In a history making moment earlier today, the first-ever hand was dealt in a US-regulated online poker room. Station Casinos and UltimatePoker.com in Nevada won the race to be the first US operator to enter the newly regulated US market.
UltimatePoker.com opened for business at 9 AM Pacific time, dealing cash games, tournaments, and sit-n-gos for registered players inside the state of Nevada.
In a Las Vegas Review interview, Ultimate Poker Chairman Tom Breitling said on Monday: “This is an important day for the gaming industry. We’re the first, not only in Nevada but in America, to offer real money poker in a regulated environment.”
UltimatePoker is a subsidiary of Station Casinos, a company that operates 16 land-based casinos in Nevada. A player verification process uses a cellphone triangulation method to ensure that players are physically present in the state of Nevada. Even non-residents are eligible to register an account and play online as long as they are in the state. The stakes on the site vary from a few cents up to $100. Customers can deposit and cashout at any of the Station Casinos properties.
In a Station’s press release, Ultimate Poker CEO Tobin Prior says “We feel our technology is a major advantage. Ultimate Poker’s proprietary software is completely owned and operated by parent company Ultimate Gaming, allowing for continuous investment and product development. The technology was acquired in 2011 and initially developed by a U.S. based company with a completely clean regulatory profile.”
Other major players in the Nevada casino market have chosen instead to partner with existing online poker operators from outside the US. However, those partnerships do come with some risk that the partner’s prior involvement in the US market may be an issue with regulators.
Other states are moving toward the launch of games as well, and those states have not limited the games to just poker. Despite the powerful land-based casinos lobbying efforts to push through a national poker-only regulation, it appears that the market is going to be filled piece by piece as states individually pass laws governing online gambling. New Jersey and Delaware have both completed legislation, and those markets are expecting games to possibly be launched later this year.
It will be interesting to watch the Nevada poker-only market closely, to see if a “ring-fenced” player pool of only Nevada players will be sufficient to maintain the games. Nevada’s legislature has already addressed the possibility of pooling players with other states that eventually legalize online poker, and I think this will be mandatory for the games to succeed.
Skepticism aside, online poker is back. And that’s a good thing.