has been a huge collaborative effort from all involved and it is important to thank the elected leadership and regulatory authorities in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey for their dedication and diligence to help move online poker forward,” said Bill Rini, WSOP’s head of online poker. “Everyone has had the end user in mind throughout this process, and as a result, we believe the United States, for the first time in a regulated environment, will have a large-scale multi-state offering that will propel the industry forward as soon as next month.”
Approval needed from states
Caesars will still need official approval from each of the three states for the specific sites on which multi-state play will be offered. However, a company spokesman indicated that the needed regulatory approval will arrive in the near future. The liquidity-sharing software modules must pass through state examination and approval before being activated for real-money play.
The shared-liquidity deal is especially important to online poker, compared to other forms of online gambling. The peer-to-peer game thrives when more players have access to specific games, such as tournaments and cash-game play. Both main categories can offer larger events, more tables, and higher buy-in options to waiting players.
The three-state deal will be of special importance to Caesars’ WSOP.com (World Series of Poker) brand. In previous years, the WSOP has been unable to run online satellites to its Las Vegas (Nevada) summer series on its New Jersey-based WSOP site. Though not confirmed, such a relationship is now foreseeable for this staple of online-poker offerings.
The player pooling may also help reverse online poker’s tepid performance to date in New Jersey. Online poker has slowly sagged there in the past couple of years, while segments such as online slots have prospered.
Implementation was delayed
The three US states had reached an interstate agreement in principle several years ago, but implementation was long delayed – particularly on New Jersey’s part — due to technical and legal considerations. Among the issues that had to be resolved were language in each state’s online-gambling regulations requiring the needed gaming servers to be physically located in that state, and differences in how tax revenue was to be withheld, since each state has a different tax rate governing online poker operating profits. Those hurdles as they applied to New Jersey have now been cleared.
Though not expressly indicated in the announcement, the shared gaming servers will probably be based in New Jersey, using a version of the software already in place there. According to Caesars’ announcement, customers of their online-poker sites in Nevada and Delaware will have to download an updated version of the client software in order to participate in the newly expanded games. New Jersey is the most populous of the three states involved, with a population more than that of Nevada and Delaware combined.
“This will raise jackpots and provide even greater opportunities for play,” said David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). “It also paves the way for additional states to join and grow the regulated, legal online poker market.”