New York Gov. Cuomo Attends del Lago Resort Casino Grand Opening

1 NY casino part of table games legislation
2 Tax revenue will benefit local, state economies
3 Customer reviews are positive On Feb. 1, after one year of construction and more than $400 million, Waterloo welcomed the new, elegant del Lago Resort & Casino. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on hand at the property’s grand opening last week, hailing the project as a job creator and gateway to the region. Said Cuomo in a del Lago press release: The casino resort features a 92,000-square-foot gaming floor, 89 table games, and 12 poker tables. Scientific Games oversees the casino’s electronic gaming. NY casino part of table games legislation In 2013, Cuomo signed the Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act. This act allowed up to four casinos to be built in the upstate area and set guidelines for how revenue would be shared with local municipalities and the state. The act was expected to create 10,000 jobs across the region and bring hundreds of millions of dollars in school aid, property tax, and distributions to upstate counties. The press release from del Lago estimated the new casino generated more than one million construction hours and will create 1,500 permanent jobs. Tax revenue will benefit local, state economies Tax revenue from the casino’s operations will be distributed at a 80-10-10 ratio:
80 percent to state education and tax relief efforts.
10 percent to Broome, Chemung, Tompkins, Schuyler, and Wayne counties.
10 percent to Seneca County and Tyre, the town where the casino is located. Jeff Babinski, general manager and executive vice president of the property, said the casino resort is a big boost for the Finger Lakes region and will enhance tourism in the area. Customer reviews are positive The del Lago’s TripAdvisor page had 17 reviews at the time of publishing. The average rating was four stars. There was plenty of praise for the casino itself; many seemed happy about having a new venue in their region. There were a few minor complaints about the casino’s buffet and several inoperable slot and cash-out machines, but nothing out of the ordinary. Every new casino has to work out the kinks of opening day. The del Lago’s hotel is still under construction, and there is no official word when it will open. Image credit: a katz / Shutterstock, Inc.

Del Lago Resort & Casino Picks Casino Systems Provider, Announces Job Fair

The planned del Lago Resort & Casino in New York has announced it has partnered with Scientific Games Corporation to provide the company with its casino systems solutions. The resort also announced a pair of job fairs slated to be held in August. Del Lago is a new commercial casino under construction in New York’s Finger Lakes region (Tyre, Seneca County), scheduled to open sometime in early 2017. The Scientific Games deal Del Lago and Scientific Games signed a contract to “provide an integrated suite of its industry-leading systems solutions” for the new casino. Scientific Games’ SDS® slot-accounting system is the “foundation” of the package being designed for del Lago, according to a press release. The casino is being built with a price tag of $440 million, with:
2,000 slot machines
85 table games
A 10-table poker room (included in the table game figure. “We evaluated several other companies before selecting Scientific Games to be our casino systems solutions partner,” said Jeff Babinski, Executive Vice President and General Manager at del Lago. “A robust, secure, and integrated system was a necessity, but beyond that, we were most excited about Scientific Games’ industry leadership in innovative marketing and bonusing solutions that will help us attract, retain, and keep our guests engaged.” More details on the deal here. Jobs at del Lago The casino is getting ready to fill some of the hundreds of jobs in the casino. It will hire just short of 500 people to work as dealers, with two information sessions planned later this month. More details here. The new resort, when completed, will immediately become Seneca County’s largest employer. A total of 1,800 jobs will be needed for the property. More about the resort In addition to the casino, del Lago will feature:
A 205-room hotel
A 2,500-seat entertainment center
A spa Del Lago is close to two large upstate cities: Rochester and Syracuse.

