“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
The title of the 80’s Timbuk3 track doesn’t apply to the re-emerging US online poker community just yet. Since Black Friday, 15 April 2011, when the major players Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars, where effectively closed down by the US Department of Justice, the US online poker industry has been decimated. There has been a small step on the road to recovery with the legalization of the industry, on a state basis, in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. But what does the future hold?
Pros and Cons of Legalization
It hasn’t been all gloom since Black Friday; legalization has meant improved regulation which in turn has made the online playing experience safer. Conversely regulation has also had some negative effects. For instance, more stringent age verification processes have deterred some potential players.
The legalization machine also appears to have stalled somewhat with states that had previously showed signs of being interested seeming to back off; with the possible exception of California. Much of this reticence is due to the uncertainty regarding possible actions by any future Attorney General; it is possible that the Wire Act, a betting law originally written in 1961, could be re-written to encompass a federal ban.
Bearing this possible eventuality in mind, local legislators are reluctant to invest millions of dollars in an online poker industry which could then be curtailed.
A Jog More Than a Sprint
Reticence in introducing legislation is not the only issue with the potential growth of US online poker; the three states which have already introduced legislation have not seen profits grow as quickly as predicted; the race to success is a slow one. In its latest report the New Jersey division of Gaming Enforcement revealed that profits from online poker in the state was remaining static when compared month on month.
The turnover for March this year was $3.2 million; in February it was $3.1 million. On the other hand the revenue from online casinos is increasing. This is not too alarming as global profits for online casinos are growing at a faster rate than for online poker. The fact remains, however, that the growth in online US poker revenue has been disappointing.
The Future May Still Be Sunny
So far the re-emergence of online poker in the US has been less than sparkling but there is still a good chance of more sunshine on the way. Since its entrance to the fray in November 2013 PartyPoker has fought to dominance and is now the largest regulated online poker supplier in the country; its Sunday Major Tournament, with a guaranteed prize of $50,000 is the largest online.
PartyPoker has also gone into partnership with the World Poker Tour, thereby benefiting the game both online and off. The US online poker industry still has a fight on its hands to combat some of the bad publicity it received in pre-legislation days. If it convinces its public that they can now play in a secure environment, profits should increase, and more states may be willing to take the leap to legalization.