LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ultimate Gaming's gamble on online poker in Nevada didn't pay off.
After shutting down its operations in New Jersey, the company announced Friday that it had closed its Ultimate Poker online business in Nevada, too, citing trouble making a profit as long as online gambling is limited to a pool of players in single states, so far just three nationwide.
The company, owned by Las Vegas-based neighborhood casino-hotel company Station Casinos LLC, was the first to launch a legal online poker site in Nevada in early 2013.
State regulators will be monitoring the closure to assure that all customers receive everything they're owed and the state gets its tax revenue, said A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
The board approved the company's closure plan and will be working with officials on a close-of-business audit, he said.
The company didn't mention how many employees might be affected by the closure.
Ultimate Gaming chairman Tom Breitling said in a statement Friday that online poker revenue fell short of expectations. Operating the sites in just the three states where it's legal — Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware + made the business costly.
Players in one state can only go head-to-head with other players also physically in that same state.
"These factors have combined to make the path to profitability very difficult and uncertain," Breitling said in the statement.
David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Center for Gaming Research, said the closure was surprising considering the investment the company made to do business in Nevada. He said he didn't believe anyone who entered the marketplace expected that legal online poker would be limited to three states.
"I think the future has got to be a bigger market than Nevada," he said. "In the big picture, Americans have shown they like playing poker online."
A few unlicensed sites gained huge followings for years until what many professional players refer to as "Black Friday" in 2011 when the federal government shut them down and seized player accounts.
Players can still access unregulated poker sites based off-shore.
Schwartz says it still behooves companies like Ultimate Gaming and other to play by the rules, "because there's going to be consequences when they don't," he said
Ultimate Gaming was the first of three companies to offer legal online poker in Nevada starting in early 2013.
Real Gaming from South Point Casino and the World Series of Poker via Caesars Entertainment remain.
Ultimate Gaming shut down its operations in New Jersey in September after it ended its agreement with Trump Taj Mahal which filed for bankruptcy. It didn't operate in Delaware.