Online Poker Puts on Its Big-Boy Pants

Ultimate Gaming, which runs Nevada’s first (and so far only) online poker site, received a recommendation from the Nevada Gaming Control Board Thursday that it be given permission to exit from its field trial phase and begin regular operations. It’s expected that the Nevada Gaming Commission will approve the Board’s recommendation later this month.

“It’s a crash test,” Ultimate Gaming Chief Executive Officer Tobin Prior said in a meeting at the company’s Las Vegas headquarters. “You either pass or you don’t. We passed.”

The field trial was intense. Ultimate produced, on request, reports that would boggle most compliance officers. One report, a comprehensive list of the longitude and latitude of every single bet placed over a week, ran to 180,000 pages.

Player didn’t notice a difference—the site has been up and running since April—but for those who follow the game more broadly speaking, this is significant. It’s a sign that Nevada online poker has taken the training wheels off. A company proved that it could surmount the technological challenges of compliance with Nevada’s regulations to the satisfaction of the Gaming Control Board. From the moment play started, it was an all-or-nothing proposition, and it appears that Ultimate has walked away with it all.

The next milestone will be when Ultimate’s first competitor goes live. For now, though, it’s worth taking a minute to reflect on how far online poker has come since the start of the year: from a potential game-changer to more than six million hands of poker actually being dealt under the scrutiny of regulators. Online poker is here, and it is here to stay.