Although Nevada gaming officials have pegged December or early 2013 as the anticipated date of online poker sites to be up and running in the Silver State, South Point Poker is looking at transitioning to real money play as early as September.
South Point CEO Michael Gaughan told eGamingReview that his free-play site has met approval from independent testing laboratories and can provide real money online poker upon receiving the appropriate license from Nevada gaming officials. “We’re finishing up our second wave of testing and so far no problems,” Gaughan said.
South Point's application is scheduled to be heard next month by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Should it pass board requirements following that hearing, the next step is formal licensing approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission.
SouthPointPoker.com has been online since October, but failed to generate the player numbers that Gaughan was hoping for. He blames some of the problem on Zen Entertainment, the company he partnered with to supply the online poker platform.
“It was complicated and hard to download," Gaughan said. [The poor results were] partly down to the provider and partly because I lost interest in it when it didn’t grow as fast as I thought it would.” South Point has since located a new gaming platform provider and the site will focus on only poker at this time, but the development of casino games are in the pipeline.
Before launching what is expected to be the first legal online poker site emanating from the U.S., Gaughan said that "a few little issues" need to be ironed out, such as a viable payment processing system. But being first would be a coup for South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa, allowing the Nevada casino company to perhaps get a lead on more well-known casinos such as MGM Resorts and Caesars, who are also queuing up to provide online poker to Nevada residents and tourists.
“I may not be the biggest or the best, but hopefully I’ll have a head start by two or three months.” Gaughan added. “Unfortunately [because we are] the first one, the regulator is putting a few more restrictions on us, and wants us to start a little slower than we would like. We will conform to their wishes, but at the end of the year it will be a full blown site in Nevada. Then we’ll try and go into the other states where it is legal and do some contracts there.”
Bally Technologies and International Game Technology have already been formally granted licenses to provide online poker in Nevada, with Shuffle Master expected to join the two following gaming commission approval later this month. Vigorous testing of the sites can sometimes take months, which is why gaming officials had set a time frame of December or January 2013 as the expected launch date. But South Point got a leg up on their competitors by operating a free-play site for nine months already and submitting to independent testing prior to license approval. About three dozen companies have submitted applications for an online poker license in the Silver State.