New York’s del Lago Resort Set To Open In February 2017

1 Casino and hotel will have staggered opening
2 NY commercial casinos set to be regional game-changer
3 Existing gambling facilities in New York The first of four new casino resorts in New York has an opening date. Last week the Del Lago Casino announced it will open the doors to the Finger Lakes property on Feb. 1 of next year. The property is in the town of Tyre, NY, which is roughly an hour east of Rochester and an hour west of Syracuse. The casino cost $40 million to build. Casino and hotel will have staggered opening Del Lago will feature an entertainment complex, multiple restaurants, over 2,000 slot machines, and nearly 100 table games. One of the restaurants will be Portico, a restaurant concept by Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani. The casino will also feature a Mackenzie-Childs high-end home furnishings store. The casino will open in February, but the associated hotel will not be completed by then and will open in the summer. NY commercial casinos set to be regional game-changer Back in 2013 Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped champion a measure to allow up to seven commercial casinos in the state. In December of 2015 the state of New York Gaming Commission issued three commercial casino licenses for future properties in Tyre, the Seneca area, and Synechdoche. It also granted a license for racetrack and gaming parlor Tioga Downs to expand its Southern Tier facilities. The Del Lago’s competition is moving towards opening day as well. The Montreign Casino Resort in the Catskills is making great progress but does not yet have an opening date. The Rivers Casino and Resort in Synechdoche began hiring employees in the fall for an early 2017 openings, but so far no formal opening date has been announced. Existing gambling facilities in New York The new casinos in New York are a big step for the state, but not the first gambling outfits in the state. These properties are the first to gain a commercial gambling license from New York. They will also compete with 11 Native American gaming properties and nine slots parlors affiliated with regional racetracks. Tioga Downs in Nichols, NY is a currently operational slots parlor. In August of this year the state granted the property the fourth commercial casino license. The property is currently accepting applications for new employees to work when the expansion is complete. Del Lago will have to compete with Turning Stone Casino. The Native American property is roughly 90 miles from the new casino. The Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track is also in the Rochester area and will be a nearby competitor. The state of New York has high hopes about potential gambling tax revenue. The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported New York is expected to surpass Nevada’s annual gaming tax revenue. The state is expected to surpass $900 million in revenue. That number is expected to grow once Del Lago and the other new commercial casinos open their doors in 2017.

Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady To Open February 8

1 The second of four New York casinos
2 Gaming options at Rivers Schenectady
2.1 The casino floor
2.2 Rush Rewards Player’s Club
2.3 Play4Fun
3 Inside the resort
3.1 Multiple dining options
3.2 Live entertainment at Van Slyck’s Lounge
3.3 Other amenities
3.4 What about the hotel? The second of four new casinos approved by New York voters in 2013 will open its doors next week — Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady. The $330 million casino, located along on Mohawk Harbor will open at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 8, nearly two years to the day that construction officially began on the project. Said Rivers Schenectady General Manager Mary Cheeks in a press release: The second of four New York casinos Rivers Schenectady will join Tioga Downs Casino in Vernon Downs as the only operational New York casinos. (Tioga Downs opened in December 2016.) The state’s two other casinos projects are also expected to open in 2017:
Montreign Resort Casino in Sullivan County in the Catskills
del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County in the Finger Lakes Gaming options at Rivers Schenectady The casino floor Rivers Schenectady will boast a 50,000-square-foot gaming floor, where guests can choose from 1,150 slot machines, 67 table games, or spend time in the property’s 15-table poker room. Rivers will also feature a dedicated high limit area. Rush Rewards Player’s Club The moment the property opens, Rivers Schenectady will implement Rush Street’s VIP rewards program, Rush Rewards Player’s Club. Rush Rewards is a tiered program with three reward levels:
Signature Rivers Schenectady will also honor players’ reward levels from other Rush Street properties. Through March, it will also grant players with a valid and active mid- to high-level loyalty card from a competing regional casino an automatic upgrade to the corresponding Rush Rewards tier. Players who sign up for a Rush Rewards Player’s Club card at Rivers Schenectady will earn points for their slot, table games, and poker play by inserting their cards into the slot machine or presenting it to dealers. And finally, during the month of February, Rush Rewards members will earn $5 in free slot play for every 200 tier points earned, with a maximum bonus of $25 per gaming day. Play4Fun Like all Rush Street properties, Rivers Schenectady offers Rush Street Interactive’s suite of social casino games. Inside the resort Multiple dining options Rivers Schenectady will feature five restaurant options: from sit-down or to-go, fine dining or local favorites.
Dukes Chophouse was designed from the ground up to offer guests a fun and comfortable atmosphere to enjoy a superior dining experience, with seating for upwards of 100 guests.
FLIPT will serve specialty burgers and sandwiches, hot dogs, sides, salads, and more. A Build-Your-Burger option and staff recommendations have made FLIPT a favorite at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL.
Mian will offer a contemporary take on an array of Asian cuisine favorites. Mian has been a popular option at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines since day one.
Johnny’s To Go will carry a selection of favorites from the popular downtown Schenectady Italian restaurant, ready to go on short notice.
Villa Italia, another Schenectady favorite, will serve a selection of pastries and cookies alongside unmistakable Villa Italia coffee, 24/7. Live entertainment at Van Slyck’s Lounge According to the press release from Rush Street, “Van Slyck’s will be the region’s premiere location to enjoy live music and televised sporting events.” Van Slyck’s will not only serve as a gathering place, but the lounge will also have a dedicated gaming space, featuring 34 slot machines and a number of table games, including craps, roulette, and blackjack. But the focal point will be the stage, where there will be a steady stream of live entertainment, bands, and DJs. Per the press release, “On Opening Day, Van Slyck’s will be host to a day-long lineup of live music from local and regional bands and DJs.” Other amenities The property doesn’t possess a hotel (more on that in a moment), but it will have the amenities visitors to resort casinos have come to expect. Splash Spa at Rivers Casino is slated to open sometime in February. “The full service spa located inside the resort will offer visitors the utmost in comprehensive services designed to maximize comfort, relaxation and inner peace,” the press release states. The spa will offer manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, a blow out bar, scalp and body treatments, and makeup. Because of its location in the entrance promenade, the spa is open to guests of all ages. Meanwhile, Rivers Casino & Resort Event Center is a 10,000-square-foot multi-use space that can be divided into multiple rooms, as well as a pre-function space overlooking the Mohawk River. The event center will be available for everything from weddings to conferences and can accommodate from 600 to 900 guests. What about the hotel? As noted above, the property will not have an on-site hotel, but Rivers Schenectady sits adjacent to the $150 million Mohawk Harbor development currently under construction by the Galesi Group. The project is a mix of residential, retail, and commercial space, a 50-slip harbor on the Mohawk River and Erie Canal, as well as a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott for casino guests who may want to stay overnight.

A Harness Racing Track In Yonkers Could Help Shake Up Sports Gambling Across The Country

1 NY sports betting legislation will face challenges
2 Other paths might lead to sports gambling
3 Sports betting a states’ rights issue? One of the oldest horse racing venues in New York may play a major role in the future of sports gambling in the United States. New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, whose District 89 is home to the Yonkers Raceway, next month plans to introduce a bill legalizing sports betting in the state. The chair of the New York Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee, Pretlow was previously behind the effort to legalize daily fantasy sports in the state, which ended with New York enacting a law in 2016. “Pushing sports betting is at the top of my agenda right now,” Pretlow told Gambling Compliance (paywall). With interest in horse racing dwindling, sports betting at race tracks is seen by many as a potential way to attract fans and gamblers back to the raceway. As Pretlow told the website Law360: NY sports betting legislation will face challenges Of course New Jersey has already tread down this path and no one was legally betting on the AFC or NFC championship games last weekend in Hoboken or Newark. Pretlow’s bill would almost assuredly face the same legal challenges as the New Jersey law. Major sports leagues such as MLB, the NFL, the NHL, the NBA, and the NCAA all opposed the Garden State’s challenge to the federal prohibition on sports betting outside Nevada. But Pretlow and other proponents of his bill are fully aware of this. The difference between New Jersey’s case and New York’s potential legal battle lies in the federal appellate courts. New Jersey’s appeals have been heard by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals – and it hasn’t gone well – while New York’s appeals would be heard by the Second Circuit. “What I am looking for is to split the circuits between the Second Circuit and Third Circuit,” Pretlow told Law360. “That might force Congress to do something.” Other paths might lead to sports gambling Pretlow isn’t the only state politician looking at ways to legalize sports betting in New York. State senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill that would make betting on pro and college sports legal at casinos, racetracks and off-track simulcast parlors. Under Avella’s bill, which was co-sponsored by four of his fellow state senators, all proceeds from the legalized gambling would go to education. Avella’s bill, though, looks to amend the state constitution, a complex process that could take at least three years to complete Pretlow has argued that sports betting is already constitutional at commercial casinos under the current state law. His bill wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment and therefore would be able to challenge the federal prohibition against sports betting sooner. “I really don’t think it is right that only one state [Nevada] can do something that should be allowed nationwide,” he told Law360. Sports betting a states’ rights issue? Passed in 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) banned sports betting everywhere but Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. Since New Jersey challenged the law, though, more and more states have begun to view prohibition of sports betting as a states’ rights issue. The attorney generals of Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wisconsin all filed amicus briefs supporting New Jersey’s appeals. Proponents of sports betting have argued the federal government should recognize state gambling laws similar to how it treats states that have legalized marijuana. “If the federal government can turn their head and say to the people of Colorado recreational marijuana, although still recognized by the feds to be a crime, is allowed to be legal in Colorado because the state decided it’s so, then they should equally respect New Jersey and its people who have changed the constitution to say we want to be able to bet on sporting events in a legal environment,” New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli told KYW Newsradio 1060 in November.

