Since Black Friday the online poker industry has been in a state of turmoil, with online poker providers changing domain names, pulling out of different markets around the globe, as well as numerous network changes and sites shuttering their doors. The good news is that these changes have somewhat consolidated the industry as a whole, leaving the best operators, like PokerStars, Party Poker, and the iPoker Network at the top of the industry, while “flybynightpoker.com” and their ilk have been forced to withdraw from the industry.
A Player who has been sleeping since early 2011 would find the current online poker world a far different place than the one they remember, with Full Tilt Poker, now owned by PokerStars, preparing for a relaunch after a year of being offline; UB and Absolute Poker sent to the scrapheap of history (where they belong); Party Poker and bwin partnered; a pair of new sites called Bovada and Americas Cardroom now serving the US market; The rebranding of the Cake Poker Network to the Revolution Gaming Network by Lock Poker. Those are just some of the major stories! Then there is the IGT Network closing down, OnGame sold, a dozen poker rooms shutdown, Bodog pulling out of the European market, the list just goes on and on.
It would appear that these changes are going to continue for the time being. What we are experiencing is the byproduct of legislation and regulation around the globe, which has been a double-edged sword of sorts for players. We knew the unregulated market wasn’t going to be sustainable, but most players were likely surprised by the fracturing of the industry that occurred as country after country in the EU legalized online poker, culminating with the US Department of Justice kneecapping what was left of the unregulated poker industry on April 15, 2011.
Now the question is, where does online poker go from here? To answer the question I would turn to PokerStars, which despite its US troubles is still firmly positioned atop the industry. PokerStars has essentially gone along with the balkanization in Europe and around the world, seeking to be licensed wherever online poker is allowed, even if it means splitting its player base.
Now the US is beginning the process of online poker legislation, starting with Nevada, and it appears that legislative efforts will continue at the state level, and not at the federal level. This is going to cause further splintering in the online poker world, and will likely lead to the industry going through an even more tumultuous period than we are currently experiencing, as larger rooms can handle the cost and logistics of obtaining multiple licenses around the world, while smaller sites are forced to consolidate or close up shop.
How this will eventually play out is anyone’s guess at this point, but one thing is for certain: Owning and operating an online poker site is no longer a license to print money.
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