Ask any gambler that’s been playing poker for a good chunk of time and you’ll hear that the regular tales that game is no longer what it used to be.
Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 alongside the “Black Friday” of April 2011, we’ve seen a slump in the number of players gambling with online poker.
It’s not that players were losing interest (far from it), more than the government’s interest had peaked and the decision that enough was enough, leading to that fateful April day. PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker, among others were cruelly taken away from us with no legal sites to play poker online in the US.
The decision left those in the industry with their heads in their hands as millions of dollars went up in smoke. Nowadays, some sites do exist in a sort of a legal grey area with The Winning Poker Network, Ignition Casino and Global Poker offering services – but these are all at risk of being shut down at any time – just as we’ve seen in the past.
However, history will always repeat itself. The cars, fashion, and music from the ’70s, ‘80s, and ’90s have all made huge comebacks given enough time – I predict we’re edging on poker doing the exact same.
Relaxation of rules in the US
The acquisition of the PokerStars parent company by Paddy Power, a UK based bookmaker, is one of the most promising pieces of evidence that we’ve seen in recent years for the expansion of the game.
We’re not talking small change either, the company forked over $6bn for the merger in an effort to take advantage of the relaxed rules surrounding sports betting in the US (for an in-depth discussion, check out this article). With the relaxed rules surrounding sports betting comes the potential of the eventual relaxation of poker with the game recognized as skill, similar to sports betting.
CEO of the Paddy Power parent company, Flutter, Peter Jackson, states that the deal could “turbocharge” their existing strategy in attempting to “provide world-class capabilities across sports betting, gaming, daily fantasy sports, and poker, as well as greater geographical and product diversification.”
As of current, there are only 3 states that offer online poker legally in the US with Nevada (obviously), New Jersey and Delaware. However, with each state free to regulate gambling as they see fit, a change may be on the cards (pun intended) very shortly.
Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, states: “It’s anyone’s guess what the US will do with the legality of poker. With the relaxation of sports betting, it might just be that we’ll see the legalization. After all, it’s a game of skill, similar to sports betting, we’ll just have to see.”
Of course, time will tell what happens with our predictions of legality surrounding the online game and the future of PokerStars – but for now, there is a hint of optimism for 2020.
With so much investment into poker sites – companies are clearly showing the same.
The Indian market
For 2020, one of the most interesting markets that’s we’re seeing open up is the Indian market and with a population estimated at 1.4 bn, there are a fair few potential players to kickstart the game.
It may sound like speculation, but when we start to look towards the recent movements of the industry leaders, it’s clear that there’s huge potential in the area. Once again we see PokerStars at the forefront with the dream to latch onto the number 1 poker provider spot in the coming year.
Their most recent step in India? Becoming the main sponsor of the 13th edition of Bigg Boss, an Indian version of Big Brother that comes with bags of coverage. But this isn’t the first time that PokerStars made its move into the Indian market and in 2018, through a strategic partnership with the lottery and gaming conglomerate Sugal and Damani group.
There’s a huge potential for the game and as of current, there are only between 1.5 and 2 million people logging in to play in the country. It sounds like a lot, but when compared to Dream11, boasting 70 million players, the scalability of poker is quickly put into perspective.
Sachiko Gaming’s advertising problem
The current relative lack of players in India is theorized as being a marketing problem with a lack of exposure to the game per this author.
Ankur Dewani, the chief executive officer of Sachiko Gaming operating PokerStars India is very clear with his predictions and reasoning for the difference: “Rummy has 15 million players. Dream11 has close to 70 million players while poker has got only 1.5 to 2 million players in India. It is primarily because of the way poker is marketed in India”.
Dewani quickly goes on to say “Look at Dream11, because of the popularity of Cricket in India and their marketing campaigns involving former Indian captain, MS Dhoni, they managed to get such a huge base of users on the platform.”
It appears to be entirely a marketing problem that they’re facing as of current, but with a plan in place to direct attention towards PokerStars, it’s not going to be long until those numbers start bumping up.
To cut a long story short
To cut a long story short, I firmly believe that 2020 is going to be a very big year for poker with a huge emphasis on the online game.
With the potential relaxation of the rules in the US alongside the giant audience targeted in India, there’s very little that can put a stop to the growth of the game. If there’s one thing for sure it’s that PokerStars is going to be at the forefront of the action.
It seems like a second wind is coming for online poker and with such a powerful merger announced, a serious chunk of change is going to be invested in the game.
It’s going to be an exciting 2020, 2021 and 2022 for the poker industry – fingers crossed that all goes well anyway.