Remember last week, when a whole bunch of stories appeared touting the fact that Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars, was among 14 companies who had answered the Delaware Lottery’s call for bidders for services connected to that state’s upcoming introduction of online gaming later this year?
Many people took the news to be the next step of PokerStars’ planned reintroduction to the USA, but the truth on this story is rather different. Stars, expected to bid in Delaware as Rational Services Limited, is very much a longshot to get any piece of the Delaware action. That’s through no fault of Stars, but is instead due to the way the future Delaware interactive gaming has been designed, a process that is likely to leave PokerStars and several other specialty software outfits on the outside looking in.
News that 14 companies had answered the Delaware Lottery’s RFP (Request For Proposal), was first published at Gambling Compliance last week, though GC published the names of only eight of the 14 applicants. The resulting story and its widespread re-reporting throughout the poker world was therefore somewhat misleading, disguising the real nature of the process and the chances (or lack thereof) of some of the companies who have come knocking at Delaware’s door.
Your faithful scribe has since obtained the complete list of the 14 potential bidders directly from Delaware Lottery officials, each of whom answered the initial RFP before the state’s March 15th deadline. Examining the complete list and taking a look at the way the structure of Delaware’s future iGaming services is very instructive as to who’s got the inside track. Here’s the complete list:
- Amaya-Bally Technologies — Software suites including casino table games, poker, lottery, slots, platform support, mobile apps
- CAMS — Player-information management systems
- Continent 8 Technologies — Hardware services, servers and connectivity
- GB Group PLC — Age / identity verification
- IGT (International Game Technology) — Slots manufacturer; interactive software offerings include slots, poker, casino table games and mobile apps
- INCOMM — Pre-paid debit cards, interactive payment processing solutions
- KGM Gaming — Hardware, casino/gaming equipment and support services
- Loc-Aid — Geo-location software
- Rational Services Limited (PokerStars) — Poker software
- Scientific Games (includes WMS) /888 / Williams — Lottery systems, user terminals, slot machines, poker, interactive slots and table games, mobile apps
- Session Gaming — Keno, bingo software
- SHFL (formerly ShuffleMaster) — Casino equipment and live/interactive table games (including proprietary titles), identity verification, more
- Stan James PLC — Interactive casino games, interactive slots, mobile apps
- Williams (also known as WMS) — more specifically the slots-technology and video-lottery terminal divisions
The above offers general descriptions of what each company of grouping of companies offers, and while I may have missed a software suite or to while doing the compiling, it’s a good start.
Now, here’s a look at the way the Delaware Lottery itself envisions its interactive gaming process, complete with the “primary vendor” at the top of the structure and specialty vendors (including online poker) lumped below that:
Game content and support services are the specialty niches beneath the primary vendor and the multi-system platform provider. Now, compare that structure with the applicants list above, and the problem facing the potential Rational/PokerStars application becomes clear.
At least three of the fourteen entities likely to submit bids offer a wide range of products and have to be considered the frontrunners for the primary vendor spot: IGT, the Amaya-Bally pairing and the SciGames/WMS/888 grouping.
Here’s the problem for Stars: All three of them will have access to an online-poker software suite that’s already in global competition with Stars, a selling point that’ll be brought up to Delaware officials when it comes time to choose the poker vendor.
Is PokerStars’ software superior to any of the other systems? Almost certainly, and in the case of Amaya’s antiquated Ongame (which is currently undergoing a facelift into something called “Amaya GO”, it’s probably not even close.
However, that advantage is easily counterbalanced by the topic of system compatibility, wherein the the software packages offered by these large, composite vendors are far more likely to be able to have all the parts working together seamlessly. The prospect of Amaya trying to integrate Stars software into an online-gaming system offering slots, keno, bingo and other games seems redundant when Amaya already has both 888 and Cryptologic among its own offerings..
That puts Stars a bit behind the eight ball, no matter who ends up getting the primary vendor deal. SciGames, with an existing lottery contract with Delaware, may be the early frontrunner among all the competing firms, SciGames has ready access to 888 (Pacific Poker), which represents a similar fallen tree across the Stars-Delaware horse-and-buggy trail.
That’s why all the “PokerStars is Coming to Delaware” stories last week were really much ado about very little. It’s probably a good exercise for fan-fave Stars to go through the process, but the structure of the Delaware igaming system itself means that its unlikely to occur.