Poker brings in modest revenue compared with other casino table games in Atlantic City, but the game is considered one of the most profitable in the world of online gambling, according to industry observers.
“It’s clear that poker will be the first major game (on the internet) and will lead everything else,” said Richard Baskin, founder of U.S. Digital Gaming, which consults on Internet gambling. “There’s just a huge market built for it because of all of the television that has happened in the last couple of years.”
Prospects for legal online poker appear brighter after the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its opinion of the Federal Wire Act late last year, saying states could enact laws authorizing online poker and other casino games within their borders.
States such as Nevada and Delaware are moving forward with online gambling. In New Jersey, a bill authorizing online gambling is pending in the Assembly with Gov. Chris Christie having vetoed a similar bill in the past because he said he was concerned about underage gambling and the proliferation of online gambling halls across the state.
As one of the best-known card games with a long history in the United States, poker experienced a resurgence in interest about two decades ago when tournaments were televised with use of a pocket cam that revealed what cards players held. At about the same time, with the introduction of high-speed Internet, online versions of the game also became popular. Then, in 2003, Chris Moneymaker, who won the World Series of Poker in dramatic fashion, became the first winner to have qualified through an online poker site.
“It just exploded there for a time,” Atlantic City casino analyst Roger Gros said. “It went from virtually nothing to a huge part of the casino.”
Since then, however, Internet poker has waned, particularly following last year when three online sites were shut down after criminal charges were brought forward, prompting paid online poker sites to rely more on offshore business in other countries.
Industry observers, however, said should online gambling be legal, demand would be high in New Jersey.
“What’s happened is that the illegal activity has been shut down as much as possible in the U.S.,” Baskin said. “They’re not playing so there’s a huge pent-up demand for legalization. They will come back to play on legal taxable sites.”
H2 Gambling, a United Kingdom global gambling data service, estimated that should online poker be allowed in New Jersey, gross wins, including rake and tournament entry fees, would amount to $142 million in the first year.
“The surface has only been scratched,” said Jeremy Aguero, cqprincipal of Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas business consultant.
Aguero said he didn’t believe online poker or any other Internet based game would discourage people from visiting casinos.
“Quite the opposite has occurred,” he said. “The market for gambling activity has gotten larger not smaller.”
On the casino floors of Atlantic City, however, poker remains a steady presence. It makes up about 21 percent of table games even though its revenue accounts for only about 5 percent of the total, or $5 million raised in July through a rake, or commission charged on every hand, according to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Last year, Atlantic City’s multibillion dollar casino industry brought in a total of $54 million in poker revenue.
“It’s not a big moneymaker for the casino,” Gros said, adding that casinos depend on other business brought by having poker on the floor. “Poker players are known for bringing their friends with them.”
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