In what became a very tense meeting, the Nevada Gaming Control Board approved the extension of licenses for two online poker operators. MGM Resorts and Z4Poker both appeared in front of the NGCB and stated their reasons for asking for the extensions, which were accepted by the Board. In extending them for another year, however, NGCB Chair Kirk Hendrick stated that the Board was losing its patience with the companies and their inaction toward entering the Nevada online poker market.

MGM A “Year Away”

During the hearing on Wednesday, attorneys for both organizations explained the delays in coming to the market. Chandler Pohl, the legal representative for MGM Resorts International, stated that delays in getting their sports betting operations up and running were delaying the implementation of their online poker operations. “We have a few projects related to sports betting, then (we) would allow the poker (offerings) to be the next project,” Pohl reported to the Board. Pohl offered to the Board that MGM was “roughly a year” away from going forward with an online poker product in the state.

Sean McGuinness, the attorney representing Z4Poker, blamed the company’s delay on the problems with regulating the industry. According to McGuinness, Z4Poker petitioned for a license in Nevada when it appeared that federally regulated online gaming was coming around. Although the hopes for federally regulated online gaming and poker have dimmed, Z4Poker believes they need to keep the license active, at least for now. “(The federal regulation) was a part of what was at play…(when we) were coming forward in Nevada,” McGuinness stated.

NGCB Chair Puts Stance on the Record

Hendrick, who has been the Chair of the NGCB since January 2023, was noticeably clear in his statements to both companies. While willing to offer another extension to both companies – the fourteenth such extension for MGM Resorts alone – Hendrick wanted to get on the record that he, the Board, and the state were not pleased with either company’s continued delays. “At some point, it is a public policy question,” Hendrick stated.

“The Commission wants to have licenses and businesses in place, bringing in the tax revenues and jobs that go with an approval (of a license) and an activation,” Hendrick continued. Hendrick did make it clear that he wanted both companies to actively enter the market rather than tie up the licenses that could be made available to other companies who might actually use the opportunities.

What’s The Delay?

What is slowing down the process for MGM and Z4Poker? It is the situation that has plagued the state-by-state online poker process from the start – player liquidity. If a singular state does not have the market to support multiple operations, then companies are wont to enter the market and lose money. To date, only, owned by Caesars Interactive, has been working the market as the sole company (two other companies left the market within a year of its opening in 2013) servicing the three-million-plus citizens of Nevada.

The nature of the Nevada market could also be a problem. While the state does allow for online poker and online sports betting, it has not passed any regulations regarding online casino play. For many companies, not being able to offer casino play along with their potential sports betting and poker entities is a roadblock to coming online in the state. Right now, however, Nevada does not seem willing to allow online casino gaming to go live.

Both MGM and Z4Poker now have another year before they must “go live” with some sort of product – or come back and ask for another extension. MGM is the more likely of the two, as they could combine their Nevada product with operations in Michigan and New Jersey through the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), while Z4Poker does not have such an outlet. It must be noted, however, that MGM has not yet combined its Michigan and New Jersey offerings, leading one to question how serious MGM is about online poker.

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