The poker boom might have slowed down, but the online poker market continues to grow
Whatever the subject matter, there are always doom-mongers who are ready with negative opinions about this and that, complete with predictions of impending disaster. When it comes to online poker, a bit of surfing on the internet will lead us to dramatic claims such “The Poker Market is Struggling” or even “Online Poker is Dead” and so on. But as anyone who has logged on to online poker sites during the last 18 months or so will notice, the reality is very different. In fact if we were to delve a little deeper into the mechanics of the industry and how certain aspects of the landscape have changed, the prospects are actually quite promising.
The main ‘justification’ for negative statements about the health of online poker can be put down to the fact that statistical reporting has pointed to the number of players over recent years not increasing, with some providers experiencing dips in traffic. That is true, but these figures can be misleading and it is important to approach the subject with an appropriate and realistic perspective. Indeed, looking at player levels on a rigidly global front runs the risk of generating skewed numbers because the modern era has seen some countries’ authorities and governments deal with online poker and online gambling in general in different ways. Some have introduced strict(er) rules and legislation while others have become more relaxed in their overseeing what can be a complex industry in both legal and fiscal terms. And ‘strict’ doesn’t necessarily mean generally restrictive when, for example, a country is endeavouring to move the goalposts in order to achieve some kind of domestic protection. It’s not unusual nowadays for a country to regulate poker in a way that revolves around separating their player pool from the international market. Those who are interested in Brexit and its potential implications regarding how other nations within the European Union might change their outlook might see such moves in the ostensibly familial environment of the single European market as significant.
Notably, France, Italy and Spain in particular are three countries with major economic influence who, while being among the leaders in the online poker market, have elected to go their own way and separate their players from the rest of the world’s poker fans. Such restriction can of course have a negative impact on the international aspect of online poker, with repercussions for both sides in terms of traffic.
We should also not forget that players from the U.S. have for many years played at offshore sites such as Americas Cardroom and BlackChipPoker – there’s no doubt that the American online poker market could be huge, and it’s a pity that US players are not allowed to play on whichever site they choose and are instead severely restricted. Of course, this situation can – and may well – change in the future, as we all hope but, in the meantime, we have to accept that different countries have different approaches to online poker and, in an ever-changing legal and financial landscape, it can be difficult to get an accurate evaluation of the state of online poker globally.
Overall, if we leave out the complexities of regulation and assess the online poker market more generally and pragmatically, there is nothing negative to say about its prospects, and indeed it can be said that the industry continues to grow.
Online poker in Asia is enjoying increasing popularity
The online poker market in Asia is a big positive for the industry as the game continues to be enjoyed by more and more converts who continue to contribute to the player pool. This specific area is of very much interest due to the large numbers involved and the potential increase of traffic that could result from the trend continuing at the pace seen thus far during the last couple of years. Furthermore, given that it takes time for newcomers to become more proficient at actually playing the game, one could argue that those providers that establish themselves as the preferred online poker rooms for much of this ‘new’ supply of customers might in turn attract more players looking for weaker opposition.
There are already a few European sites that accept players from Thailand, China, and Japan, and those who might see this as an important in determining where they play if profit is a key aim should play at the GG network at Natural8 or BestPoker.
That said, this relatively new influx of players currently accounts for only a small part of global numbers, although it is obvious why the aforementioned (and other) online poker rooms are so keen on making a concerted effort to both attract and subsequently retain fresh blood from a hitherto quiet region that has so much to offer.
How does the future look?
It’s evident that in many countries online poker is becoming prominent and that, despite regulatory matters, the online poker market has continued to grow. While this growth lacks the speed of expansion witnessed during the poker boom between 2003 and 2009, it is nevertheless going in the right direction, which augurs well going forward.
We can certainly be optimistic about the future of online poker. That the industry is healthy and robust can be seen in, for example, the constant supply of tournaments (and series) that feature millions in guaranteed prize money, and the sheer volume of players these continue to attract, week after week.