New York May Try To Legalize Sports Betting By Following New Jersey’s Lead

1 Likely PASPA lawsuit
2 NY stealing NJ’s idea – again
3 MGM advocating for nationwide sports betting New York is looking to get into the sports betting game. Whether it can do so legally is another question altogether. More than two years after New Jersey passed a law attempting to repeal its own sports betting ban, New York Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow is reportedly crafting a bill that would attempt to legalize sports betting in the Empire State. Likely PASPA lawsuit New York’s sports betting law would almost assuredly be challenged in court as soon as it goes into effect. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) bans single-game wagering everywhere in the US — except for Nevada — and allows only limited wagering in a handful of other states. Based on the federal government’s reaction to New Jersey’s sports betting law — which the Pretlow bill is likely to be modeled after — New York will find itself in court. The NCAA and the major US professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — would challenge any attempt by New York to legalize sports betting. Any challenge of the New York sports betting law would end up in the federal court system’s Second Circuit. New Jersey appeals on its sports betting law have so far been rejected by the Third Circuit. The best-case scenario for both New York and New Jersey is that there would be a disagreement between the two circuits, likely sending the question of the constitutionality of PAPSA to the US Supreme Court. NY stealing NJ’s idea – again This isn’t the first time New York has ripped off an idea from its neighbor to the south. New Jersey legalized casino gambling in the 1970s. The state owned a virtual monopoly on private casino gambling in the Northeast through the 1990s. Within the past 15 years, though, many Eastern states, New York included, and have authorized casino gambling. The first of New York’s commercial casinos — at Tioga Downs — went live this month. Another — Del Lago — is slated to go live early in 2017. The increased regional competition has been traumatic for Atlantic City. Five of its 12 casinos have closed since 2014. MGM advocating for nationwide sports betting At an appearance earlier this month at the National Press Club, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren again made the case for the US to legalize and regulate sports betting nationwide. “This idea that sports betting somehow needs to be regulated in one state and illegal everywhere else really doesn’t reflect what’s happening today,” Murren said. “I built a beautiful new arena and we got the first professional sports team, it’s moving to Las Vegas… in 2017. How cool is that? Professional sports in Las Vegas, that would have been unheard of five or ten years ago. “And people love to bet on sports and they love their daily fantasy sports,” Murren continued. MGM has casinos in a variety of states, but now in New York.

