2014 was definitely a big year for US online poker, as the national market got a full year to show what it could produce. Actually, the word “national” is used rather lightly here because the only states in the market remain Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. So from the perspective of adding more states to the iPoker mix, 2014 was a disappointment. But this isn’t the only area where US iGaming fell short of expectations last year. That said, let’s look at a few areas where the market must improve in 2015.
PokerStars needs to be accepted and launched in New Jersey
We’re now months removed from September, when New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak proudly announced that PokerStars would soon be cleared to enter his state. And given that Stars hasn’t been approved for an online gaming license in the Garden State, there’s uncertainty surrounding the ‘when.’ Many believe it will finally happen this year, and it’s definitely important that PokerStars finally does get accepted. After all, they’ve done such a good job at marketing online poker and running live tournaments around the globe. Plus, their roots in many European regulated markets bring about the possibility of linking New Jersey to international player pools – a long-awaited dream of Lesniak’s.
California needs to finally legalize online poker
This was supposed to happen last year, but the big hangup was the “bad actor” clause, which would’ve kept PokerStars out of the market for operating in California post-UIGEA. The biggest problem here is the inability to get all sides to agree, which includes the state’s card rooms, tribes, racetracks and PokerStars. Given that the three card rooms, two tribes and Stars are in a coalition together, total agreement won’t happen if the bad actor language isn’t removed. Luckily, two bills are due out later in 2015 that could find some middle ground and get the game legalized in the Golden State.
Software must improve
While some sites have provided a decent iGaming product to American consumers, others have fallen vastly short in the software department. It didn’t help that Ultimate Poker set a precedent in April 2013 by rushing their launch with simple, streamlined software that was much weaker than the global iPoker industry. UP paid dearly for their subpar software and folded their operation in late 2014. But the problem still remains even today, with some operators struggling to feature software that lives up to the international standard.
Interstate poker must get off the ground
There was some major excitement back in February 2014, when Delaware and Nevada signed an interstate iGaming pact. And while some progress has been made here, many expected the two small states to be sharing player pools by now. We can only hope that this happens sooner rather than later because Nevada and Delaware only feature a combined player pool of just over 3.72 million people. If these markets are to conjure up any kind of liquidity (especially Delaware), they must get their interstate operation going. Furthermore, this will help set the precedent for future states to engage in such deals.