With poker deeply entrenched in American culture and ongoing regulation moving in the right direction through a slew of states, online poker’s revival in the US is set to hit a high note, writes Dmitry Starostenkov, CEO at EvenBet Gaming.
It is now over a decade since the fabled Black Friday and the indictment of top executives at three of the US’s largest online poker operators, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. Over the 11 years since that time, the new segregated US market had been fragmented and largely unsupported by other online verticals.
However, several elements now spell out a brighter future for online poker in the US. The unique place the game holds in American culture, an increased desire for home entertainment, an improved online infrastructure and regulation progressing across the country are all positive signs. The vertical is steadily finding its place in people’s lives again, this time on smartphones to a far greater degree than on computer screens.
In recent years, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have become the most hospitable states for operators wanting to invest in online poker to approach from a regulatory point of view. West Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania are also likely to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, which allows poker customers to meet and compete against players from one state while remaining in the other.
Similar regulation will be tempting for many states, as those that have legalised online poker, along with other forms of iGaming, are bouncing back significantly more quickly following the economic slowdown of the past two years than their counterparts that have not yet done so. This was clearly a deciding factor for New York to legalise sports betting with such a high tax rate. The state can look forward to a huge amount of revenue and its citizens have another form of entertainment to experience. Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana and New Hampshire are also worth keeping an eye on for this reason.
The biggest obstacle operators will face in the majority of these states is that high liquidity is always crucial for the game to be interesting for players, but with such prohibitive legislation this is not possible. But promisingly, even in these circumstances, major operators like PokerStars are already able to secure as many as 500 daily active players in one state.
On top of that, with sports betting coming online in so many markets across the states, operators will quickly discover online poker’s strength as an acquisition and retention tool. EvenBet Gaming has already put plans in motion to take advantage of this dynamic with one of our latest innovations, Side-bet. This tool allows players to bet on live sporting events without the need to leave to the poker room. The feature means we can add any game supporting a vertical as a side game to poker.
This is one of the most appealing aspects of poker – it is easy to play while concentrating on other things at the same time. It is perfectly matched to a world where people are happier to work at home and find entertainment in their living rooms. The vertical even lends itself to the digital way of socialising, which has become the norm in recent times.
Into the Metaverse
It is worth considering what the next steps in social interaction, particularly as more businesses embrace hybrid office models that sees individuals continuing to work from home for much of the week. The Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook-fame’s latest innovation, promises to offer a new form of virtual social scene online. If developers are able to introduce Metaverse elements to games that involve player-to-player interaction like online poker it could be a game-changer. Recent developments would suggest that this may not just provide a replication of a real-life poker experience online, but the enhanced gameplay options could enrich it massively.
For example, EvenBet Gaming is currently working on integrating video avatars with streaming support. Players would be able to sit at an online poker table with people from all over the world, see each other’s faces and interact with them in real-time, all in the comfort of their own home or any other place – and that is just one feature. The world has never been so diversely integrated, with close friends living across different countries, making this form of connection invaluable.
With the US being one of the world’s greatest technological innovators, certainly in the social media scene, it would stand to reason that this is where we will see this form of gaming take off first with other countries following if it is a success.
Whatever the medium, responsibly enjoying poker has always been a mainstay of US culture. That explains the initial online poker boom that started there and why operators flourish in every state where online poker becomes regulated. Now it looks like the vertical has all the right ingredients for another massive surge.