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Moving a step closer to bringing its online gaming industry to life, the state of Delaware announced yesterday that fourteen companies have applied for online gaming licenses for their proposed online casino gaming system.

The online operation, which will be operated by the Delaware Lottery, will offer all types of casino gaming and online poker, is expected to begin operation sometime around the middle of this year. With this in mind, Delaware Lottery Assistant Director Rebecca Goldsmith announced the fourteen companies that had applied for licenses with the Lottery administrators. There are several familiar names that have been a part of the application process in other states, with two giants in the industry leading the way.

PokerStars is among the fourteen companies that have applied for a license, looking to get back into the lucrative American market after their departure in 2011 from the “Black Friday” indictments by the federal government. PokerStars is also looking to gain a foothold in New Jersey through the purchase of the Atlantic Club in Atlantic City (which would allow them into the recently regulated online gaming market in the Garden State), but that deal is currently tabled while New Jersey regulators decide if the online poker monolith is suitable for owning the casino. At this time, there have been no objections to PokerStars’ moves in Delaware.

The other big name that is a part of the proposed Delaware licensing corps is 888 Holdings PLC, one of the top online gaming operations in the world. 888 has long enjoyed its success in providing online gaming and poker to international players in becoming one of the major players in the industry. They did suffer a setback in 2006, however, when the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed and the company pulled out of American action.

Other familiar names pop up on the Delaware licensing list. SHFL Entertainment (the former Shuffle Master) and International Game Technology (IGT) are two that have also put their applications in for operations in Nevada’s proposed online poker industry. The Canadian firm Amaya Gaming (operators of the Ongame Network), Bally Technologies (filed with Amaya in a partnership), Stan James PLC and Continent 8 Technologies are also in the mix for garnering the coveted Delaware gaming license.

Last year, Delaware joined in with Nevada as the first states to make a move into the online gaming arena. After the U. S. Department of Justice’s decision in December 2011 that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting, both states moved forward with setting up an intra-state system for online gaming. The big difference between the two is that Delaware authorized a full online casino system and sports betting (Delaware is one of four states allowed to have sports betting under federal law) while the Nevada law only opened up the potential for online poker.

The Delaware statutes allow for operators to offer slot games and table games, such as poker, online to customers that are physically located inside the state. GPS software will ensure that those people attempting to take part in Delaware’s offerings are actually located in the state. In addition to the previously stated casino games, Delaware also plans to have an online sports book, which might be more lucrative than the casino games that have also been allowed.

After Governor Jack Markell signed the bill into law in June of 2012, it was expected that the Delaware system would come online by the beginning of this year. There’s been a bit of a delay, however, as the state’s Lottery Commission looks to do a thorough job with the licensing procedures. It is expected that, before the start of the National Football League season this fall, Delaware will not only offer online casinos and poker for its residents but also offer 20 to 30 sports betting sites, an estimated 100 Keno sites and the potential for online state lottery ticket sales.

As Delaware continues with their licensing process, it is a race to see who will come online with the first operations and whether those operations will be of an interstate nature. Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey all have passed online gaming statutes of some type but, as of yet, no online sites have come to life. There could be more changes in the future as the three states face the possibility of entering into compacts with each other (to make for a larger player pool) or, if other states join the rush for online gaming, partner with those states for an interstate system.

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