Michael Gaughan’s South Point Poker LLC on Thursday made history as the first U.S. casino to be licensed to operate an intrastate, real-money poker website.
The unanimous approval by the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission is not only the first in the nation, but is unique because the casino isn’t relying on a third-party company to run its online poker site. South Point Poker, which developed its own online poker system, was also licensed as an interactive gaming manufacturer and as a service provider.
“We are pretty excited to enter the online gaming world,” said Lawrence Vaughan, chief operating officer of South Point Poker. “This is an incredible step forward. It’s going to redefine gaming and what the state can do.”
Vaughan said he is “optimistic that they would launch sometime in October” after final testing and regulatory approvals. South Point Poker must submit a plan of operation to regulators before it launches its real-money poker site.
“We built this home-grown in Nevada from scratch, to the regulations,” Vaughan said.
Also on Thursday, Monarch Interactive Inc. of Reno, whose investors control the Atlantis casino-resort in Northern Nevada, received an operator’s license. In a third action, Global Cash Access Inc. was licensed to provide online payment services.
Global Cash Access, which provides ATM and credit services in brick-and-mortar casinos, will provide the method for South Point online poker players to buy and redeem chips.
The company told commissioners it would just process payments and have no role in the day-to-day operations of South Point Poker.
Global Cash Access recently reached a deal with “online wallet” company Live Gamer that will help the Las Vegas-based firm provide online transactions.
South Point Poker itself will employ about 30 people, Vaughn said. The casino company has been offering free-play games for months, but that software is different from what it will use for real-money games.
The commission took about 20 minutes to approve South Point. Gaughan attended the hearing, but did not speak.
Representatives of the company fielded a number of questions from commissioners with regards to player age verification, self-exclusion lists, dealing with problems and quickly satisfying inquiries from customers and regulators. Vaughan told Commissioner John Moran Jr. that the company will keep a list of people it declines and will make it available to regulators and law enforcement agencies.
Because South Point is first, Commissioner Tony Alamo said, its operations will be under the microscope. Vaughan assured commissioners that the company has taken precautions to make sure it could handle a large influx of players when it launches because it will be the first website in the market.
“We want to make sure it’s done correctly because what you do might have an impact on what others do later,” Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said.
Alamo said he wants South Point Poker to succeed, and urged them to let the appropriate authorities know whether there were any problems.
Vaughan said the online poker system has safeguards to ensure plays are at least 21, are in Nevada and are not involved in cheating or money laundering.
“We have to make sure you are who you say you are,” Vaughan said. “We’ll know if the person playing is the person who is supposed to be playing.”
He said the website also has a system to deter problem gamblers, and customers can exclude themselves from wagering on the site.
While the first casinos to secure online licenses, South Point and Monarch Interactive are the fourth and fifth companies to receive any kind of interactive license in Nevada.
Bally Technologies, IGT and Shuffle Master were awarded interactive licenses earlier this year. More than 30 other companies, including Caesars Interactive Entertainment and MGM Resorts International have submitted applications with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@review
journal.com or 702-477-3893.