The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) granted interactive gaming licenses to 888 U.S. Limited and Treasure Island LLC last week, bringing the launch of the first legal intrastate online poker site in the United States just a bit closer to a reality.
These two licenses were not unexpected. The companies had already been recommended for approval and the March 21st hearing before the NGC was more or less a formality. The important thing here is that with 888 U.S. Limited, the stateside incarnation of online gaming firm 888 Holdings, a license has finally be given to a firm with both experience in internet gaming and an established poker product.
888 and Treasure Island announced a partnership in February and just a couple weeks ago, 888 Holdings entered into a joint venture with U.S. investment firm Avenue Capital Group to create the All American Poker Network (AAPN), the first legal U.S. online poker network. Treasure Island will be the first room on the network. The AAPN will obviously start in Nevada, but as Nevada law was recently amended to allow for interstate poker compacts, it would not be surprising to see the network expand to other states.
888’s license also means that a World Series of Poker-branded real money online poker room is likely on the way. The Gibraltar-based company has already been approved for a partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment, owner of the World Series of Poker, to launch a WSOP-branded poker room in Nevada. The two already have a play-money version of the site, WSOP-USA.com, and it is expected that the real-money version would be very similar. It is not known if the new World Series of Poker online poker room would join Treasure Island on the All American Poker Network, but considering both the WSOP site and Treasure Island would be running 888’s software, it would not be surprising, especially if they value player traffic.
Other land-based gaming companies such as MGM, Boyd Gaming, and ACEP have been licensed, just as Treasure Island has, but their software partners have not, giving Treasure Island and 888 a leg up. South Point Poker was the first company to be granted an interactive gaming license in Nevada last year and has actually developed its own poker software, but it still has not launched its poker room. South Point expected to beat everybody to the punch, saying it was going to launch in the fall of 2012, but supposed delays in the independent testing have pushed back the unveiling of the site.
888’s software, dating back to when Pacific Poker was one of the most popular poker rooms on the internet, used to be one of the worst products in the industry. The graphics were outdated, it was slow, it lacked advanced features, and the ability to play multiple tables was limited. It received an overhaul a few years ago, however, and is now a very good, if unexciting, offering.
888’s international real-money poker room is currently ranked fifth in terms of cash game traffic, according to PokerScout.com.