While much of the rest of the world continues to embrace online gambling, the US continues to lag behind the rest. While this might sound surprising for the country that gave rise to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and countless other physical casino resorts nationwide, it’s a product of the ongoing limitations in regulation facing online operators.
The law in the US as it pertains to online gambling remains prohibitive. Few operators are legally able to set up online operations within the US, or reach out to American gamblers. These restrictive laws include preventing banks from accepting money that could be connected with ‘illegal’ gambling, and effectively act as a clampdown on casino activity. It’s also a huge part of the reason American gamblers often find it challenging to find an online casino that will accept their bets.
A few select States, one being New Jersey, allow licensed casinos to operate but only within state boundaries. This means players need to be located within the State of New Jersey to play. Many of the larger gaming portals including Betfair and PartyPoker have successfully applied for a New Jersey license, however operations are not what they used to be. A spokesperson from PartyPoker has said “While this is a step in the right direction, we are limited to a player base within state boundaries, hence a much smaller pool than we had 10 years ago when we were the leading poker site in the USA”. To combat this PartyPoker is looking to expand their presence in New Jersey with the addition of their casino brand PartyCasino. The idea to supplement poker with a variety of their proprietary online slots could be a step in the right direction to drive additional revenues and help to become the driving force they once were.
But that tide could now be turning. While the laws remain in place, there is a notable workaround in the licensing arrangements for Atlantic City, which allows offline operators who are based in Atlantic City to offer online gambling under license to their online customers, for example Sugar House casino. And according to recent figures, this sector has been enjoying some pretty strong growth of late.
Online poker in Atlantic City was up by 9% in January, a significant boost to revenues after a period of flatlining to no growth. At the same time, the offline sector grew strongly too, both in Atlantic City and Vegas, outstripping performance in other parts of the world.
So what’s going on in the US gambling market, and could there be some light at the end of the tunnel for would-be US gambling operators looking to branch out their operations online?
The answer, according to some analysts, lies in the maturity of the market. Online poker in particular has a relatively long established track record, and thanks to televised broadcasts of the professional circuit in large part, new generations have been switched on to online poker play.
There’s also the fact that this winter hasn’t been as severe as recent years, a factor that has played heavily on the growth in revenues at land based casinos. But with the legislative landscape constantly evolving, and some people expecting President Trump to have a positive impact on the regulatory environment for the sector, could this growing market be set for yet another boost in the arm?
The Trump Effect: A Future For Online Gambling?
Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House has been divisive to say the least. But one sector in particular that could be celebrating his presidential triumph over Clinton is online gambling. Trump himself has ventures in online gambling, established several years ago. Poker in particular has been his focus, with a company that is set to take advantage of liberalisation of gambling laws at either state or federal level – essentially, whichever happens first.
Trump has strong allies within the gambling industry, including casino owners and resort billionaires who may also have their own reasons to support this type of liberalisation. With revenues for online gambling already seemingly on the rise stateside, it remains to be seen whether Trump maintains a friendly approach towards online gambling throughout his time in office.
At the moment, while America rejoices at 9% growth, other parts of the world are already well on their way to developing much larger, much better established gambling markets. The UK, for example, has a particularly mature market for gambling, with people from all walks of life enjoying responsible gaming online and on mobile, as well as in physical resorts. The same is true for Canada, where players actually gamble more heavily than in the UK, as well as a number of other countries across Europe, Asia and the rest of the world.
With ordinary Americans clearly expressing a preference for online gambling, albeit within the limited framework they are allowed to enjoy, it seems clear that the US too could benefit from the global gambling boom. With revenues on the rise, the next step now should surely be a wider liberalisation of the current laws, to enable more operators and gamblers to enjoy the same freedoms as their counterparts elsewhere around the world.
With revenues in Atlantic City, and via Atlantic City-based online operators showing an up-tick over the early part of this year, it’s hoped the time will soon come where regulators sit up and take more notice.
Image credit: CC by ryan