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US State Poker: History, News, & The Future of Poker in the USA
The United States has seen a ton of changes in online poker over the past decade. Right now, we’re in what could be called the “Regulation Era” of online poker which means that the relationship is starting to be regulated on a state-by-state basis. As more states add different types of online gambling, the availability for regulated online poker continues to grow. While it’s obvious that players all over the country want more regulated options, the majority of people only have unregulated options for the time being.
With that having been said, the groundwork has been laid for regulated online poker to really take over over the next decade in the United States.
A Brief History of Regulated US Online Poker
In what follows, we’re going to take a look at each of the major steps that have been taken towards a fully-regulated environment for online poker in the United States. These steps are the building blocks that the future of the industry will be build on.
Nevada Regulates Online Poker
In the middle of 2012, Nevada gave out their first license for what they called “interactive gaming.” About 20 companies were given these interactive gaming licenses before online poker actually went live in the state. Ultimate Poker became the premier regulated online poker site in the state and the first regulated online poker site in the United States. The first hand of regulated online poker happened the following year on April 30, 2013, and it was dealt by Ultimate Poker.
Two factors played against each other when it came to getting online poker going in Nevada. First, it hadn’t been done anywhere in the country before, and being first at something like this is always more difficult. Second, there was already a strong licensing body in place for gaming, so it was easier than probably any other state.
Like all states that have regulated the industry afterwards, Nevada required that players be physically located in the state before they’re able to play.
Delaware Regulates All Forms of Online Gambling
Less than a week after Nevada issued their initial set of online poker licenses, Delaware passed legislation to regulate the industry as a whole. Instead of focusing exclusively on online poker, Delaware regulated all forms of online gambling. Their lottery commission was set as the government body to administer oversight to the industry in the state.
Delaware had one particular problem with online poker that they later took steps to try to mitigate. Their player pools weren’t large enough to sustain a poker economy. That led to an agreement that happened much earlier than anyone could have anticipated.
New Jersey Opens Up Shop
Online gambling was regulated in New Jersey in February 2013. Real money games started much later that same year. In an important turn of events, PokerStars tried to get in on the action in New Jersey to no avail. The law in New Jersey requires all online gambling sites to be linked up with a land-based licensee, and they were unable to secure such an agreement.
While the player pool in New Jersey has been sufficient to some degree, they haven’t signed any agreements to share players with other states, and that’s definitely hurting their games because any limitation on player pool at this stage in the game is going to be felt in a major way.
Nevada and Delaware Team Up For Intrastate Online Poker
In February 2014, a move was made that everyone knew would have to happen for US poker to eventually thrive, but no one anticipated that it could happen so quickly. Delaware and Nevada agreed to share player pools to allow players to compete against each other at the poker tables. This was signed in a pact between Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, and it was a critical point for the regulated industry in the USA because it set the precedent that could eventually lead to all states sharing player pools with each other.
Future Speculation About the Industry
Based on what has happened so far in the industry and what we know about the regulation process in other countries, we know what the most important factors are in the expansion of regulation for online poker in the United States. While the following is just speculation, we believe that this is likely to be the path that online poker regulation will follow in the USA.
Online poker and online gambling in general isn’t going to make it through Congress anytime soon. Several attempts have been made year after year, and lawmakers have never gotten close to regulating the industry in any real way, shape or form. Along these lines, it does not make sense to look to online poker to be regulated on a federal level in the near future.
With that having been said, we can expect lawmakers to jump to the task once several more states regulate things. The main reason for this is that it will create an excuse for federal oversight, though the real reason will be increased revenues on a federal level.
More States Regulate Online Poker
Along these lines, the first thing that has to happen is that online poker is regulated in several more states. This is really just a matter of time because so many states have had bills pushed to regulate various forms of online gambling. With the stress on state budgets being what it is, it’s going to happen sooner or later that a dozen or so more individual states regulate online poker.
We can also expect to see more intrastate agreements formed, though as more states bring online poker into the fold, these agreements will become much more complicated.
An Intrastate Cooperative
At some point, agreements between states to share player pools will stop being between two individual states and start being more about groups of states coming together at the same time to form a cooperative agreement. Once this happens, it will really start to get federal attention because this will the signal that the regulated industry in the United States is “ripe for the picking” as far as siphoning off revenues on a federal level.
Looking to the Future
When it gets to this level, it’s going to be hard to know what to expect because things can go in so many directions. The federal government can try to force oversight over the entire country, and that could turn into a legal battle over states’ rights. Alternatively, they could cooperate with an intrastate cooperative instead of forcing themselves over the industry, and that would probably work out better. An unlikely, but still possible, course of events would be that the federal government leaves the industry alone completely like it has done with state lotteries, but we’ll have to just wait and see what happens.
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