7 Things Regulated US Online Poker Has Taught Us in Its First Year

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As we approach the one year anniversary of licensed online poker in the US (ok, we still have a couple months to go) there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding how online poker will shake out, but we’ve also started see some cold hard truths.

Below, I’ve listed seven lessons we’ve learned during the first year of regulated US online poker.

1) Poker players always expect too much

The poker world of 2014 reminds me of Sherman from the American Pie movies; they’re full of bravado but they are simply shooting too high with their expectations.

Yes, online poker has been around for 15 years, and all sorts of advancements have been made in that time, but licensed online poker in the US is essentially a new beginning for Internet gaming providers.

The product may look the same and act the same, but it’s not the same, and we have to let the sites and the regulators experiment and work things out.

This is their electric car so to speak, and we have to expect that the first models that roll off the assembly line aren’t going to be perfect.

Demanding perfection is all fine and good, but you do have to give these companies a chance.

2) Regulated online poker brings money into local economies

In addition to the licensing fees and tax revenue online poker will generate, there are also other influxes of cash into the local economy via marketing efforts and even secondary and tertiary revenue streams.

A perfect example of this is PartyPoker’s deal with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers, but there are also the less public ad buys on websites and billboards and the hiring of employees in a wide range of fields.

It’s easy to quantify the actual online gaming revenue figures, but don’t discount the money paid to local (online) newspapers and businesses, or the ancillary jobs created, or the revenue streams from the gamblers themselves.

3) Legalizing online poker will not cause the universe to implode

After reading anti-gambling op-eds over the years, I had assumed that the 2012 Mayan prophecy was delayed because statehouses were slow to pass and rollout their online gambling.

But here we are, in February of 2014 (2014!) with three states offering online poker tables, and still no apocalypse? What gives?

Apparently online gambling isn’t going to end the universe. Kids still go to school, parents still go to work, and the streets are not lined with drugs, prostitution, and Internet gambling halls.

But fear not doomsday preppers, I’m sure in the year 2054, when the 52nd state, Guam, is looking to pass an online poker bill, the cybernetic head of Sheldon Adelson will still be prophesying horrors straight out of the end times if online poker is allowed to gain a foothold in the South Pacific.

4) Most people don’t care about online gambling

Some numbers:

There are roughly 8.7 million people living in New Jersey, and there are about 200,000 accounts at online gambling sites.

Let’s just assume that three times that number are sympathetic to online gambling for one reason or another, that still leaves over 7 million people who don’t gamble online and aren’t politically inclined to support it.

So where is the opposition?

Thus far, at least to my knowledge, there haven’t been any Occupy Borgata movements formed, or sit-ins in Trenton, so my initial hunch seems to have been correct all along:

Your average everyday citizen of New Jersey could care less if online gambling is legal or illegal.

Sure, there are avid supporters and rabid opponents, but by and large people just don’t care; a statement I can back up now that online poker is legal and the only people decrying it (what about the children!) are the same people that were railing against it before.

Everyone else is just going on with their lives.

5) There are still a lot of bugs to be worked out with regulated sites

From geolocation to payment processing, the online poker providers in the US market are learning that despite their experience in the industry, there are still a lot of wrinkles that need to be ironed out in a licensed market.

Working with regulators means entirely new procedures and rules (which vary from locale to locale) and entirely new problems in each place.

6) There are reasons to be pessimistic about the future of regulated online poker

It hasn’t been all sunshine and puppies so far, as the launch of licensed online poker has been beset by pitfalls ranging from technical glitches to the aforementioned payment processing issues to unenthusiastic traffic and revenue numbers.

It also seems like a lot of other states are now pumping the brakes on their own online gambling movements, preferring to let things play out in Nevada and New Jersey before making their own decisions on the matter.

7) But there are reasons to be optimistic as well

That being said, it’s hard to categorize New Jersey’s online gambling launch as anything but a success, and while I wouldn’t be quick to select up Nevada or Delaware as a poster child for “what is possible through online gambling,” there are still plenty of positive attributes to point out.

If I was a pro-online gambling advocate in some other state there are plenty of upsides that can be cited, and it appears that the industry is only going to grow stronger and smoother in the future.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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