What lies ahead for the online poker industry in the United States?
Although online poker in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware is off to a slower start than anticipated, the future remains bright.
New Jersey has taken the first few leaps in this new industry, and their first year forecast called for approximately 1 million player signups, and $1 billion in state revenue. This may have been a bit of an over promise, as the actual numbers put New Jersey on pace for less than half of that.
Currently in New Jersey, you can play at 5 different sites: WSOP Poker, Borgata Poker, Party Poker, 888, and Ultimate Poker. To their credit, these sites have all put together great initial products, and their games are already getting relatively big.
Slow start, strong finish?
To be clear, NJ online poker really isn’t off to that bad of a start, it’s just going slower than most had hoped. Let’s discuss some of the primary reasons for this.
Politics: An easy place to start is with the aggressive opposition to online poker from corporate interests. More specifically, billionaire casino tycoons including Sheldon Adelson, as well as his stable of politicians and lobbyists are still a major force standing in the way of online poker and gambling regulation. You can read more about this here.
Connection Issues: Another reason for the lack of player signups is the connection issues involved in trying to play on the sites from certain locations. People that live on the border of NJ and another state are unable to play all of the poker sites. This is due to the IP detection software that each poker site is mandated to have. Basically, part of state regulation is to make sure that players are not playing from outside of New Jersey. They certainly are accomplishing this, however the software is still primitive in the sense that many players within state borders cannot play. This issue is being worked on daily, and to the sites’ credit it continues to improve and is expected to be totally resolved in the near future.
Low Populations: As for Delaware and Nevada, they have an issue of population. There just aren’t that many people in these states. Nevada has 2.7 million residents, and Delaware just under 1 million. This is compared to the nearly 9 million citizens of New Jersey. This does not mean that they can’t make it work, but it will be a bit more challenging for them than other states with larger populations to get started.
The Process Takes Time: Perhaps mostly, it’s due to the fact that the process of introducing legislation, getting it passed, marketing it, working out the kinks, and organically growing the market simply takes time.
The future is bright.
Now let’s discuss why the future of online poker looks strong.
Interstate Play: It is starting to look very likely that we will be seeing interstate play happen. Players who are playing in any of the online-poker-friendly states will be able to play against players in other legal states. The combined population of these site’s will surely make the games much bigger, and much better.
States Waiting In The Wings: 11 U.S. states have now given online poker legislation consideration including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mississippi, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Hawaii, Louisiana and Iowa. California has by far the largest population of people in the country, with nearly 40 million people. This would ensure online poker and gambling in California gets a good shot to get up and going fast. Like New Jersey and Nevada, California (who aims to have online gambling passed by early 2015) will be a guinea pig for other states looking to legalize online gambling. This will provide the other states with an example to help with their implementation. After California, it is likely that other states will soon follow.
“There’s not a damn state in this nation that rises above California. We are the leaders in all of these things, and we’ll continue to be the leader. The reason why it’s taken us so long is because we want to continue to be the leader and do it right.” – California Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee that includes gambling-related concerns.
Promotional Events: Each of the New Jersey poker sites are running their own tournament series’ and events, that are drawing more players into the pool. They have been surprisingly very successful so far, and we should see these events get even better and draw in even more players.
International Legislation: A bill being introduced to New Jersey calls for “a massive expansion of the existing real-money online gambling in the state” if passed. This doesn’t mean New Jersey players will be able to play against players from other countries, but it opens the door for this happening in the future.
The Return Of Poker Stars & Full Tilt Poker: Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker we’re expected to be in New Jersey from the beginning, but a few hiccups are still standing in the way. However it is now rumored that they will make their return to the U.S. in early 2015. This would have an immediate impact on the U.S. industry, due to these sites’ vast resources and ability to draw in players and host big games immediately.
Get out there and sign up!
To conclude, it is not known exactly how this will all shake out. It will be interesting to see how it all develops. But as more states legalize online gambling, and more players sign up, the industry will continue to become stronger and better for everyone involved. So get out there and sign up!
I’ve been playing online poker now for a long time, and I have no doubt that with a little bit of time and a few fortunate breaks, online poker in America will flourish, and the games will be better than ever before.
See you on the felt.