America’s regulated online poker industry just tripled up, as players in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware will compete against one another in shared player pools beginning May 1.
The shared liquidity agreement is spearheaded by Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE) affiliate 888 Poker, the only operator with a presence in all three iGaming-legal states.
CIE operates WSOP.com – Nevada’s only viable online poker platform – using 888 Poker software, along with a licensing group in New Jersey which includes both WSOP.com and 888 Poker skins. In Delaware, where the state lottery controls three online poker sites, 888 Poker is legally recognized as the state’s sole operator.
Currently, players physically located in any of the three states can only compete against opponents in the same jurisdiction – a practice known as “ring-fencing” in iGaming industry parlance. But with its ring-fenced markets suffering from small player pools and missed revenue projections, Nevada and Delaware forged the country’s first interstate player sharing agreement in 2014.
New Jersey initially balked at joining the Multi State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA), but even as its wider iGaming industry exceeded expectations since launching in 2013, the poker vertical has lagged behind. The lack of production from poker rooms prompted then Governor Chris Christie to bring the Garden State aboard with MSIGA in October of last year.
After six months of deliberations between regulators in the three markets, WSOP.com and 888 Poker will become the first sites to share players across three states beginning in May.
Bill Rini, who serves as head of online poker for WSOP.com, offered the following comments on the historic player sharing compact:
“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.
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.”
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) director David Rebuck predicted more states – possibly including Pennsylvania, which legalized iGaming last December – would be added to the compact in years to come:
“This will raise jackpots and provide even greater opportunities for play.
It also paves the way for additional states to join and grow the regulated, legal online poker market.”
Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) chairwoman Becky Harris praised her peers for collaborating on crafting new regulations on behalf of players:
“(The NGCB) is pleased to be part of this collaborative effort between regulators, operators, and the platform manufacturer to achieve the common goal of providing a sound gaming experience for patrons across multiple jurisdictions while still meeting our individual jurisdictional requirements.”
Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery, stated that shared player pools presents poker enthusiasts with an “exciting opportunity to enhance their experience.”
Per the press release announcing the news, players in Nevada and Delaware will need to download a new software suite, and register new accounts, to activate tri-state player pools. Players in New Jersey, however, can continue playing using the same software and account information.
According to data compiled by PokerScout, the shared Nevada/Delaware platform combines for an average of 150 cash game players, and peak traffic reaching 300 players. In New Jersey, 888 Poker and WSOP.com combine for an average of 110 and a peak of 250.
The May 1 launch date was timed to provide WSOP.com players in New Jersey with an opportunity to compete for gold bracelets during the summer-long World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. The WSOP will host four official online bracelet events during the six-week series, and for the first time ever, a player physically located outside of Nevada will be eligible to grab the gold.