NY Gov. Cuomo Axes Charitable Gaming Bill on ‘Giving Tuesday’

Holiday cheer is pervasive after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The concept of “Giving Tuesday” is a relatively new one that encourages people to give to non-profit organizations after a four-day stretch of bargain shopping. The day of giving is catching popularity, but it appears New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo missed the memo. Cuomo vetoes Charity Gambling Act Cuomo went on a veto spree on Tuesday and shot down 70 pieces of legislation. One was the Charity Gambling Act. The bill would have legalized the selling of charity raffle tickets online. Many non-profit organization and local fire and police departments use raffles to raise money. The hope was the raffles could sell tickets online as well as accept credit and debit cards as payment. In some states, like Georgia, lottery tickets are available for purchase online. The impact on local charities Local news outlet WKTV reported on the veto on Tuesday. They spoke with the bill’s sponsors, Assembleyman Anthony Brindisi and Senator Joe Griffo, who revealed they had already spoken with two charities who are considering discontinuing their annual raffles after news of the veto. The co-sponsors issued a joint release today expressing their disappointment over the decision. “The burdensome restrictions that remain in place concerning how charity raffle tickets can be purchased will continue to make it harder for these organizations to fund important programs, and I am disappointed in the Governor’s veto,” Griffo said in the statement. Reasons behind the charity bill veto The statement from Brindisi and Griffo noted the thought process behind the veto. The Governor’s office was concerned the bill violated the state constitution. The constitution stipulates municipalities can offer gambling if they previously voted to allow it. This bill’s online component seemed in violation of that law. No one voiced these constitutional concerns when the Assembly and Senate considered the bill. Griffo is skeptical Cuomo is sincere about his reasons for the veto. “We feel that the Governor’s comments and approach are disingenuous because there are other ways we could have addressed his concerns in order to get this legislation approved,” he explained. Hope for compromise on raffles Just because Cuomo vetoed the bill does not mean this is the end of the road. After the veto, Cuomo directed the state gaming commission to work directly with charities as well as the bill’s co-sponsors to rework the legislation to address his concerns. The veto does not necessarily mean Cuomo has an anti-gambling stance. Under his stint as governor, Cuomo has helped usher in the launch of the first full commercial casinos in the state. In August he also signed a law allowing daily fantasy sports back into the state. That happened after state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed an injunction against DFS operators FanDuel and DraftKings in November of 2015.

Big Apple Projected To Top Sin City In Gambling Tax Revenue

1 The numbers behind the ascent of NY gambling
2 Numbers will probably continue to rise with new casinos being built It’s getting crowded at the top. Projections for the 2016-17 fiscal year say the revenue New York pulls in from its gambling taxes will surpass those of Nevada, but will be in second behind tax-happy Pennsylvania. “New York is on track to collect more casino tax revenue than Nevada this year,” Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Richard N. Velotta wrote. “If that happens, Nevada … will become the No. 3 state in the union for collecting tax revenue from the casinos within its borders.” The numbers behind the ascent of NY gambling As New York gambling insiders know, the state’s revenue-per-casino figures are significantly higher than what exists in Las Vegas. The state has nine casinos, all of which are racinos and utilize video gaming terminals. According to the Review-Journal, the state’s two biggest revenue-earners are Resorts World Casino in Queens and Yonkers’ Empire City Casino. Meanwhile, Nevada is home to 271 casinos. With such a huge disparity between total properties in each state, it might be surprising that Nevada could place second to any state. However, the trick is each state’s casino tax rates. In Nevada, tax rates are capped at 8.75 percent: up to 6.75 percent to the state and up to one percent to county and municipal governments. New York, on the other hand, utilizes tax rates between 31 and 41 percent. So, while New York has just a fraction of the casinos of Nevada, the state’s tax rates bring in more tax revenue. The New York State Gaming Commission’s six-month numbers show the state’s racinos are on track to take in more than $2 billion in wins this year. The state’s nine casinos have already logged more than $25 million in wins over the same April-to-September stretch in 2016. Numbers will probably continue to rise with new casinos being built New York’s current tally of nine casinos (albeit racinos) will bump up to 13 when construction is completed on four “commercial casinos.” These properties are designated as destination gaming resorts. There are four Las Vegas-style casinos under construction right now in New York:
Del Lago Resort & Casino
Rivers Casino & Resort
Montreign Resort Casino
Tioga Downs Investments in these projects have hit $1.5 billion, with completion dates projected to be:
Del Lago: Feb. 2017
Rivers: Unknown, 50 percent completed as of Oct. 2016
Montreign: Unknown
Tioga Downs: Unknown, but 90 percent completed as of Oct. 2016 According to experts, the casinos will bring more than 4,700 jobs to the state and will, in theory, take a cut of the estimated one million gamblers who head to Atlantic City to roll the dice.

