As the online poker industry continues the slow but steady march toward regaining traction within the American marketplace, a select group of forerunners has emerged to become driving forces behind ongoing legalization and regulation efforts.
One of those forces is David Licht, a successful financial services expert who currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the All-American Poker Network (AAPN). Recognizing the need for cooperation between the various private companies, political action groups, and financial providers needed to usher the industry into an age of regulated online gaming, the AAPN seeks to bring these disparate factions together under a common banner. With Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware standing as the first three states to authorize the return of online gaming within their borders, the Licht and the AAPN work to develop productive relationships between the various entities operating online gaming platforms in each state.
A joint venture between 888 Holdings and Avenue Capital Group, the AAPN seeks to organize the first fully licensed online gaming network in the United States. Just as the failed Merge Network attempted to do for unregulated sites, the AAPN’s objective is to form productive partnerships between ostensible competitors, allowing them to share player pools and grow in tandem.
Prior to taking the position with the AAPN, Licht served as a senior vice president for Avenue Capital Group, a private equity firm operating out of New York City. In his time with AAPN, Licht has been deeply involved in the ongoing process of legalizing and regulating online gaming, brokering a deal between 888 Holdings and Pennsylvania’s Mount Airy Casino in anticipation of that state’s pending legislation.
The reputation of 888 Holdings is unimpeachable throughout the worldwide online gaming industry, and the company is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. Millions of players around the world enjoy 888 Holdings’ online gaming products, which span the spectrum from poker rooms to full-fledged casinos, and the company is known for offering impeccable customer service and cutting edge gaming experiences.
Licht has remained extremely active in his capacity as Executive Director for the AAPN. Whether he is appearing at gaming conferences and panels, giving interviews to mainstream media and industry outlets alike, or advocating in several states where online gaming legislation is currently under consideration, Licht has dedicated himself to the cause. In a recent interview with the New Jersey Record this August, Licht offered an analytical appraisal of the state’s fledgling online gaming industry:
“One of the initial problems when the industry launched was there were a lot of technical issues, and a lot of operators came out with a large marketing budget for the first few months when the product was not up to speed yet. A lot of first-time depositors couldn’t log on, and you’d lose them. When the next states roll in, the glitches have already been fixed, the product is better, and it makes for a much more positive launch because the customer experience is much better.”
“Nobody likes to lose money, and we have to be accountable. It’s a delicate dance – maintaining a business model [as the wait continues]. The stakes are very high, given the nature of our belief in the long-term nature of the business. One of the keys is to make sure that if we’re only in New Jersey [for now], we’re able to not lose a lot of money. Online gaming is a business that requires scale, so it’s very difficult to make money when one smallish state is live. New Jersey, by itself, is not why we are in online gaming in the U.S. It’s a nice market, and growing 20 percent this year, but we do need other states.”
In keeping with the AAPN’s goal of joining online gaming platforms, both on the intrastate and interstate level, Licht emphasizes the importance of cooperation between the various entities seeking to gain a foothold within the industry. The result of Licht’s diligence is an ever-expanding AAPN, one which includes the licensed operators Treasure Island and Wynn in Nevada, Caesars Entertainment in New Jersey, and 888Poker.com in Delaware.
Licht has also been quite active in New York and Pennsylvania, the two states in which online gaming legislation is believed to be a foregone conclusion. His objective, as always, is to build cooperative compacts between every state providing legal, regulated online gaming, by enlisting operators to join the AAPN. In an interview with PokerNews conducted in September of this year, Licht continued to champion the concept of compacts between operators:
“I think all the states will realize it’s in their best interest to do that. It’s not going to take away any revenue from these states, it can only generate more. It will increase the player experience, increase liquidity. I just think from a legal and regulatory standpoint, it needs to be hashed through the different regulatory agencies, and that just takes time. It’s new to all of the regulators in the US, and they’ve got to make sure they’re within their boundaries. I think all of these states will eventually compact with each other assuming the laws and regulations allow for it.”