Delaware Chooses Rush Street as New iGaming Provider
Delaware was one of the first three states to legalize online poker within its state borders. Along with Nevada and New Jersey, Delaware launched its online poker sites in 2013. It was the smallest of the three markets by far, and it had only one online poker provider – 888poker – that worked on all three of the poker sites in the state.
Even when Delaware joined the Multi-State Online Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) in 2015, the only other site with which it could partner was WSOP, as its online poker also operated on 888poker software. But even that didn’t provide Delaware players with the benefits of playing for WSOP bracelets on that site.
Under new leadership in 2022, the Delaware Lottery, overseer of the igaming industry in the state, opened up its igaming world for proposals. They wanted 888poker to fight for its monopoly in the state and for others to try to take over.
Ultimately, Rush Street Interactive won the process and will be the new online poker and casino games provider for players in Delaware.
No one is too sure of what that means, though.
Ten Years of iGaming
As mentioned, Delaware was on the front end of the move to legalize online poker on a state-by-state basis. The state legislature legalized online poker and casino games in June 2013 and gave it to the Delaware Lottery, which then had the job of devising a regulatory framework, launching igaming, and overseeing the industry at all levels moving forward.
The setup was simple. There were three racinos (racetracks with casinos) in Delaware: Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, and Delaware Park. Each wanted an igaming site, including an offering of peer-to-peer online poker. Since the racinos are mutually operated, though, they would all run on the same poker network. 888poker’s igaming software was chosen, and the first sites launched in late 2013.
In 2015, Delaware’s governor signed the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, better known as MSIGA, to be able to share online poker with Nevada and New Jersey. The partnership was limited for Delaware, though, because it had only one poker network – 888poker – so it could connect its poker sites with the WSOP sites – also on 888poker software – in the two other states. Since WSOP didn’t operate the sites in Delaware, though, it wasn’t able to offer any of the big promotions from the WSOP, like WSOP Circuit rings online, bracelet events online, or satellites to live events.
Delaware was stuck.
Over the last decade, online poker and igaming revenue grew, though the former was limited. It does bring in approximately $40K per month in revenue, but that is only a fraction of the $1M-plus revenue delivered by the entire online industry.
One can also see by these charts that online poker reached a high during the pandemic but has since lost momentum. The larger igaming revenue statistics, though, so improvement over time, albeit a bit scattered.
Under New Management
Vernon Kirk decided to retire after serving the state of Delaware for 47 years. That retirement opened the position of Delaware Lottery Director in 2022. On August 1 of that she, former State Representative Helene Keeley became the new Lottery Acting Director. It was a promotion from her position as Deputy Director.
Happy Retirement to long-time Delaware lottery director Vernon Kirk! I recently had the honor of presenting Vern with a tribute on behalf of @JohnCarneyDE and myself thanking him for his years of service. Thank you and best of luck in your next chapter! pic.twitter.com/hd7VMWk31W
— Dr. Bethany Hall-Long (@LtGovernorDE) August 13, 2022
Less than six months into her position, Keeley found herself with a decision. The contract for 888poker was approaching its renewal date. Keeley decided to publish a request for proposal for internet wagering providers. She opened the application window to accept proposals from companies that could not only provide igaming, including online poker, but internet sports betting in the future as well.
Finally, on August 17, the Delaware Lottery announced that it selected Rush Street Interactive for the new igaming contract. The contract is set for a term of five years with renewals optional each year after for five more years.
Rush Street CEO Richard Schwartz called the partnership a milestone for the company, one that “validates the trust that lottery officials have in our award-winning platform and customer service.”
Rush Street today confirmed in a PR that they won the contract for Delaware.
Reportedly, 888 dropped out.
We (well, @PassutCharlie) have been following this story for a long time and the implications for online poker in DE and US…
— Nick Jones (@pokerprojones) August 17, 2023
Who is Rush Street?
The founding of Rush Street Interactive (RSI) dates back to 2012, as the US market was reeling from Black Friday and looking at a state-by-state igaming framework. The company is a global one, spanning 23 countries and more than 700 employees. It operates igaming, including online sports betting, under numerous contracts.
Interestingly, however, the company does not currently have an online poker platform.
The RSI website says it is “currently in development.”
Poker via Run It Once
Early in 2022, Rush Street made the move for online poker. The company acquired Run It Once Poker, the brainchild of Phil Galfond and well-crafted online poker site that operated in some parts of the global market for several years. The site simply could not compete with larger, more well-established entities like PokerStars, though, and it shut down at the end of 2021.
The end of 2021 will, coincidentally, mark the end of an era for @RunItOncePoker, while the start of 2022 marks the beginning of a new one.
More details here: https://t.co/GTxlFBWwP1
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) December 30, 2021
Enter RSI, which bought the RIO online poker platform, as well as its team. The plan was to “solidify, enhance, and integrate our software into their platform,” noted Galfond. He felt that RSI possessed the “honesty, integrity, fairness, and transparency” that resonated with him and would be good for the poker world. “I’m extremely excited about what we’ll be able to accomplish together,” he added.
While the timeframe for integration was admittedly long, most of the poker community didn’t think about it again. That was until the Delaware Lottery announced its new partners as RSI.
According to a previously-published timeframe for the new Delaware Lottery agreement to become effective, November 1 would be the start date.
Will Delaware Offer Online Poker?
Currently, there is no change to the online poker offering in Delaware. It will remain intact via 88poker for most of 2023, if not longer.
The issue for online poker is that the effort to launch the site across the three racinos might not be worth the effort until RSI runs online poker sites in other states with which to connect via MSIGA. It could be that the new online poker platform in Delaware does not launch for some time, while igaming moves along with little disruption.
Time will tell.
But it's possible that poker is just not a priority here. There's no mention of it in today's presser from RSI.
As I say, we're hoping to have a lot more concrete very soon. We've never had a situation where a state is _exited_ real money online poker.
— Nick Jones (@pokerprojones) August 17, 2023