Ultimate Poker’s Software Patch: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Since staking its claim as the first provider to offer online poker in Nevada’s newly-minted regulated market, Ultimate Poker has taken its fair share of slack. For those accustomed to playing on pre-Black Friday sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, UP’s initial roll-out came across as shoddy and second rate, lacking many of the baseline features players from the states had come to expect. In turn, as more established operators began filtering their way into the states, Ultimate’s traffic would “ultimately” suffer. And now, more than one year after online poker went live in the Silver State, Ultimate’s attempt at a poker client is still lacking in several key areas. A recent software patch addresses a few of its more glaring issues, while creating a new (albeit temporary) one of its own. But is the patch enough to reignite UP rivalry with Nevada front-runner Ultimate Poker patch addresses several key deficiencies The most notable (and least visible) change comes in the way of more accurate location verification. As evidenced on its dedicated thread on Two Plus Two, UP’s faithful have experienced their fair share of disconnects. And while Director of Player Operations Terrence Chan and his “Aces” have taken a very personalized, hands-on approach to customer care, in many cases there was simply not much they could do beyond ensuring that players were taking the necessary steps to be geolocated. Those who followed all the rules and still couldn’t connect were, as they say, SOL. It’s unlikely that a single patch will provide a blanket solution to the geolocation issues that plague UP – and all state regulated sites for that matter – but at least it offers the prospect of hope. And that’s something the regulated market sorely needs. Also introduced via the software patch are wait lists. A feature that has existed on most credible sites since Windows XP was all the rage, wait lists are a much-needed change that could facilitate the growth of UP’s dwindling cash-game traffic. Side note: Of the recent changes to UP’s Nevada client, wait lists are the only major feature that have yet to go live in New Jersey. Auto top-up/reload was also added. As implied by the name, this feature will allow grinders to start each hand at a minimum preordained threshold, regardless of whether they fall below it or not during the previous hand. Furthermore, the lobby now boasts an Omaha tab. Unfortunately, players still must use workarounds to readily find PLO/O8 SNGs, as the Omaha tab only lists cash-games. Lastly, the software allows players the option to save their names and passwords. With the new patch comes a celebratory $100 reload match bonus. The offer is available until May 9th, so act quickly. The full patch notes can be found here. Geolocation error message resolved As is the case with most software updates, UP’s patch did not go off without a snag. Players who logged in would be unceremoniously treated to a banner informing them that their location could not be verified – even though it likely was. Chan suggested to players encountering this error to “try sitting at a table.” But for those who didn’t bother to read the patch notes, they would have little way of knowing that the error was in fact a small error, and not a glaring geolocation disaster. Luckily, the issue has since been resolved. Players that are still having trouble are encouraged to contact UP via live chat. Is Ulitmate’s patch too little, too late? The fact that it’s taken over one year for Ultimate Poker to introduce what the majority of the poker community considers to be standard features is a bit disjointing. Chan admits himself that there is still a ton of work to be done including: “time bank, synch break, notes, showing rebuys in the the lobby, deal speed, turn off animations/avatars, hand history replayer” etc. That wouldn’t be so bad if sites like were not already sporting many, if not all, of these features since launch. Which begs the question, “Why did Ultimate release a half-baked poker product in the first place?” My guess was so it could reap the rewards of being first in the market – a strategy that may have paid dividends last April, but is suffocating the team now. However, should Ultimate’s software at least get on par with WSOP’s by late-summer, it will position itself nicely for the fall season. By then, the current hype associated with the most recognized four letters in poker will have died down (outside of a few days in mid-autumn). With improved software and the same exemplary levels of customer care that Chan and his team have provided since day one, Ultimate might make another run for Nevada’s top spot. But Ultimate, do hurry up. Poker players are not always the patient type.

