Pennsylvanians may soon be able to play on GGPoker’s software after a meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved GG’s parent company’s request for a license.
GGPoker has been hoping to get a foothold on U.S. soil for a while. Having a state vouch for them looks good on the C.V., especially if wider legalization and regulation continues. The assumption until now by those in the know was that U.S. regulators would frown on gambling sites that weren’t making efforts to look squeaky clean.
PokerStars, for example, made a big deal of pulling out of Taiwan and Macau. And of booting its grey-market Chinese players off the platform. But GGPoker has made no such efforts, still offering events in renminbi and Hong Kong dollars.
Despite this, the meeting of the PGCB to review NSUS — GGPoker’s umbrella company — was astonishingly quick. No one raised objections and the license passed promptly on February 10th, 2021.
It takes three…
So far, PokerStars.pa has had over a year without competition in the state. Two of its competitors have already got licenses (BetMGM/partypoker and 888poker/WSOP) but have yet to launch their product. It is likely that a similar delay will follow for GGPoker.
The reason for this is that NSUS can’t just launch GGPoker.pa on their current license.
It takes three licenses to launch a legal online poker site in PA. The licenses can be held by different companies working in partnership, but all three must be in place. This is the reason for the slashes in BetMGM/partypoker and 888poker/WSOP.
First up, GGPoker will need to partner with a brick and mortar casino in Pennsylvania. That brick and mortar partner needs an Interactive Gaming Certificate.
The second license is the one NSUS has got: an Interactive Gaming Manufacturer License. This allows their software product to be used in-state to deal digital poker hands.
What is then missing is the third piece of paper: an Interactive Gaming Operator License.
NSUS or one of its subsidiaries can apply for this, or they can partner with another company that already has one. Either way, this is the brand that will run the site, process payments, hire and fire employees, and shell out any state taxes, state fees, or state graft.
So far NSUS only has the one leg of the regulatory tripod, the Manufacturer’s license.
The American dream
Even this limited success in getting licensed in the States is a big coup for GG.
GGPoker’s rise to power has been the story of 2020. Though the GG Network was formed in 2014, it was primarily a China and East Asian targeted company. Ads for Natural8 (the GG Network’s biggest site at the time) started appearing on WSOP final tables in the late 2010s. But until last year it was still a thoroughly second-tier network. Coronavirus changed all that.
With the WSOP looking to move online, someone at GG pulled out all the stops required to get the WSOP to choose them. Once they’d hauled the WSOP on board, it was a matter of months for GG poker to become the other poker site alongside PokerStars. If players wanted a chance at a bracelet, they needed a GGPoker Network login.
And yet, the site that hosted the WSOP, possibly the most all-American event on the planet, couldn’t let people sign up from a U.S. address. Now, that’s on the verge of changing.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons