Rush Street-Poker Night in America Deal Confirms Company’s Entrance into Online Poker

August 16, 2022
Rush Street-Poker Night in America Deal Confirms Company’s Entrance into Online Poker

After acquiring Run It Once Poker earlier this year, Rush Street Interactive (RSI) announced the purchase of the Poker Night in America television show recently. The company also confirmed its interest in launching an online poker brand.

RSI is a leading online gaming brand and includes poker legend Phil Hellmuth as a stockholder. The company operates the BetRivers sports betting and online casino brand in several states and countries. RSI now has added a poker content producer to its stable with plans to enter online poker at some point.

Poker Night has a strong following and a deep library of poker TV content and media creation capabilities,” Rush Street CEO Richard Schwartz noted in a second quarter earnings call. “That will help to further build out the BetRivers network and engage our target audience on an ongoing basis.

“Recall that two quarters ago we also purchased an online poker platform. Together these two will position us well for when we eventually launch online poker and the strong associated cross-sell opportunities that poker will bring to our casino and sportsbook verticals.”

What RSI gets with the deal

PNIA was launched in 2013 by Todd Anderson, co-founder of the Heartland Poker Tour. The show features cash games from various casinos around the country.

Players like Hellmuth, Maria Ho, and Doug Polk have appeared on the show through the years. The show is regularly featured on CBS Sports Network and also has a large presence on YouTube.

RSI gains all of that and considerable production capabilities. Rush Street’s live Rivers-branded casinos in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh), Illinois, and New York all have poker rooms, which could possibly create additional synergy.

The company paid $2.2 million in cash and $2.7 million in RSI stock for Poker Night. The acquisition gives RSI another brand that’s at least known within poker. The company hasn’t announced a date that players might see an RSI online poker brand however.

What’s ahead for RSI online poker?

Cracking into a slim market that already includes PokerStars USA, BetMGM/partypoker, and WSOP.com may not be easy. Player pools are relatively small compared to the international online poker scene.

So far regulation and expansion has been slow compared to the growth of sports betting, despite some expansion in recent years to Pennsylvania and Michigan. The expansion of interstate compacts hasn’t gone quickly either, but there have been some positive signs.

The company sees poker as a way to add another revenue stream to possibly keep players from straying to other sites. Players could access games seamlessly on the BetRivers platform.

Someone looking for No Limit Hold’em in a legalized state like Pennsylvania wouldn’t necessarily have to seek out another option. Schwartz hinted at this strategy in the earnings call.

“We don’t expect this acquisition to have any near-term impact on either revenues or profitability,” he said. “But rather it will serve as a growth enabler for our business.”

Hellmuth bullish on RSI online poker

Phil Hellmuth spoke this week with USPoker about endorsement deals, the poker industry, cryptocurrency, business, and more.
RSI investor Phil Hellmuth.

As a stockholder in RSI, Hellmuth helped in the company’s merger with the dMY SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) in 2020. He told USPoker at the time that he invested $300,000 in dMY and saw that value increase after the merger.

The 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner also believed online poker was of interest for RSI.

“I believe that Rush Street will have online poker up and running soon,” he told USPoker.

The Poker Night in America and Run It Once deals confirm that poker is probably on the way for RSI. As more online gaming companies get into the content production business to attract customers, Poker Night instantly offers an opportunity to reach players.

RSI added Run It Once to the fold in March for $5.8 million, $3.3 million of that in cash and $2.5 million in stock. That company was founded by poker pro Phil Galfond. At the time of the acquisition, he expressed optimism for the brand’s future with RSI.

“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.”

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