888 Holdings has received preliminary approvals for a new online poker players' network.

888’s new networking system could be the blueprint for the first regulated and legal liquidity-sharing network in America for online poker players. (Image: proactiveinvestors.co.uk)

The prospect of interstate online poker player pool-sharing in the US has moved one step closer, following the news that the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has, on principal, approved a multi-operator player-sharing network in the state. The Board heard that the new system, created by 888 Holdings, would link the online poker websites of multiple casinos in Nevada, thus increasing player liquidity.

The new network would initially include 888’s partner and market leader in Nevada, WSOP.com, as well as a new Treasure Island online poker room, which is currently seeking regulatory approval prior to launch, and a third separate 888 poker room. The door would be open for other operators to join in the future. The Board said it would make an official decision on the matter this week.

It’s a real step forward for Nevada, which has struggled to attain the levels of liquidity and revenue that had been hoped for prior to regulation. While figures for the State of Nevada have naturally enjoyed a boost during the World Series of Poker, they’re still lagging well behind New Jersey; the NGCB reported an increase in online poker revenue in May over the previous month, to 8.84 percent ($862,000), while New Jersey reported $2.27 million for the same month. The new network could provide a much-needed boost for the Nevada market, but what’s truly exciting is the scope for the system to eventually provide interstate online poker with shared player pools.

Interstate Pact

Earlier this year, Nevada and Delaware signed a pact that allow liquidity-sharing between the two states – the first ever interstate gaming agreement, prompting Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to state that players were now “standing in a moment of history.” It was not known then when the concept would become a reality, however, because of the need to build and harmonize the necessary technology.

However, with 888 providing the technology platform for all of Delaware’s poker rooms, it’s likely that the Nevada network will be the prototype for the intrastate system.

It’s long been understood that liquidity-sharing is the key to the growth of the fledgling US poker markets. Greater player traffic creates growth in the market. It attracts new players because there is a wider variety of cash games to choose from, in terms of stakes and game variations, and it permits big multi-table tournaments with larger guaranteed prize pools. For operators, it means that their marketing efforts go further and they are able to offer a wider range of products. In short, online poker needs a healthy player ecology in order to survive and thrive, and its something that the new markets have been lacking.

Paving the Way for New States to Regulate

Furthermore, interstate pool-sharing should also encourage and facilitate other states that are considering regulation to bite the bullet. Initially poor revenue from the new markets may have dissuaded other states from following suit, but the knowledge that they could immediately jump into a healthy network should they decide to legalize online poker will provide a much greater incentive. Nevada and Delaware have made clear their decision to share liquidity is a “multi-state” agreement, leaving the door open for other states to join the alliance.

For those of us who dream of once again tangling with players from all across the country when we’re playing online poker, it looks like we just took a small step closer.