Rush Street Interactive Purchases Run It Once Poker; Expected to Enter US Market

March 3, 2022
Rush Street Interactive Purchases Run It Once Poker; Expected to Enter US Market

The online poker world received a bit of a jolt on Wednesday when Run It Once Poker founder Phil Galfond announced that Rush Street Interactive had acquired the company.

The acquisition comes not only from a US-based company, but Galfond hinted that a US launch is coming.

“When I mentioned that Run It Once Poker was headed down a path towards the US market, I told you that I’d have more details to share with you in the near future,” Galfon noted on Twitter. “Today is the future!

“We spoke with many potential partners over the last 18 months and are very excited to be on team RSI! They share our values: honesty, integrity, fairness, and transparency – and not only with their players. They stood out to me in the fair and honest way they dealt with us.”

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A look at the Run It Once purchase

While complete details and company plans aren’t all known, there are a few details available. Rush Street is acquiring RIO for $5.8 million, $3.3 million in cash and $2.5 million in stock.

The company officially announced the deal this week at its fourth-quarter and 2021 corporate presentation. Galfond said Rush Street would work to “solidify, enhance, and integrate our software into their platform.”

The acquisition appears to be more of a technology sale. Rush Street is already a leader in online casino gaming and sports betting in the US. The company operates the SugarHouse and BetRivers online brands in the US.

Adding poker allows online gaming players another option. Currently online poker is legal and live in:

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Michigan
  • Delaware

Connecticut and West Virginia have also legalized online poker, but no operators have launched yet. The American online poker industry has seen record revenue highs over the last few years.

The expansion of interstate compacts could only add to that in the coming years. That may be something Rush Street is planning on with the purchase.

Opportunity for growth

For RIO, Rush Street offers a chance to grow the brand – unless RSI has a name change in mind. The site received acclaim for its software but seemed to be a small fish in a big pond internationally.

The company had to compete with bigger players like PokerStars, partypoker, GGPoker, 888poker, and others. RIO looked to gain some of those other site’s bigger players with better rewards and cashback promotions.

Galfond noted that the move also gives players on the site more options after being integrated into Rush Street’s online offerings.

“RIO Poker created a platform that people loved, with features and innovations that the poker world was excited about, but we also heard things like ‘if only they could iterate on their software faster’ or ‘I’d move all my volume to RIO if they were bigger,’” Galfond noted on Twitter.

“Well, now we are bigger – much bigger. And now we add to our existing tech team the expertise and experience of those who have built huge poker platforms in the past. I’m extremely excited about what we’ll be able to accomplish together.”

Launching in the US

Run It Once Poker founder Phil Galfond (photo courtesy WPT)

RSI is the online gaming arm of the Rush Street corporation, which is based in Chicago and also operates casinos, hotels, hospitality services, and real estate holdings.

The company has a large online gaming footprint in the US and now may be looking to grow internationally. RSI has already moved into Colombia and Mexico recently.

With Ontario regulating its market, perhaps Canada is an option for expansion as well. RIO offers a chance to become a one-stop shop for those interested in gaming – online casino, sports betting, and poker. That’s a successful formula seen by other operators offering seamless product integration.

Even in the US, however, there is plenty of competition. WSOP.com/888poker, partypoker US Network, and PokerStars all operate in a small market. Is there room for another operator?

That remains to be seen, but additional state legalization would certainly help.

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Hellmuth predicts launch into US market

Poker pro Phil Hellmuth was an initial investor in RSI and spoke with USPoker in 2020 about the company. He believed Rush Street would enter the US poker market.

“I believe that Rush Street will have online poker up and running soon,” he said at the time.

Hellmuth reaffirmed those feeling on Thursday noting: “Definitely coming to the USA, state by state. Congratulations to Phil Galfond, hard work pays off! As a shareholder in Rush Street Interactive, congrats on a nice acquisition.”

Soon is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but online poker looks to be ahead for Rush Street. It appears Galfond and his team will stay on after the acquisition.

In a “Technology Update” from the company’s fourth-quarter results, the company notes: “Acquired the technology platform and onboarded the team from Run It Once Poker.”

RIO’s software platform has generally been received well. Rush Street has the deep pockets and technological savvy to ramp up the poker product even more. 

The move gives players another poker option, both US and internationally. However, Galfond was quick to note that he has no details on when players might log in and play.

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