The Winning Poker Network Bids Adieu to Nevada

Online poker competition in Nevada just got a tad less fierce. On Wednesday, the Winning Poker Network became the second offshore network catering to US players to pull out of states where online poker is regulated. The announcement was made to players via email, with Winning citing the presence of the regulated market as the motivator behind its exodus. Players with active accounts on Winning skins will still be able to login and manage their balances, but will be prohibited from playing for real-money. Winning’s exit follows a similar decision by five Merge Gaming skins to ban players from the Silver State. Both Winning and most Merge skins no longer permit real-money play from grinders in New Jersey and Delaware as well. Now with two of the largest US-facing networks sent packing, will traffic on Nevada’s two regulated sites surge ahead, or will their absence have little noticeable effect? Volume on Nevada poker sites unlikely to change When most Merge Gaming skins pulled out of Nevada’s iGaming market in March, traffic on that state’s two regulated sites – WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker – hardly benefitted. If anything, over the two weeks that followed, WSOP sustained heavy losses (26 percent). And while seasonal trends most likely played a role in WSOP’s sudden struggles, the departure of Merge did little, if anything, to offset them. That being said, Merge’s exit strategy from Nevada was two-fold, and therefore less impactful. To elaborate, with the inception of regulated online poker last year, Merge stopped accepting new players. Its decision in March to ban existing players was a mere extension of its previous position – one that players from the Silver State may have anticipated. Winning, on the other hand, took a more aggressive “here today, gone tomorrow” stance towards leaving Nevada. But despite the grandiosity of Winning’s exit, I’m hard-pressed to believe that it will drive traffic towards Nevada’s regulated poker rooms – at least in the short-term. And here’s why: According to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, the average number of cash-game players on the Winning network is approximately 350. Given that Nevada’s population is roughly 0.9 percent of the US’s total populace, it can be assumed with some reliability that only a smattering of its players were logging in from the Silver State’s confines. And even if Nevada boasted a particularly high proportion of Winning players relative to other states, not all of them would suddenly start playing on the state’s regulated poker rooms. Compounding matters further, some of them may have already been playing on WSOP or Ultimate, in addition to Winning. Given these variables it’s a pretty safe bet that traffic on Nevada’s regulated iGaming sites will barely be affected by Winning’s farewell. But it could lead to something that will. Bovada biggest competitor to regulated sites Whether the departure of the second and third largest US-facing networks in Nevada will compel US-facing juggernaut Bovada to jump ship is currently unknown. But if it does, it could not only help to bolster traffic on regulated sites, it could spark a trend in which all US-facing networks leave markets where online poker has been legalized. Bovada is the seventh most heavily traveled poker network in the world, boasting an average of approximately 1,500 cash-game players. It’s software suite is set up to allow users to bet on sports, horses, poker and participate in casino games. The network is renowned for its lightning fast payout speeds, exemplary deposit bonus and varied transaction options. In a word, Bovada is ahead of the game. With Bovada out of the picture, poker players looking for an alternative option will likely preference WSOP and Ultimate Poker over the remaining US-facing sites – if only because they allow for comparatively fast cash-outs and the best customer care of the remaining networks accepting Nevada players. Is Winning really abandoning its players? According to Steve Brogan of Pocketfives, the Winning Poker Network only “sent out the email because they felt they had to,” and that it “would affect only new players from Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.” Brogan went onto state that Black Chip Poker would be changing his state of residence from Nevada to California. Looks like the email from Winning could be more folly than fact. Perhaps instead of leaving under the pretense of respect for the regulated market, Winning’s stance was nothing more than a ploy to appease the US government. It wouldn’t be the first time US-facing networks have tried to save…face.

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