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Poker players in Nevada could soon get more online playing options

Online poker fans are hopeful that two companies that won approval to extend their licensing for the 14th time will be able to deliver on products that will enable them to play against people in Nevada and other states within the next year.

Nevada Gaming Commissioners on Thursday approved waivers for extensions for Las Vegas-based Z4Poker LLC and MGM Resorts Interactive LLC.

The MGM game, which is expected to be brought to market by the company’s BetMGM affiliate, was unanimously approved while the Z4 request was approved 3-1 with Commissioner Rosa Solis-Rainey opposing and Commissioner Ogonna Brown recusing herself from discussion. Solis-Rainey said she opposed approval because of the length of time the small company has been before regulators and the repeated extensions allowed. She voted for the MGM request because she said that company has a solid track record of success.

Representatives of both companies told the commission they hope to take their products to market by April 2025 when the waivers expire.

Z4 founder, owner and chief technology officer Eric Colvin gave a demonstration of his new system which he had on his phone. The game can be played on computers or smartphones and Colvin said it enables players to play on multiple tables at the same time.

That’s good news for online players.

Miserable experience

“What resident poker players have right now is a miserable example of how not to operate a poker site,” online player Steve Drucker said in an email. “We suffer from the lack of great promotions, not enough players, and customer service reps lacking training in the art of friendly, efficient service.”

When playing poker on the internet became popular in the early 2010s, five companies showed immediate interest in providing online poker rooms.

The Legislature debated Assembly Bill 114 and then-Gov. Brian Sandoval — a former chairman of the Gaming Commission — signed it into law on Feb. 21, 2013. It was the state’s first dive into online gaming and proponents suggested that players would flock to poker because it’s a game they would play against each other and not the house, which takes a percentage of the proceeds with every hand dealt.

Among the earliest entrants to the new industry were Z4 and MGM, which were licensed in November 2012.

Station Casinos became the first in the state to offer play when it opened Ultimate Poker in April 2013. Caesars Entertainment, which owned the World Series of Poker brand, opened WSOP.com five months later. Michael Gaughan’s Real Gaming Online Poker got started in February 2014 but never had much traction.

When Station closed Ultimate Poker in November 2014 because revenue failed to meet expectations, WSOP.com became the only online game in town.

Companies offering online poker in Nevada found that the state’s small population base and the requirement that players had to play from within the state’s boundaries limited their growth.

Nevada eventually entered agreements with the states of Delaware and New Jersey that enabled players in those states to compete with Nevadans.

Z4 and MGM stayed on the sidelines, but kept renewing their licenses 13 times. Nevada Gaming Control Board officials warned Z4 and MGM that they likely wouldn’t recommend extending the waiver again after this approval.

Free play

Colvin said his company, which offers free-play poker for 75,000 customers on a social media platform, is nearly ready to enter the real-money market. Colvin told the Gaming Control Board on April 3 that it had a setback in 2018 when computer software company Adobe Inc. discontinued its Flash product, requiring his designers to rewrite its poker programs.

Colvin told the commission Thursday that the new software for the game would breathe new life into the online poker industry.

Commissioner George Markantonis tried to pin Colvin down on how long it would be before the game would go to testing labs, but Colvin said he was uncertain when that would happen.

MGM indicated it may be ready to enter the market now that it has successful brick-and-mortar resorts operating in states that also have or are considering online play.

That’s welcome news for players like Drucker.

“WSOP.com has a monopoly and apparently no incentive to improve on what they offer,” he said. “Hopefully, competition might fuel the flames of improvement. Combining a few more states with our small population in New Jersey and Nevada would go a long way in improving things as well.”

Moulin Rouge

In other business, the commission voted 4-0 with Brown recusing herself to approve a temporary license to extend the grandfathered gaming license for the Moulin Rouge at 840 W. Bonanza Road.

United Coin Co., doing business as Century Gaming Technologies, will place a trailer with 16 slot machines in it, open to the public, at the Moulin Rouge site for eight hours beginning at 6 a.m., May 14.

During that time, the public can play the slot machines. It’s an only-in-Nevada process required to preserve the gaming license at that location.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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