The current monopoly over Nevada online poker held by WSOP.com may be coming to an end, after PartyPoker parent company GVC Holdings saw its interactive gambling license application approved last week.
In a hearing held on May 23, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) granted the Isle of Man-based GVC Holdings approval to operate in the Silver State over a probationary two-year period.
The ostensible objective for GVC Holdings’ entrance to the Nevada market is Roar Digital, the company’s online sports betting platform created in partnership with MGM Resorts. GVC Holdings is a major player in the European online sportsbook industry, with well-known brands like Ladbrokes, Coral, Eurobet, and SportingBet falling under its corporate umbrella.
In a statement issued by Kenneth Alexander – who serves as chief executive officer for GVC Holdings – Roar Digital definitely took center stage:
“I am delighted the Nevada Gaming Commission has confirmed that GVC meets its stringent regulatory requirements in order to offer betting and gaming products in the state. Coming at the same time as Roar Digital receives a transactional waiver to operate in New Jersey, GVC and our MGM joint venture are hitting important milestones which pave the way for the creation of a market leading US betting and gaming business.”
But with GVC successfully building the PartyPoker NJ brand – the site’s first American-facing platform to serve a regulated market – industry pundits are predicting PartyPoker NV could soon be on the horizon.
Nevada Online Poker Market Needs New Blood
But less than five months later, Caesars Entertainment parlayed its omnipresent World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand into the WSOP.com online poker room. Within weeks, WSOP.com – which also serves the New Jersey poker market – became the undisputed Nevada online poker leader, leading to the demise of Ultimate Poker in November of 2014.
Since that time, Nevada residents and visitors have enjoyed just a single online poker operator in WSOP.com.
Global online poker leader PokerStars has been effectively barred from Nevada based on its status as a so-called “bad actor.”
Speaking to Online Poker Report earlier this year, Jeff Ifrah – founding partner of the gambling industry focused firm Ifrah Law – explained how Nevada’s bad actor provision prevents PokerStars from launching a platform there:
“The Nevada 2013 poker bill implements bad actor laws by defining covered persons as anyone who after December 31, 2006, intentionally provided interactive gaming to customers in the US. The Nevada law also prohibits anyone who acquired assets such as trademarks, customer lists or software that was used after December 31, 2006 to offer interactive gaming to US customers.”
Essentially, any iGaming operator which violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 – as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker did – by continuing to serve American players in spite of federal law has been given the boot by Nevada regulators.
But despite avoiding the bad actor label by voluntarily withdrawing from the U.S. post-UIGEA, PartyPoker nearly got the axe in Nevada anyway.
Lone Dissenting Vote Voices “Bad Actor” Concerns
Before the NGC signed off on GVC’s application, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) held its own hearings on May 8 to consider the matter.
The NGCB eventually voted 2-1 to send GVC’s request up the ladder to the NGC. But not before board member Terry Johnson interrogated Alexander about the company’s operations in Turkey.
GVC acquired subsidiary Ladbrokes in March of last year, and at the time, Ladbrokes operated an online sportsbook in Turkey despite that nation’s ban on gambling.
And while GVC eventually sold the offending platform off, Johnson asked Alexander why an illegal bet shop was allowed to operate under its auspices for any length of time:
“I’m at a loss to understand where exactly did the buck stop in the company if it didn’t stop with you. And why are we to be assured that going forward you’re going to be at the helm of this company in a different manner than what transpired over the past several years?”
Alexander was apologetic in his response, telling Johnson and the NGCB that he was “ultimately responsible.”
NGC Commissioner John Moran told Alexander that, despite Johnson’s dissenting vote, he would back GVC’s entrance to Nevada:
“The test is going to see if, in fact, the trust you’re asking us to give you … if we’re going to get egg on our face. I want to see you go forward and prosper within the confines of the law.”