Delaware’s iGaming Monopoly Model Blamed For Online Poker Blackout
- RSI not yet ready to launch its online poker platform RIO in Delaware
- Online poker is on a break in Delaware mainly because of its monopoly system
- For online poker to grow, states should not restrict their markets to a single operator
Online poker is currently on hiatus in Delaware after the state awarded its exclusive iGaming contract to Rush Street Interactive (RSI) in August 2023.
RSI’s online poker platform, Run It Once (RIO), founded by three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Phil Galfond, remains a work in progress, and the company is still undecided as to when it would launch in the US. Hence, online poker is essentially suspended in the Diamond State.
Delaware Situation Exposes Downsides of Monopoly System
iGaming in Delaware falls under the remit of the state lottery which awards an iGaming monopoly to just one operator. 888 Holdings had held the exclusive contract for 10 years, with 888poker serving as the sole online poker room for Delaware players from 2013 to 2023. 888 withdrew its bid for contract renewal in May last year, paving the way for RSI.
Since RIO is still in development, online poker is unavailable at the moment in the state and nobody knows how much longer Delawareans need to wait before they can play online poker again. It’s also almost certain that RIO will launch first in bigger states before it goes online in Delaware.
At present, online poker is legal in eight US states, but it is only active in four. Delaware is not the only state adopting a system where the lottery controls iGaming. The same is in effect in Rhode Island. In Connecticut, licensing is exclusive to just two tribal casinos, each of which is allowed to partner with only one online provider.
Players in these three states need to go elsewhere to legally play online poker as it is currently not being offered in their existing locations. This situation exposes a flaw in their regulatory frameworks which further highlights the fact that an online poker market will not thrive if it is restricted to just one or two operators. That’s just not the way to go.
Competition is Key
If we look at New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, the only states in the US that currently offer online poker, they are pretty much open markets, with most of them home to multiple active operators, such as PokerStars, WSOP, 888poker, and BetMGM Poker.
Online poker is also not available yet in West Virginia, but it will launch there soon as the state also allows multiple operators. The state is also likely to attract major sites after joining the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) in November last year.
Online poker is still struggling in the US and the first step toward a positive change for the industry is for states to embrace competition rather than stick to a monopoly system.