Online Poker Provides Rare Good News for US Betting Industry

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COVID-19 has brought nothing but bad news for our world the last few months, shuttering thriving businesses in the US and bringing the global economy to a halt. The legal betting industry in America has been especially hard hit with the stoppage of all major sports. But through all of the pessimism comes some optimism in the form of online poker that has seen a "lockdown spike" since quarantine has come into effect.

In the U.S., all 465 commercial casinos are closed and 97 percent of the 524 tribal casinos are closed, according to gaming analyst Howard Stutz. The 16 locations that are still open are part of convenience stores.

Most major sportsbooks in the US have an online casino division that could keep their businesses afloat during these unprecedented times; some like William Hill don't. With sports showing no obvious signs of returning to action and with self-isolation seeming like it will be extended, online poker, as the only game in town should continue to thrive.

 

The spike

Isolation continues to be a fact of life for 97% of Americans during Easter Weekend, forcing people to get creative with their entertainment dollars. Reports have droves turning to online poker as their outlet, new and old. There has been a 255% increase in first-time online poker players according to US online social poker room Global Poker and an overall increase of those playing poker online of 43%.

“It really hit home when I stopped going to live tournaments a month ago,” said Las Vegas poker pro and vlogger Jeff Boski. “There has been an online poker boom of sorts,” he said. “The field numbers in cash games and tournaments have almost doubled.”

Poker has always been a popular pastime for Americans. Global Poker reported that 6.8% of American adults, which is about 40 million people had played some form of poker on a regular basis before the global lockdown, with friends, in tournaments or online. Boredom and isolation have only increased those numbers. And it's not just Americans that are flocking to online poker rooms - Australia is reporting an eye-opening 67% rise in online gambling.

 

Online Casinos ready to seize upon recent poker success

It is a good time for those sportsbooks offering online poker. Spring traditionally brings about a fair number of online tournaments and this year could see a rise in such events.

The $4 million World Series of Poker’s Spring Online Championships started April 5 and goes to May 3 and is open to bettors in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, PokerStars is running a tournament for residents of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the $1.2 million New Jersey Spring Championship of Online Poker runs until April 27 and the Global Poker Home Series will take place March 30–April 26. PokerStars 14th anniversary edition of its famed Sunday Million tournament at the end of March attracted over 93,000 players.

Celebrity tournaments featuring Tom Brady, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler and Matt Damon are cropping up to help raise money in the fight against hunger. That charity tournament will be broadcast on Twitch for fans to enjoy.

“People at home want something to do,” Jeff Boski said. “Online poker is an easy way to stay home and gamble.”

 

But…

Only six states have legalized online poker and only four have launched markets, leaving online poker unreachable for most Americans. Legislation is still required in the states that don’t offer legal betting and with lawmakers dealing with COVID-19 and November’s crucial election, it is difficult to see any movement on a legal poker front for the rest of this year.

If nothing else, legalized online betting, including poker will have gained some exposure this past couple of months and maybe will be more acceptable to some as we head into 2021. 2020 may not be the year for widespread online poker betting but it looks like it will act as a pretty decent catalyst for the platform in 2021.

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