There was some fantastic news yesterday for poker players in the United States as Nevada issued the first gaming licences for the provision of online poker to three established and recognised companies.
Bally Technologies, Internet Gaming Technology and the William Hill Group each had their license applications rubber-stamped by the Nevada Gaming Commission and all three should be in a position to offer residents of Nevada and tourists to the State an approved and regulated online poker facility by the end of the year.
First, all three companies – and the thirty or so more companies expected to receive licences in the near future – must demonstrate the fairness of their systems plus prove that players can be identified by location and age, and provide security systems to safeguard against addictive gambling, collusion between players and money laundering.
Bally obtained the first license in state history, enabling the US slot machine manufacturer to provide the platform and technology for land-based casinos to offer real money online poker within State borders. Earlier this year Bally purchased the gaming platform of French online poker operator Chiligaming and subsequently entered into an agreement with the Ongame network for the poker product itself.
Internet Game Technology, who received their licence 45 minutes after Bally Technologies, are also in an advanced position to complete the final stages to provide online poker in the US, having acquired the Scandinavian poker network Entraction last year; but possibly the most interesting of the three license recipients is UK bookmaker William Hill.
The UK´s largest bookmaker entered into a deal last year to acquire the Lucky´s, Leroy and Club Cal Neva chains last year which will give the company ownership of 115 of Nevada´s 183 licensed horseracing bookmakers and sportsbooks operators. William Hill also acquired a license as a mobile operator and, through the purchase of American Wagering Inc., will have control of the State´s largest sportsbook platform – Computerized Bookmaking Systems.
While the deals already in place will see William Hill own nearly two-thirds of the State´s licensed sportsbooks, their relatively small size compared with some of the larger casino holdings means that Hill´s will only have around 10 percent of current sportsbook revenue. According to William Hill Group CEO Ralph Topping, plans are already in place to rebrand their acquired outlets and spend large sums upgrading the racing and sportsbook facilities to clients. Hills also plan to introduce new technology and betting opportunities to increase the company´s market share.
Provided that the licensees can each clear the final hurdles of establishing fairness and security, the first legal hands of poker since UIEGA could be dealt within the next six months – and wouldn´t that make a Happy Christmas!