Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Future (of Online Poker) Looks Great

You’ve no doubt seen the news this week - both New Jersey and Nevada signed measures that will allow residents of their states to LEGALLY gamble online, and they join Delaware in this regard, making at least three states (with more states like California and Maryland considering similar measures) that may have online poker available by Fall, 2013.

Hooray!  Probably.

The tortured soul that is online poker in the USA has gone through more ups and downs than that damned roller coaster outside of the New York New York casino.  We flocked to Full Tilt and PokerStars in the early part of the last decade, only to see the UIEGA in 2006 shoot a warning volley that finally hit home on Black Friday, April 15, 2011, as US players were shunned from (almost) all online sites.  Since that day almost two years ago, we’ve suffered with the crumbs of a few sites who (quietly) take US deposits in a roundabout way (disclosure - I have a small fund on one site - not saying who), pay-to-play sites like WTP and CardPlayer, and free games (for no $$$ prizes…or much of anything except practice and adrenaline) on Zynga, casino-sponsored sites, and the like.

I once thought that the initiative to make online poker legal again (OK, the depositing to play poker - don’t get technical) would come from the Federals, not the states.  Surely they realize the vast untapped $$$ waiting for them in these difficult economic times.  Cripes - this is a Congress that can’t even get a majority of Republican Senators to approve a Republican Senator for Secretary of Defense.  Think about that - hey, he’s one of us, not from the other party - NO!  Mind-boggling.

It should be no surprise that NJ, NV, and Delaware were first out of the blocks to OK online gaming, since they were states that were already “heavily invested” in the idea of revenue from casinos/gaming.  And it’s not surprising that the other states who look more likely to go the same route are also becoming more beholden to gaming revenue, or, as one wag put it, “continue to suck on the teat that is gambling taxes and fees.”

So I see an eventual set-up (barring Federal approval of course, which won’t happen for at least two years, maybe longer, maybe not ever) like this:  like horse-racing (ironically, already legal for online betting).  Simulcasting works on a state-agreed reciprocity basis where citizens of many states pool wagers at the host track and are paid thusly online via services like Xpressbet and TwinSprires, and the host track’s state gets a share of the tax revenue from wagers.  Since the pools are larger than if only that state’s residents could wager, the state’s cut is larger.  Everyone wins (except the bettors, of course, since the rake from the track is pretty high).  Still, this arrangement saved horse racing from an early death (it’s still not like it was in the 1930s, and may never return to those glory days).  Poker may very well follow this path.

That’s both good and bad news.  Since there is currently NO online poker, ANY available game might be seen as a victory.  But like horseracing, the glory days of poker may be in the rearview mirror.  Many vendors are staking claims in the new “clean” 2013 version of online poker - casinos (who have a lot to lose if everyone stays away from Vegas and plays at their computers), current online poker sites like PokerStars and PartyPoker (who have the rest of the world, but lust after the huge US market), and social sites like Zynga.  Oh, Zynga…you may be the largest gaming site in the world (and they are, really - 3x as big as PokerStars for poker alone), but your approach might speed up that rearview mirror process.

I’ll explain how in part two…

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