New Jersey State of Mind
Within the past few weeks, legal online poker in the United States has more than tripled. After New Jersey opened its doors to poker, players rushed to sign up and the online sites serving the state are roughly double that to their Nevada peers.
According to PokerScout.com, the largest sites serving New Jersey is Party Poker (in conjunction with Borgata), with a 24 hour peak of just under 500 players. To put that in perspective, the largest site serving Nevada, WSOP.com, has about 222.
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Still, it's small beans compared to the rest of the world of online poker. The closest site to compare it to would be something like Sky Poker, which is still relatively unknown. The New Jersey sites are still much smaller than a smallish worldwise site like PKR and are about one fifth of the size of Bovada, which is the largest site still illegally serving the US market.
Nevertheless, it's very exciting to see poker have a strong start in the state. New Jersey only has a population of about 9 million (roughly the size of Sweden), so we can only expect so much. If the process goes smooth there, we can expect more states to follow and to eventually sign interstate compacts to share player pools. This will give US online poker a fighting chance of being something similar to what it was during its heyday.
While Party Poker and 888 Poker are aggressively targeting the US market through their partnerships with US casinos, PokerStars is being left out. Their application for a New Jersey license has been suspended for review for two years, due to their association with their founder, who is under federal indictment.
Basically, since they still allowed US customers until Black Friday, PokerStars is going to be shut out of New Jersey (and possibly other US states) for at least two years. How much this matters remains to be seen. If US online poker grows drastically in the next few years and state player pools are allowed to merge with global player pools, it may be a game changer for the industry...but that's a long way off for now.
More than anything, the important takeaway from New Jersey is that everything stays smooth and safe. If the state is happy, the casinos are happy, and the customers are happy, we can expect other US states to muster the courage to legalize online poker in their states as well. California, the largest US state, is a likely candidate, especially since they already have legal brick and mortar poker in the state.
Hopefully, there aren't any stories of underage players from out-of-state somehow managing to access the New Jersey poker sites and donk off a lot of money they couldn't afford to lose. This is basically the wet dream of anti-online poker advocates like Sheldon Adelson.
My guess is that everything goes fine though. The online poker sites have been awaiting this day for years now and will do everything in their power to keep the powers that be happy. Online poker in the United States won't swiftly return like it was swiftly taken away, but it should come back bit by bit, state by state.