When Ultimate Poker launched the first legal and regulated real-money online poker site in Nevada back in April, it was supposed to be the first of many. Other Nevada-based operators were chomping at the bit to get into the game and launch their own online poker rooms. As of this past Wednesday, Ultimate Poker was the only site you can legally play on in the United States.
That all changed on Thursday.
During a conference call Monday afternoon, Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, made the announcement he's been waiting months to make. WSOP.com was ready to launch.
"This is a historic moment for our company," said Garber. "A state-of-the-art poker offering from one of the most established and regulated operators in the United States is finally here."
Caesars, of course, is the company that owns the World Series of Poker, a brand that even the most recreational poker player recognizes as one of the most important, if not the most cherished.
"For the past 45 years, for all the hype and all the growth, the WSOP has remained a very simple idea: to be the definitive gathering place for those that love the game. So to be able to do that daily, hourly even, versus just annually, it's profound, a natural progression of what we're all about," said WSOP executive director Ty Stewart while invoking the name of the player who helped make poker as big as it has been over the last 10 years. "There are more Chris Moneymaker's out there and WSOP.com is going to find them."
This long-awaited launch means nothing but good news for online poker players in the United States. Yes, the real-money games are available only to people in Nevada (residents and tourists) for now, but it also means Garber and his crew have even more incentive to work with other states to regulate the game. New Jersey has regulated online poker and expects to go live sometime before the end of the year. Delaware is also on board. While federal legislation seems like a long shot – at least in the immediate future – getting more and more states on board is the first step in making online poker in the United States a success.
Garber made it quite clear that CIE is working hard to get more and more states on board. "We're very big supporters of shared liquidity. I think anybody who knows anything about poker, whether it's land-based poker or online poker, liquidity is extremely important. A small state like Nevada, I think it's no secret, could benefit greatly from shared liquidity," he said. "I think it's in everybody's interest at the end of the day that there be a compact among states and there be shared liquidity."
And why should a smaller state's politician care about a shared player base, too? The bigger the combined player base, the more action on the site and the more revenue that can be generated as a whole. Sharing player bases is really a 1+1=3 situation.
The new online poker market will grow extensively over the next couple of years, and that part of the industry will boom again. Black Friday may have halted all the positive momentum, but things are gradually turning around and the game will return to its zenith once again.