Nevada Free-Play Site AcePlay Announces Pending Closure

What’s the difference between a US state having legalized most forms of online casino-style gambling compared to one that’s legalized only online poker? The just-announced closure of a Nevada-based, free-play online poker site, AcePlay, confirms that a poker-only online existence probably just isn’t enough. And if you’re in Nevada and you’re not the WSOP, sinking a fortune into product development might not be the best move… for the time being.

AcePlayPoker.com and AcePlayCasino.com are the two components of the AcePlay offering, which this week announced that it will be discontinuing its two-year run as of Novvember 22nd. In a blog post breaking the news, a staffer wrote:

It is with a heavy heart we are announcing that acePLAY Casino will be shutting down Wednesday November 22nd. Our parent company was recently acquired, but unfortunately we will not be coming along for the ride. We have sincerely appreciated our loyal players over the past 2 years and you will be greatly missed. We thank you for your support.

AcePlay is actually a victim of a corporate sale and transition, being put on the chopping block as a part of the traditional reevaluation of marketing and development that comes with such takeovers. AcePlay is owned by American Casino & Entertainment Properties (ACEP), the parent company of four Nevada casinos, including the Stratosphere and two Arizona Charlie’s properties. And it’s the acquisition of ACEP by another Nevada gaming corporation, Golden Entertainment, that spells the end of AcePlay’s run.

Golden, by all available evidence, doesn’t view the promotional work being done by AcePlay as being worth the continuing investment. So the new owners are pulling the plug.

As an online, free-play-only offering, AcePlay obviously could not generate a sizeable revenue stream. Instead, it was being used as a promotional tool to drive players to ACEP’s live properties, such as the Stratosphere, via prizes, discounts, and other special offers awarded for playing on the AcePlay site. It was a form of long-game marketing that ran out of time to succeed.

If only Nevada had legalized all forms of online gambling, rather than just online poker, then sites such as AcePlay become much more important as a conversion tool. But to give you an idea of the shoestring nature of the AcePlay operation, the AcePlayPoker part of the offering has been running on the antiquated Ongame platform, which first surfaced back in the Victorian era (we kid, but just slightly) with Pokerroom.com and other sites.

The Ongame poker platform was out of date a decade ago, and it’s been sold at ever-increasing discounts over the past several years. ACEP picked up Ongame from its last previous owner, Amaya, in 2013. What ACEP paid wasn’t disclosed, but it couldn’t have been much. At the time, ACEP was thinking about rolling out a real-money poker site to compete with the likes of Caesars/WSOP, South Point Poker, and the Fertitta family’s hapless Ultimate Poker. After South Point and Ultimate Poker cocked up their offerings, ACEP thought better of it.

Instead, the company bided its time, perhaps hoping that Nevada would go ahead and regulate other forms of online casino gaming. That would’ve brought Nevada back to even with Delaware and New Jersey, and the New Jersey experience has shown that the revenue is coming from the online casino games, not the online poker. Yet Nevada hasn’t been able to move further online in the face of prominent opposition from casino owners Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, and a couple of others, in a very cutthroat game of hurting their Nevada casino competition.

Amid all this, AcePlay was still launched, in 2015, into a holding pattern. As these things go, it was launched on the cheap, but even that didn’t turn out to be enough. It’s not impossible that AcePlay could be relaunched if the Nevada online environment changes. Don’t wait on it, though, even if we wouldn’t mind a hand or two on an Ongame site… just for old time’s sake.

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