Big Game Changes Ahead For US Online Poker

George | January 28, 2019

Looking back at 2018, online poker in the U.S. finally started to grow considerably again after the challenges the discipline has faced in the past decade and a half. Throughout the year, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGBC) handed out several online poker applications across the state to established land-based casinos such as Mount Airy, who have managed to secure a partnership with leading online poker platform PokerStars.

May 1, 2018 marked a turning point for professional online poker when the launch of a tri-state shared liquidity pool meant that players in New Jersey could finally compete professionally in the World Series of Poker. It was also the 15th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s legendary win at that same tournament after securing a seat at the Main Event by playing a satellite game online, a feat that contributed massively to the online poker boom.

Online poker in the U.S. still has a lot of catching up to do compared to other parts of the world, so what changes lie ahead in 2019?

New Jersey will stand strong

It was a record-setting year for online gambling in New Jersey, as collective lifetime revenue in the state went above $1 billion for the first time since it first launched back in 2013. In December 2018, online poker and casino operators generated total monthly revenue in excess of $29 million, which pushed the industry’s lifetime revenue to an astonishing $1,013,752,368.

This huge haul in revenue also reflects in Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casinos, which collectively brought in almost $210 million in December — a 12.3 percent increase from last year.

The year 2019 undoubtedly started off on the right foot. However, a black cloud in the form of a reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act from the Department of Justice has left the state preparing for possible judicial action. According to former New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, who played a pivotal role in establishing online gambling in the state, the “New Jersey delegation…would stand up to protect New Jersey’s interest,” although industry experts are still unsure what effects if any this memo will have on casino gaming in the state.

Last-minute veto in Michigan

Over in Michigan, optimism levels heading into 2019 were high following some significant progress in the state’s new online gambling bill. The bill, which would give residents the right to play online poker, passed by both the Senate and the House, and it seemed the future of online gaming was quite bright indeed. But the optimism was short-lived when at the beginning of January, Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bills that would formally legalize online poker, online casino gaming and sports betting in the state.

New York

However, it’s not all bad news for online poker enthusiasts in the States. Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. has introduced legislation that would formally legalize and regulate the game in New York. Bill S18 would give licenses to up to 11 platforms to operate within the state, an initiative that has been in the works since 2014 when the first online poker bill in New York passed.

This positive momentum is likely to continue well into 2019, as several other states, including West Virginia, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Illinois and California, consider regulating the discipline within their remit. A total of seven other states also focused on regulating online gaming, so 2019 could shape up to be quite a positive year for online poker and casino gaming throughout the U.S.

How to play online poker in the US

Given the Department of Justice’s history of flip-flopping on the Wire Act and what it means for gaming, it may surprise you to learn that there are two ways in which players in the states can enjoy playing online poker games. The first is to sign up with the online offering of a locally-licensed casino, and the second is to play on an international site that is U.S.-friendly.

As far as locally-licensed casinos in which to play poker go, there are currently several online casinos based in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware that players residing in or visiting the states can access. Players in other states, however, need a bit more guidance when it comes to finding a reputable platform. Since some of the leading online poker and casino gaming platforms left the market in 2011, there isn’t quite the choice that players in Europe, for example, have, and the market itself is very much a free one. If you’re going to go down this route, do your research.

Before you sign up with a site, make sure that it is licensed correctly from a leading casino gaming authority. In the case of local sites, this will come from one of the three states above, but for international sites, look out for licenses from the likes of the Malta Gaming Authority or the U.K. Gambling Commission. Pay attention to what other players say about each casino, too, since in an unregulated market, reputation counts for a lot.