A pair of developments indicate that BetMGM could be preparing to launch its online poker product in Nevada in the near future. Such a launch would put BetMGM in direct competition with WSOP.com, which has enjoyed a de facto monopoly in the Silver State since 2014.
Last May, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) issued a three-year extension to its interactive gaming service provider license to Entain — the parent company of partypoker USA and, along with MGM Resorts, owns BetMGM. The move is noteworthy because, in Nevada, an interactive gaming license pertains to online betting and gaming, which is currently limited to just sports betting and online poker, and BetMGM already runs its online sportsbook in the Silver State.
Even more significant is that BetMGM is currently looking to hire a Senior Manager of Poker Marketing that will be based in Las Vegas.
While a spokesperson for BetMGM told US Gaming Review that the position in Las Vegas is designed to focus on its omni-channel strategy, the job posting shows BetMGM is looking for someone with specific qualifications, including a requirement that candidates possess a “thorough understanding of and experience with online poker.”
The company did not offer a timeframe on how quickly it hoped to fill the position.
Timing is Everything
If the Senior Manager position in Las Vegas is, in fact, a prelude to the launch of BetMGM Poker NV, the company will likely be interested in launching by mid-May or earlier, to ensure it’s up and running by the time the 2022 World Series of Poker kicks off on May 31. The resulting increased traffic would be a boon to BetMGM.
The operator could also benefit from the number of customers who have been using its BetMGM sports betting app, which originally launched in Nevada under the PlayMGM moniker in 2017, before being rebranded in 2020. Users who already have accounts for sports wagering with the operator will likely be able to make a smooth transition to poker when the room goes live.
A launch of BetMGM Poker NV would also mark the end of an era. WSOP NV has been the only online poker operator in the state since 2014, when rival Ultimate Bet shut down its operations in both Nevada and New Jersey. Ultimate Bet was actually the first online poker operator in the state, launching in 2013.
According to the NGC’s website, WSOP and Real Gaming are currently the only two entities with valid interactive gaming licenses in the state. Real Gaming Poker never got off the ground and has been dormant for years.
Another potential rival in the poker vertical, PokerStars, was labelled as a “bad actor” by Nevada regulators in 2011. PokerStars has since been banned from obtaining a license in the state, although it remains unclear if the operator can apply to re-enter the market after a certain number of years.
Shared Poker Liquidity with New Jersey a Major Question
One of the bigger questions surrounding a potential launch of BetMGM Poker NV is whether the operator would be able to share liquidity with its sister site in New Jersey.
Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey are members of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), the only interstate compact in the US. MSIGA allows poker operators to combine player pools and share liquidity across all three states. WSOP and its interactive partner, 888, are currently the only poker network operating a multi-state player pool through MSIGA — BetMGM could be the second operator to ever do so.
BetMGM would likely have a difficult time competing against WSOP if they treat Nevada as a segregated market and decide not to combine its player pool with players in New Jersey. On the other hand, BetMGM would need approval from regulators in Nevada and New Jersey if the operator did want to combine player pools. It’s unclear how long a review and subsequent approval from both states would take to complete.
Officials with the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) declined to comment specifically on BetMGM potentially launching a poker product in Nevada or on plans, if any, for the operator to share liquidity with its network in New Jersey.
One scenario would be for BetMGM to initially launch in Nevada as a segregated site without shared liquidity, but this seems unlikely.