888 CEO Talks US iGaming and Clarifies PokerStars Stance

Brian Mattingley - 888.com

Brian Mattingley – 888.com

We are “delighted at the success of the launch” in the United States, was how 888 CEO Brian Mattingley began our recent phone interview.

The man at the helm of the only company operating in all three markets with legal online gambling (ranking him #9 on Bluff Magazine’s Power 20) also has a very positive outlook for the burgeoning industry moving forward.

“By this time next year we will be in a much different [better] place,” Mattingley said.

Mattingley’s overall positive outlook was also sprinkled with several areas of concern, from payment processing to what he respectfully referred to as overregulation on some fronts.

That being said, he was generally upbeat about the current situation unfolding in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, and optimistic about the industry’s future, specifically citing the industry’s successes with curtailing underage gambling and cross-border geolocation, as well as the ability to do so in a socially responsible way.

More so than building a player base or raking in profits, getting the industry launched “right” seems to have been the #1 priority of the operators and the regulators I have spoken with, and Mattingley was no exception.

On networks and liquidity sharing

Mattingley also spoke to the impending intrastate network that will be created in Nevada. The network will feature an 888-branded online poker site, a TI (Treasure Island) branded online poker room, and of course Caesars Entertainment’s WSOP.com. All of these sites will be powered by 888 software and all three will share their player pools with one another for increased liquidity.

According to the 888 CEO this network will come to fruition in Q4 of 2014 or Q1 of 2015.

Mattingley also stated that “one leads to the other,” when I asked him if the intrastate network would bring about the implementation of the interstate agreement between their Nevada network and the 888 powered online poker rooms in Delaware.

Staying on the topic of liquidity sharing, but moving to New Jersey, Mattingley said there were no current plans for WSOP.com and US.888Poker.com to combine their player pools, but “they would like to explore it,” however, the final decision would be up to the DGE.

On PokerStars

The $64,000 question is of course PokerStars, and how the addition of Stars will shake things up when they enter the U.S. market.

In June, in an eye-catching interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz (mere days after the sale of PokerStars to Amaya Gaming), Mattingley appeared more than willing to do battle with the online gaming giant. In the article Mattingley stated, “We compete with PokerStars throughout Europe. They are a formidable competitor. But they would make all of us work much harder and it would expand the market.”

But then in a subsequent interview in July, Mattingley was asked once again about PokerStars coming into the market by Global Gaming Business and his answer struck a markedly different tone, leaving many wondering if he had a change of heart as PokerStars moved closer towards securing a New Jersey license.

In his GGB comments he once again expressed a willingness to compete with PokerStars before stating, “We ought to see the regulators saying that they can come in, but because they were taking wagers illegally for those years, you are going to have to suffer a penalty where you can’t operate for a given period of time,” Mattingley told GGB, adding that “two years would make sense.”

I asked Mattingley about these seemingly conflicting statements, and after reiterating his willingness to compete against PokerStars, whom he called a “big, professional, and good operation,” he explained that his position has been consistent all along.

Mattingley stated his original comments to the LVRJ included similar remarks to those he made to GGB a month later, but the reporter left an important “however…” out of the LVRJ article.

According to Mattingley, his “bring on PokerStars” remarks were followed by, “… However, I do believe they got that leading edge operating in a market where everyone else was out,” and they should face a penalty.

Mattingley went on to call PokerStars operating in the U.S. market during those years an “unfair advantage,” and the reason he is for a short-term ban.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to walk into new states,” alongside the companies that left the U.S. market following UIGEA passage, Mattingley said, adding that there should be a period of exclusion for PokerStars, but not to the degree that Bad Actor clauses call for. Mattingley opined that “one year, 18 months, or two years” would be a fair amount of time to spend in the penalty box in order to negate Stars’ advantages gained by operating in the U.S. from 2006-2011.

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