Here's To A Boring 2008
Prior to the start of last year, we made some speculations for 2007. Keeping to tradition, we decided to do the same for 2008. It is tempting to fill this article with wide-eyed optimism about the extravagant progression we expect the poker world to encounter by year's end. But if there's a lesson to be learned from last year's article, it's that doing so would be foolish. In that article, we predicted there would be the creation of a real-money poker room with webcam abilities and that an existing poker room would begin to award free prizes in exchange for advertisement exposure. Neither of those predictions came close to fruition.
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So are we saying that nothing will happen to the poker world in 2008? In short, yes. Sure, there might be some high-profile arrests or ineffective anti-poker legislation, but by and large, the poker world will be static in 2008. The inconvenient truth is that poker is no longer a growing industry. Gone are the days that someone can create a successful online poker room from scratch. However, under the right direction, current online poker rooms can still expect to increase their player base.
Five years ago, if you tasked someone with making over $1,000,000 from the poker world without playing a single hand, there's a possibility they could have succeeded. Today, such a task would be significantly more difficult. Most ideas have been exhausted and the market has been occupied by those capable of adapting to whatever small changes may be demanded by consumers. Put another way, if webcam poker (or any other similarly outlandish concept) was actually a good idea, chances are it would have been implemented by now.
While anti-online gambling legislation, such as the UIGEA, has been fairly ineffective at stopping people from playing poker, it has indirectly done a good job of handcuffing the industry from expanding. By putting poker's future prospects into question, many are now unwilling to pursue poker-related ventures. Bottom line: don't expect the poker industry to be much different at the end of 2008 than it is now.
The one area where there might be interesting developments in 2008 is the European legal sphere. With the exception of a few select countries (notably the United Kingdom), most European countries are attempting to ban or limit their citizen's ability to play online poker. Notable efforts include the German states new gambling treaty, France's past prohibition efforts, and a UIGEA-like push in Norway.
Unlike in the United States though, European poker players have a powerful ally with the EU. The European Commission has repeatedly launched investigations into efforts to prohibit online gambling since they view most of these laws as purely protectionist measures designed to protect state monopolies.
In 2008, it is likely that a major clash over online gambling will occur between the EU and the German states, as it has with the EU and France. The EU might also butt heads with several Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. Since the European Court of Justice makes decisions on a case by case basis, no one case necessarily stands for the law of the entire EU. Nevertheless, when an online gambling case is finally decided by the European Court of Justice, it will likely set a major precedent.
Due to the lengthy process endemic in any legal system, it is likely that no major case will be decided in 2008. But these issues will eventually see their light of day in a courtroom.
The European legal scene is one where, right now, poker players seem to be winning. The major non-US poker rooms serve virtually all of Europe, and European players do not have any major hurdles to overcome to deposit and withdraw from poker sites. Hopefully, 2008 will continue to be 'boring' in this regard.