* Signs deal with investment firm Avenue Capital
* Agrees with Treasure Island to launch poker in Nevada
* Deals position 888 for expected U.S. regulation
LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Online gaming firm 888 Holdings PLC has created a joint venture with a U.S. investment partner, setting it up for a launch as soon as U.S. online gambling is legalised.
British firm 888, which operates casino, poker, sport and bingo brands, said on Monday that it had formed a new company, called the All American Poker Network, with Avenue Capital Group.
The new venture would launch 888's brands into the U.S. market as soon as either federal or state-based regulation was finalised and upon licensing, said 888.
"Working with a substantial financial partner provides the firepower that we need to take advantage of the significant opportunities that will be provided by a regulated U.S. gaming market," CEO Brian Mattingley said in a statement.
U.S. states are in a race to legalise online gambling, but may soon be overtaken by the federal government, as efforts to pass a national bill come together, with legislation likely to be introduced in the spring.
Last month, New Jersey joined Delaware and Nevada to become the third state to approve online gambling.
The move towards a regulated structure creates significant opportunities for London-listed firms like 888 and larger rival bwin.party, who have experience of running online gaming in Europe and elsewhere.
888 also said on Monday that it was planning to launch online poker in Nevada after signing a deal with Las Vegas operator Treasure Island. 888 received licence approval from Nevada's gaming control board earlier this month.