Regulated online poker is now live in three states. Some regulated sites available are struggling to meet the critical mass. Many players have yet to convert to licensed sites for a variety of reasons.
Delaware is a clear example of this. According to PokerScout, 888 Delaware averages just 18 players at any given time. This is substantially lower than the number of players seated at its live poker rooms. This may be due to regulatory issues, including trouble with geolocation. There is no doubt that some players in the state give action to offshore sites as opposed to the newly regulated industry, regardless of the small effort required for most to comply with the requirements. The state’s small population hinders its online poker growth but there is clearly demand for the game as shown by the number of live poker tables available in the state.
Nevada suffers the same issues. This author compiles data for a monthly offshore payment processing report for Poker Affiliate Solutions. This information often includes stories from Nevada online poker players that choose to play at offshore sites due to the higher player volume or guaranteed tournament prize pools. In some instances, the cashout speeds are even superior to that of licensed sites, although the fees can be excessive. This should be a signal to present and future Nevada sites to improve that process.
Some of the Nevada offshore action may be attributed to sports bettors that are accustomed to keeping accounts open at sites willing to accept large bets local Nevada books may refuse. This may be a reason for locals casinos to take on more sports action from online poker players.
In general, sports books will take wagers in excess of posted limits from players that are known to give action in the table game pits or the slots portion of the floor when asked by a VIP host. That same policy could be applied to players that give the same level of action at online poker sites related to the casino to bring that business on this side of the border.
New Jersey players may be less inclined to play at offshore sites as opposed to the newly regulated ones based in Atlantic City. WSOP is on the heels of Revolution Gaming and Party Poker/Borgata is rivaling the traffic of both Merge Gaming and BetOnline, according to traffic data provided by PokerScout. 888 and Ultimate Poker, third and fourth respectively in the New Jersey regulated market, are giving players a reason to play there over unregulated sites that carry a degree of risk. Most tournament guarantees at licensed sites are not competitive with large ones at offshores.
While online poker is currently a dream for players in 47 states, the discussion is certain to make its way to legislative committees across the nation during 2014. The higher the volume shown by the regulated sites, the more likely other states will follow suit, due to the hunger for tax dollars as states struggle to fix balance sheets destroyed by the recession.
More players trying the licensed sites will allow for larger guaranteed tournaments and promotions. This will snowball as the more a site grows, the more players become interested in trying it out. A small online poker site appears less attractive and maybe even not secure to some players regardless of its legal status.
Players giving action to offshore sites in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey should take one for the team and give that action to the regulated sites available. In the long term, it is the correct play.