Looking Back at One Year of Nevada Online Poker

On Wednesday Ultimate Poker celebrated its First Anniversary. UP became the first licensed online poker room in the United States on April 30, 2013 and has now reached the historic one-year mark. While it seems like only yesterday the 2+2 forum exploded with the news that Ultimate Poker had gone live for real money play, it has in fact been a full year since online poker arrived in the United States (on a limited basis anyway) and it’s been quite the year, filled with ups and downs for the nascent industry. Here is a look at what I consider to be the most important things online poker players and the online poker industry have learned over the past 12 months. Regulated poker rooms are not just unregulated rooms repackaged I think a lot of people expected licensed online poker sites to simply pick up where the unlicensed sites left off, and this simply was not the case. You can see why people were of this mind, after all, companies like 888 and Party Poker are well known commodities in the iGaming world and have been providing a solid product for years. But a funny thing happened on the way to the NGCB for their licenses; regulators imposed some strict thresholds that needed to be crossed (some for the first time ever) including all manner of testing. Add to this the geolocation, payment processing and registration hurdles that needed to be cleared and what we got looked more like the birth of online poker back in the late 1990’s and less like the crisp clean graphics and seamless game play we had grown accustomed to by 2011. Basically, it’s going to take some time for the sites to iron everything out, but eventually I feel we will be back to complaining about insignificant things like tournament structures, and not about mid-game disconnects, by the time online poker turns 2 in the US. Poker players follow the money As much as the poker community has whined and cried for legal online poker over the years a huge swathe of players still frequent black market sites now that they have it. I understand they think they are getting better value and the illegal sites have more and better games, but it’s just delaying the time it takes for the legal rooms to overtake them – so the poker community is putting short-term gains in front of long-term gains. Don’t launch if you’re not ready Online poker is a hyper-competitive market and what we’ve seen so far is that inferior products are getting absolutely stiff-armed by players. In Nevada, Ultimate Poker, despite a six-month head start, a lot of advertising, and an excellent team and staff has watched slowly suffocate them – to use a UFC analogy, they are stuck in a triangle choke and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they either do something big to get out of it or have to tap out. The situation is even worse in New Jersey where UP didn’t get a head start and had to compete right out of the chute. In New Jersey the company has been unable to generate any type of loyal customer base and is turning into a nonfactor in the market. If Ultimate Poker is stuck in a triangle choke than South Point’s Real Gaming in Nevada and Betfair’s poker product in New Jersey have had their arm snapped and been asphyxiated, as neither site is even registering on the online poker radar. To me the message seems crystal clear: Don’t launch your product unless you’re ready, as you’ll probably do irreparable harm. The future is yet to be determined We’re just now getting a grasp on the amount of money sites are spending marketing (which equates to millions of dollars being pumped into the local economies) and the number of real jobs being created by the online poker industry both in-house and in ancillary industries like yours truly. What this tells me is the entire industry is still surrounded by an opaque cloud that is preventing even the best prognosticators from understanding precisely what will happen. On top of this we are also facing down a potential federal ban (unlikely) and more and more states exploring iGaming expansion. We have the pending interstate agreement between Delaware and Nevada set to launch this summer, with New Jersey now being floated as a potential partner as well. So when someone tells you, “xyz is going to happen and anyone who doesn’t think so is daft” just remember that nobody has been able to predict this burgeoning industry so far. Looking ahead to Year 2 Think of the US online poker industry like an episode of Restaurant Impossible. The place was a dump, one employee was stealing, and the owner was too stubborn to listen to anyone. The place needed to be gutted and that’s exactly what licensed online poker has done. Regulated online poker is our Chef Robert Irvine. Year 1 (like Day 1 of Restaurant Impossible) was certainly a struggle, but it feels like the heavy lifting is now done. The place has been cleaned and remodeled, the owner has seen the light, and the thieving employee is gone. All that’s left is to clean it up a bit and reopen the doors. Sure, there will still be hiccups as people are retrained, and the owner may revert back to old habits every now and then, but the foundation is in place to build on.