As expected, South Point Poker received approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission to operate an online poker site, the first official rubber-stamp in the operator category emanating from the Silver State.
All systems are go for South Point to be the first online poker site in history to legally offer Internet poker in the United States, with restrictions limited to Nevada residents and tourists until interstate play becomes regulated somewhere down the road. Once a final phase of lab testing concludes and South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa antes up $500,000 for the license fee, the virtual switch can be turned on. The expected real-money launch date is sometime in October.
The commission had no qualms with approving South Point after the Nevada Gaming Control Board passed along its recommendation and South Point attorneys successfully fielded questions regarding player verification safeguards to ensure that players are within Nevada borders, are of legal age to gamble online, and that the site is prepared to handle a huge influx of players.
South Point Poker has been running a free-play site since last October open to players anywhere and received approval in three separate categories from gaming officials–as an operator, manufacturer and service provider. There are almost a dozen entities who are seeking licensing in the operator category, and South Point is way ahead of the pack, including the well-known big boys such as MGM Grand and Caesar’s Entertainment.
“I may not be the biggest or the best, but hopefully I’ll have a head start by two or three months,” South Point CEO Michael Gaughan said earlier this year.
On Thursday, Monarch Casino also received approval as a site operator. However all the fanfare and hoopla of the day’s events pointed to South Point because Monarch has yet to team up with a service provider. Global Cash Access Holdings also got a nod from gaming officials to provide Internet payment services to Nevada online poker sites.
Out of roughly three dozen companies that have applied for intrastate online poker licensing in some fashion, six have now received formal approval. South Point, Monarch Casino and Global Cash Access Holdings join Bally Technologies, International Game Technology and Shuffle Master as Nevada license holders. The latter three had previously been rubber-stamped in the manufacturing category.
The online poker industry is now experiencing some excitement after the depressing turn of events that began with the Black Friday indictments in April of last year. With Full Tilt Poker players expected to be reimbursed following the bailout by PokerStars and the planned relaunch of that site in early November, and South Point preparing to be up and running just prior to that, things are beginning to look up for online poker players in the U.S. and abroad.