Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings has signed a joint venture with U.S. investment firm Avenue Capital Group to create what would be the first U.S. online poker network. The All American Poker Network (AAPN) will likely operate first on the state level, though will be ready to expand nationally should federal legislation pass that would allow internet poker throughout the country.
“This is the perfect deal for 888, providing the ideal platform through which to launch our business-to-customer brands into the US market, once regulated,” 888 CEO Brian Mattingley told The Financial Times.
In a separate statement, he added, “Working with a substantial financial partner provides the firepower that we need to take advantage of the significant opportunities that will be provided by a regulated U.S. gaming market.”
The first poker room on the new network will be Treasure Island, namesake of the famous Las Vegas Strip casino. 888 and Treasure Island announced their partnership in February and were recommended for licenses by Nevada gaming regulators last week. While they do not actually have their licenses yet, they are expected to receive them at a hearing in front of the Nevada Gaming Commission on March 21st.
Nevada recently amended its online gaming laws to permit interstate compacts in order to expand the player base for its internet poker rooms, so it is expected that 888 will add other skins in other states as soon as it can. Delaware and New Jersey have also passed legislation allowing for online poker, though 888 has yet to be licensed in those states.
This is not the first online poker deal 888 Holdings has made in the United States. It has already partnered with Caesars to produce a World Series of Poker-branded real-money internet poker room, though there is no word about whether or not it would end up on the AAPN. The two already have a play-money room, WSOP-USA.com, up and running, open to anyone in the United States. 888’s relationship with Caesars could give it a leg up when it comes to New Jersey licensing, as Caesars operates four casinos in Atlantic City.
Last summer, 888 inked a deal with gaming machine manufacturer WMS Gaming with the goal of bringing an online poker product to brick-and-mortar casinos in Nevada.
888 Holdings currently owns 888Poker.com, the headline room on 888’s poker network that operates outside of the U.S. It currently ranks fifth in terms of cash game traffic in the industry, according to PokerScout.com, behind PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, PartyPoker, and the iPoker Network. Unless the network combines with the AAPN, it will likely be in the fifth spot for a while (and who knows when the AAPN will even launch). With a seven-day average of 2,450 cash game players, 888Poker sits well behind iPoker (3,200) and comfortably ahead of PokerStars’ Italian offering, PokerStars.it (2,100).