The Delaware Lottery has reportedly been in talks for weeks with the UK’s 888 Holdings to discuss whether to extend its exclusive contract for online poker and casino gaming through the state’s three racinos.
An official with the Lottery confirmed to Poker Industry PRO that discussions are ongoing but declined to say when 888’s contract ends or if it sent out a request for proposal (RFP) to say the contract was up for bids.
Last Friday, the Lottery official told pokerfuse the situation was unchanged.
888poker has held a monopoly in the state since 2013, and the last time the partnership was extended was in July 2020 — for two more years. Since July has passed, there is speculation as to when the current partnership expires, and if the Lottery is considering looking elsewhere.
The Lottery oversees three racinos in the state — Bally’s Dover (formerly Dover Downs), Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway. Each uses its own branded skin for Delaware online poker and casino gaming. There is no online sports betting in Delaware.
A spokesperson for 888, which operates 888poker Ontario and New Jersey poker rooms alongside a large European operation, did not return a message seeking confirmation that the company was in talks with the Lottery.
Delaware’s Poker Market is Small, But Lucrative
With a population of just 1 million, Delaware is a small market for online poker. It has grossed just $3.2 million since the market launched in 2013.
But Delaware’s online poker market is special because the state is a signatory of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), an interstate compact whose members include Nevada, New Jersey, and Michigan.
Membership in MSIGA allows online poker players in Delaware to go against those on WSOP NJ, WSOP NV, 888poker NJ, and (eventually) WSOP MI.
Among the three racinos, Delaware Park’s online poker room has been the most successful in terms of revenue — it has led its two rivals every year the market has been open. It grossed $246k in 2021, down 30.3% year-to-year ($353k).
Bally’s Dover and Harrington have been the second- and third-place operators for poker since the market began. The former grossed $96k in July while the latter generated $79k. Harrington had its best year in 2020 with $133k of revenue. The best year for Bally’s was 2014, with $165k of revenue.
BetMGM, PokerStars Considered Most Likely to Submit an RFP
Since online poker is a monopoly in Delaware, rival operators with their own poker platform might be interested in submitting an RFP — assuming the Lottery has asked operators to submit them.
BetMGM and PokerStars are considered the most likely to submit an RFP because they would benefit immediately from gaining access to Delaware.
Both have operations in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — another state with legal online poker reportedly interested in joining MSIGA. BetMGM is also rumored to be planning to launch online poker in Nevada.
Because online poker is such a small moneymaker, it’s possible that an operator like DraftKings could fill the space. That would be bad for customers and potentially drive them to offshore sites. It would also defeat the purpose of Delaware joining MSIGA for shared liquidity if it doesn’t offer poker anymore.
And since Delawareans have had access to online poker since 2013, it’s unlikely that the Lottery would consider replacing 888 with an operator that doesn’t have a poker platform.
That makes for a pretty short list:
- Rush Street Interactive (RSI)
BetRivers makes the list because its parent, RSI, confirmed last month that it is working towards its own US online poker launch. It acquired Phil Galfond’s Run It Once Poker (RIO) team in March and the series Poker Night in America in August.
PokerStars submitted an RFP for the contract back in May 2013, but the Lottery didn’t pick them. Instead, the Lottery went with a consortium led by 888 that included Scientific Games (now Light & Wonder) and WMS (a Scientific Games subsidiary).
The consortium was supporting lottery games in the state at the time the Lottery had requested RFPs. A bid by IGT was also not selected.
PokerStars’ RFP was made through a proposal by Amaya (now The Stars Group) and Bally Technologies.
888’s online casino product went live in October 2013. Online poker followed, going live in mid-November 2013.