The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) unanimously recommended the approval of an extension to MGM Resorts International’s interactive gaming license. MGM is one of several companies holding but not using such licenses in the state. Regulatory board members typically grant the waivers but have also begun expressing impatience with the delays.
Although Nevada lawmakers passed a general online gambling bill in 2013, the regulator has only ever approved online poker. Companies like MGM may be holding out in the hopes that online casinos will also become a possibility. Failing that, they may be hoping for more states to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which would make the online poker market more attractive.
During the public hearing, MGM also received unexpected and unusual criticism from one of the board members. George Assad, a former MGM Resorts investor, questioned the company’s rationale for delaying the launch of BetMGM Poker. He then ventured further and criticized the company’s past financial decisions, raising a few eyebrows in the process.
Assad was an MGM Resorts shareholder until 2008, though joining the regulatory board required him to divest himself of that interest in the company.
What’s The Online Poker Picture in Nevada?
Nevada online poker has been legal since 2013, but WSOP is the only active operator. Its sole competitor, Ultimate Poker, proved short-lived, shutting down in 2014.
MGM Resorts has held its interactive gaming license since 2012. The company has said it’s working on launching online poker and already operates BetMGM Poker in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan through its joint venture with Entain. (Entain also holds the requisite interactive license in Nevada).
Instead, the company opted to prioritize the launch of the BetMGM Sportsbook, which is now available across all MGM Resorts properties and online. BetMGM has ruled out any successful expansion for iGaming in 2023, so online poker in Nevada may grow more appealing in the absence of other opportunities.
On its own, Nevada is too small a market for online poker. However, MSIGA allows sharing of traffic between Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Michigan. Michigan is the latest signatory, and PokerStars is the only provider to have introduced multi-state poker involving the state.
Rumors suggest that BetMGM Poker is working on updating its software in New Jersey to network with its site in Michigan. This potential multi-state expansion could be what MGM is waiting for. One of the reasons the company has not yet gone live is its belief that players have insufficient incentive to transition from retail casinos to online platforms. Low player counts would make competing with WSOP’s site hard, but adding more states to BetMGM’s network would level the playing field.
MGM Resorts Is In Favor Of Online Casinos In Nevada
Online casinos would be legal in Nevada under the 2013 legislation. All that’s needed is approval from the state’s regulatory body, but they have only been willing to authorize poker. That’s because most of the state’s brick-and-mortar casino operators have traditionally been against online casinos.
MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle, however, publicly supported the idea.
The statement makes sense, as MGM Resorts and British gaming company Entain Plc own BetMGM Casino. BetMGM Casino is one of the leading online casinos in MI, NJ, PA, and WV. In Michigan, where it offers an online casino and poker, BetMGM has earned over $1 billion in gross gambling revenue since the launch of online casinos in 2021.
However, while synonymous with gambling, Nevada is not a fan of online casinos. Many casino owners and other industry figures worry that online gambling expansion will cannibalize retail casino revenue and negatively impact tourism. But as many other Vegas casinos have online operations, including Caesars Palace, The Mirage, and Golden Nugget, it won’t be surprising if more come on board with MGM Resorts to push online casino legalization.