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All American Poker Network Coming Soon

Online poker became legalized and regulated in Nevada over a year ago and that was surely an exciting time, but the honeymoon has been over for quite a while. There was the bump the state’s poker sites received during the annual migration for the World Series of Poker, but that is already long gone. Something needs to change and it looks like that is about to happen. According to Bluff.com, online gaming firm 888 is about set to roll out its inter-operator poker network in the Silver State.

On Monday, Bluff.com’s Steve Ruddock published a write-up of a phone interview he had with 888 CEO Brian Mattingley about 888’s upcoming plans for internet gaming in the United States. Mattingley revealed that his company’s intrastate online poker network will be up and running soon, with plans to launch in the final quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year.

888 CEO Brian Mattingley
888 CEO Brian Mattingley

The inter-operator network was originally proposed by 888 on July 9th to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and was officially approved by the NGCB at the end of the month. The network will be powered by 888’s software and will initially include a poker offering from Treasure Island, a new 888-branded poker room, and the currently existing WSOP.com, which already uses 888’s software platform.

That network will be the All American Poker Network (AAPN). The network was formed way back in March of last year when 888 Holdings entered into a joint venture with U.S. investment firm Avenue Capital Group, marking the creation of the first U.S. online poker network. At the time, Treasure Island was announced to be the first room on the network, but obviously neither the room nor the network have yet to spring to life in Nevada.

Side note that may be interesting to sports fans: the CEO and co-founder of the Avenue Capital Group is Marc Lasry, who, along with Wesley Edens, recently purchased the Milwaukee Bucks National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise from former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl for $550 million. So, as much as professional and amateur sports leagues in the United States have been against online gambling in the past, there is now a direct “familial” relationship between the two in this instance.

888’s U.S. expansion gets even more interesting. On February 25th, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed an historic deal, the “Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement,” in which the two states will join forces and combine their poker player pools. Currently the gambling sites that operate in each state can only accept players from within the borders of their respective states. With this agreement, players can cross virtual state borders and hop onto the tables of either state, allowing all sites to bolster their liquidity.

And the two states need it. Nevada ranks just 35th of the 50 states with an estimated 2.8 million residents. Delaware is one of the tiniest states in the Union, boasting fewer than a million residents; its online poker traffic barely registers on any sort of radar. They need to team up.

Mattingley told Ruddock that when it comes to the Nevada inter-operator network serving as a catalyst for the Nevada-Delaware interstate network, “one leads to another.” In his company’s half-year report published Wednesday, he reiterated the intentions to get that network going, saying, “We are aiming to deploy a shared poker network across the two states which will offer poker players in each state an enhanced customer experience.”

He added, “We remain fully committed to the US market through our B2B business as well as through our interest in the AAPN joint venture. This dual structure allows us to capture the significant opportunities in an effective and investment efficient manner. Through our technical, operational and commercial expertise and flexibility we continue to be in an exceptionally strong position as the market regulates.”

Delaware is home to three brick-and-mortar “racinos,” each of which operates an online gambling site.  (Delaware permits online casino gaming in addition to poker, whereas Nevada only permits poker.) Those sites all use 888’s software. Thus, once the All American Poker Network gets going both within Nevada’s borders and across state lines, it will consist of six online poker rooms.

As for New Jersey, Mattingley said in the Bluff interview that “they would like to explore” the possibility of WSOP.com and US.888Poker.com sharing liquidity, but nothing is in the works right now. He said that it will be up to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) to determine whether or not such a partnership is allowed. New Jersey to this point has not shown much desire to team up with other states on poker, but it did start a progressive slot machine linking system with Nevada last week.

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