Since it first arrived on the scene, online poker has been something of a polarizing sport. There were traditionalists who scorned the online version of the game, and then there were the realists who knew that the internet was the future of everything. There’s no need to point out who was right with that one. In the years since, online poker has enjoyed an incredible boom, but does it show any signs of easing up soon?
When the Boom Began
The year was 2003, and a new face was at the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. His name was rather aptly Chris Moneymaker, and he was about to change the face of online poker forever. You see, Chris was a new breed. He qualified through an online satellite and had learned his trade at his PC, grinding his way through the small hours of the morning. No one took him seriously until he revealed his winning hand and went home with a cool $2.5 million in prize money.
The boom started almost immediately with part-time poker players realizing that they, too, could make it big by playing online. Not only that but established pros finally figured out that online poker rooms weren’t the domain of wannabe pros but practice grounds for the stars of the future. Online platforms began to spring up overnight seemingly, and the boom was well and truly underway.
The Global Rise
It took little time for online poker to become one of the most popular games on the internet. Casual players saw it as an opportunity to learn and possibly make some cash in their free time while seasoned players thought of it as a platform for practice. Global revenue went stratospheric, and players rejoiced in this convenient and cheap way to play the game they loved.
However, it wasn’t long before the matter of legislation got in the way of their fun. Governments around the world were yet unprepared for the boom, and many had to force through legislation to grant licenses to online poker providers. But some countries such as the U.S. decided on a different route, and within a few short years, certain shores prohibited online poker.
That didn’t stop the rise of the game, though, and global revenue figures continued to rise, regardless of the geographical limitations imposed by some governments. However, the fact that players needed a laptop or PC to play did somewhat curtail industry growth. But that was about to change.
Mobile Gaming Rules the Roost
By 2016, online poker has plateaued somewhat, but the rise of mobile gaming opened the game to an entirely new audience. Mobile gaming allowed even the most casual of casual players to download an app and have a go at the game. Players who were already in love with the game could also now play it on the bus or the train. It was the shot in the arm that the industry needed at the time.
The U.S. Makes a U-Turn
But perhaps the most significant event in online poker’s recent history is the apparent U-turn by the U.S. government. Or to be more precise individual state governments. In 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its formal legal opinion of the now-famous Interstate Wire Act of 1961.
Originally, the act was to stop mobsters from moving money illegally between states, with many believing that it also covered online activity. But the DOJ said that they believed it did not cover activities that were not related to a sporting event. Nevada and New Jersey took note and soon online poker was again on the table.
Online poker giant 888poker became one of the leaders of the industry in the U.S., paving the way in the state of New Jersey, specifically. Their success in New Jersey encouraged other states and poker providers to consider entering the market. As a result, we now have several states pushing through legislation to bring their poker industry online.
New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware are the three leading states for online poker, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia set to come online soon. There are also quite a few states waiting in the wings to see how things work out for those five. Should things go well, and they probably will, it’s realistic to expect a minimum of 40 states to legalize online poker soon. Imagine what that will do for global online poker revenue figures.
China Takes a Stand
However, the world’s most populous country who, of course, rarely agree with their American friends hasn’t mirrored the U.S. approach. Last year, on a day now known as Black Friday, the Chinese Government decided not to recognize poker as a sport. It was a huge blow to the nation’s blossoming online poker industry, with many heavyweights of the game losing their investment in the local game.
Many felt that the Chinese ban would have a detrimental effect on the global industry, especially in Asia, but there has been little negative impact. Yes, the local game has been completely crippled, but the global game has soldiered on regardless. If anything, global figures have increased since the ban.
So, will online poker growth ever slow down? For the immediate future, we find it incredibly hard to believe that anything barring a complete shutdown of the internet could stop the giant that is online poker. And though there will, no doubt, come a time when the industry plateaus, as it did before the rise of mobile gaming, that won’t happen for quite some time.
Feature image: Online poker is a serious money maker for all involved. (Photo Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)