Online poker players in the Silver State who want an alternative to WSOP.com may be in luck after the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) approved GVC Holdings’ application for an interactive gaming license.
That probationary two-year approval allows GVC Holdings – the Isle of Man-based parent company of European-facing online sportsbooks including SportingBet, Coral, Ladbrokes, and Eurobet – to prepare for the launch of Roar Digital alongside American partner MGM Resorts.
GVC Holdings’ CEO Kenneth Alexander issued a statement after the approval was announced to hype the emerging Roar Digital sports betting brand:
“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.”
Roar Digital will focus on offering bettors in Nevada access to a new online bookmaker, but GVC Holdings may also have its sights set on the state’s online poker market.
After acquiring bwin.party in 2015, GVC Holdings became the parent company of PartyPoker – a platform that is second only to PokerStars in terms of global player pools.
And as Alexander mentioned in his press release, GVC Holdings is already active within New Jersey’s flourishing online gambling industry. With the PartyPoker NJ platform operational in the Garden State since late 2013 – competing directly with the Caesars Interactive Entertainment owned WSOP.com – GVC Holdings could parlay its partnership with MGM to make a similar play in Nevada.
End to WSOP.com Monopoly Could Be in the Cards
Nevada law allows for both sports betting and poker to be played online, but not casino games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and slots.
The NGC approval grants GVC Holdings the right to offer both iGaming verticals, but while sports betting is clearly the company’s target with Roar Digital, poker wasn’t mentioned in any press releases or statements.
That may be due to Nevada’s stagnant online poker industry, where WSOP.com stands alone as the only active operator. UltimatePoker.com – the state’s original online poker site and the first regulated operator in America – began hosting cash games and tournaments in April of 2013.
Within months, Caesars capitalized on the brand awareness built by its World Series of Poker (WSOP) property to launch WSOP.com across Nevada. By November of 2014, UltimatePoker.com was shuttered by parent company Station Casinos, leaving Caesars and WSOP.com to enjoy a monopoly ever since.
New Jersey’s online poker market, meanwhile, is home to WSOP.com, PartyPoker NJ, and PokerStars NJ, creating a competitive environment that benefits players and operators alike.
Monthly revenue reports out of New Jersey reveal WSOP.com to consistently lead the way, followed by PokerStars and PartyPoker in that order.
That pecking order has been firmly established, but GVC Holdings wouldn’t have to contend with PokerStars should the company decide to launch PartyPoker NV.
PartyPoker Enjoys Edge Over PokerStars in Nevada
Nevada’s iGaming laws include specific language banning “bad actors” – or online poker operators who continued to serve the American market despite the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. After the UIGEA was authorized by Congress, PartyPoker voluntarily blocked access to American players, a choice PokerStars and old rival Full Tilt Poker ultimately decided against.
In an interview with OPR, gambling industry lawyer Jeff Ifrah discussed the consequences of Nevada’s bad actor law:
“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.”
The inability of PokerStars to penetrate Nevada’s online poker industry could open the door for GVC Holdings, and by proxy, MGM, to challenge mount a challenge to the Caesars / WSOP.com monopoly.