Run It Once (RIO), the online poker site founded by Phil Galfond, has been sold to Rush Street Interactive (RSI), a Chicago-based online gaming and sports entertainment company with a presence in regulated markets across the US and Latin America. It is the company behind the popular iGaming sites BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse.
The deal covers RIO’s poker software as well as its staff, including Galfond, which means the three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner will now work under RSI.
Given RSI’s strong US presence and aggressive marketing strategy, RIO will have a better chance to keep up with its competitors in the market, which include leading online poker sites PokerStars, partypoker, and WSOP.com.
Similarly, RSI will greatly benefit from its acquisition of the RIO as it will now have an online poker suite, expanding its iGaming portfolio. RIO has also already established a strong following within the online poker community, plus Galfond’s skills and abilities will be a strong asset for the company.
What Happened to RIO?
Galfond welcomed the year with a piece of sad news for RIO’s global player pool – the site would shut its doors to international players to embark on a new journey in the US regulated market. Galfond launched RIO back in February 2019 with high hopes for the site, keeping his fingers crossed that it would gather steam and eventually take off. But things didn’t go according to plan.
RIO has had its share of success over the past couple of years. Its Legends rewards program, SNG Select, and the popular Galfond Challenge quite had a nice run. The site also benefited from the pandemic-related online poker mini-boom in 2020. However, it failed to maintain the momentum post-pandemic, and despite Galfond and his team doing their very best for the site to stay afloat, the numbers just didn’t side with them.
RIO’s traffic went down to pre-pandemic levels as the site struggled to gain foothold, unable to stave off competition from the bigger online poker sites such as PokerStars and GGPoker. This prompted Galfond to simply cease RIO’s international operations once and for all.
A New Start
While RIO had already stopped serving international players, it won’t fade into obscurity just yet. It will take its chances in a completely new market, but a regulated one, which will provide the site with a more level-playing field, according to its founder.
Just two months after leaving the global market, Galfond quickly secured a deal that will enable RIO to establish a presence in the US. In a series of tweets, the talented high-stakes pro announced that RIO’s poker software and the team were acquired by RSI, a company that shares RIO’s values – honesty, transparency, integrity, and fairness.
RSI operates in a total of 13 states across the US, including Louisiana, Arizona, Connecticut, and New York where it launched its online sportsbooks in late 2021. It also plans to expand into Mexico and Ontario, Canada.
RIO will still need to go through a lengthy process before it can finally go live in the US. There are currently five active regulated online poker markets in the country, namely, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and obtaining a poker license in all of these states is quite costly and complicated. However, RSI successfully got through this five years ago when PlaySugarHouse launched in New Jersey.
RIO’s entrance into the US comes at a time when online poker is achieving some progress in the country, especially with the latest developments relating to the Wire Act case. As of now, more US states are considering legalizing online poker, including Illinois and New York.