The legality of online poker in America has been a thorny issue and a continuous source of pain for fans of the game. For years, the players have had to make life-altering decisions, moving to new states just to be able to play the game they love. Yet, there might be a silver lining as the landscape for legal online poker in the US is finally beginning to shape, painting a broader, more accessible online ecosystem for everyone.
Presently, there are six states that allow you to play poker online, including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan. Now, Michigan and West Virginia have yet to launch their operations, so put a pin in that.
However, online poker traffic notched up a 200% increase in March, 2020 and quite a few states already pushing for launching their own online poker card rooms, including, California, Virginia, and even Hawaii.
Online Poker Will Be Huge in 2021
The temporary lockdown in the first half of 2020 of all land-based casinos and sportsbooks didn’t quite hurt poker the way many feared it would. On the contrary, players found their way to online card rooms and the stay-at-home measures spiked bigger traffic.
So much that established cardrooms with online activities not only didn’t suffer too much from the fallout, but even saw an uptick in new registration and players coming back to dust old accounts and join in online poker tournaments.
While the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down legislative proceedings, it has illuminated the huge potential of online poker with as many as 10 states that are now pushing to have Internet poker fully legalized. Meanwhile, Michigan, is closer than ever to see its industry set up, with the launch expected for early 2021. West Virginia still hasn’t got any companies trying to set their shops up there.
Admittedly, 2020 may not quite bring the expected results, but fast forward to 2021, and we will most likely see a tremendous spike in the states that offer regulated poker. But for now, you can still find the best legal options from Online Poker America, the people’s choice for USA poker rooms.
Passing Laws in Some States Will Slow Down
While a nation-wide lockdown has served as the basis to show an alternative way of participating in poker games, it has also done damage to the legislative potential in some states.
For example, in New York State, lawmakers will not take up the issue of legalizing online poker for probably another two years. The reason is that the state was the most heavily affected by the recent healthy crisis that has spread across the United States.
Such drawbacks are to be expected and the Empire State may need to wait a little, but others surely won’t. With the traffic jumping to a whopping 200% increase in March globally, in the United States alone.
Traffic Picks Up, Can the Industry Make a Comeback?
Meanwhile, 888 Holdings, the operator of 888poker, said that they saw a 60% jump in online traffic in April alone. The uptake in daily poker activity has been attributed to the current state of affairs which has seen many people cooped up in their homes and turning to the hobby.
Similar numbers were reported for both the sports betting and casino arms of the company. The question that now lies ahead of the industry is whether it can restore itself back to its former glory. Online poker was first attacked in 2006 with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) which led to Black Friday on April 15, 2011.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in the United States v. Scheinberg case, deciding that the owners of the three largest online poker giants, to name PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus had violated UIEGA, suspending online poker indefinitely.
However, some states, including Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada were quick to adapt again. Interestingly, PokerStars has made a big return in the US with its co-founder, Isai Scheinberg recently pleading guilty to have knowingly run a multimillion-dollar unlawful internet gambling business.
Bigger Fish to Fry
While online poker in America is really picking up by the looks of it, there are still some challenges to address. For example, even according to the most optimistic forecasts, some 10 states are going to have legalized Internet poker in the next two or three years.
In other words, there will be some 40-odd states out there which will most likely see their players continue to turn to offshore cardrooms. While those cardrooms have been scurrying to establish a better name and reputation for themselves, there are no guarantees they can provide the same level of authority and security as can state-based and regulated ones.
So, the real question hat poker in America has ahead of it is how to bring every on board. One could take an example from sports betting, which has become quite popular throughout as many as 20 states now, and for a good reason, too.
Everyone loves sports and while sports betting is more a “game of chance,” than it is a “game of skill,” poker still seems to attract a more negative connotation when the game is mentioned.
Online Tournaments Will Get Bigger
As much of the community joins online, card rooms will have the funds to host massive multi-million tournaments similar to WSOP and its $300 million cash prize. Only this time, people would be able to participate from their homes and do so legally.
Reaching the multi-million tournaments online is already a reality. PokerStars and partypoker are hosting all sorts of huge events you can play in legally, providing you are based in a state where the activity is recognized by the state’s legislation and regulators.
It’s not going to be easy, but the next decade will cement the status of online poker in America like never before.