5 Factors Driving The Popularity Of Online Poker In The United States


Poker is one of the oldest casino games and one of the most popular. Since the game was created in the 17th century, it has evolved into many forms.

For the past decade, there’s been a massive rise in the popularity of online poker, especially in the US. According to a 2011 report, data from 2009-2010 showed that one in every four online poker players was based in the US.

Currently, Americans are actively looking for legal real money poker sites in Illinois and other states. But what are the reasons for this massive surge of interest in online poker? What are the factors driving it? Read on as we provide the answers to these questions and more.

Key Drivers Of Online Poker’s Popularity In The United States

According to reports from multiple sources, the United States has the highest number of online poker players worldwide. These reports also show that the numbers are expected to be on an upward trajectory for the next few years. The question, however, remains, what’s driving the growth of online poker in the US? Here are five factors affecting it.

  1. The COVID-19 Pandemic

The 2020 pandemic was and is still one of the US’s most prominent drivers of online poker. Due to the multiple restrictions at the time, millions of gamblers had to find a way to enjoy poker, and they went online.

According to Google, searches for online poker reached an all-time high during the pandemic. Movements were restricted, land-based casinos were closed, and people who were having doubts about playing poker online decided to try it, and as expected, they enjoyed it.

Undoubtedly, many players returned to playing at traditional land-based sites after the restrictions were lifted. Still, the major online poker operators reported retaining a substantial percentage of the players they gained in the pandemic.

Furthermore, the social distancing rule that was in effect at the height of the pandemic affected the mentality of Americans. Most Americans now prefer to stay indoors when necessary, and the urge to mingle in public spaces has greatly reduced. Due to this, many have turned to the internet to enjoy their favorite activities. US gamblers now prefer online poker’s convenience and privacy to traditional casinos.

  1. Digitalization

Currently, no country has citizens with more access to the internet than the US. The United States also ranks high on the list of countries with the most smartphone users, with over 80% of their population owning one.

People now look to their phones for knowledge, communication, work, and entertainment. Coincidently, gambling and poker are some of the most popular forms of entertainment in the US. With multiple poker sites now available to Americans on the go, the game’s popularity has grown immensely.

Digitalization has made it easier for people of all ages to play poker easily. All that’s needed is a steady internet connection and a smartphone.

  1. Legalization

The presence of online poker in the US can be traced back to the late 90s. But it became more popular after the 2003 World Series of Poker tournament that saw Chris Moneymaker emerge as the winner. His victory led many Americans to pick up an interest in poker, and those who couldn’t visit a land-based casino had to go online.

However, this boom in popularity didn’t last. In 2006, the US Congress passed the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act. These acts made it illegal for Americans to deposit money on online gambling sites. Most major online poker sites like PokerStars, Absolute, and Full Tilt Poker found a way to circumvent these laws and allow American gamblers.

Barely five years later, on a day now known as Black Friday. The FBI shut down the biggest US poker sites. The DOJ and FBI seized their domain names, and Americans could no longer access the sites. This development led to a massive drop in the popularity of online poker as many Black Friday victims were yet to access their locked funds.

After years of legal battles, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware legalized online poker in their states. Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online poker after passing the law in 2017. West Virginia joined the list in 2019. The legalization of poker in these states, together with the pandemic, led to a resurgence in the popularity of online poker. Shortly after the pandemic, Michigan became the 6th state to legalize online poker.

  1. Marketing 

The massive boom in the online poker industry has led to immense competition. Different sites now employ advanced marketing strategies to stay ahead.

One of the more popular marketing strategies is using bonuses and promotional offers to attract players. More sites now offer bonuses, and more Americans are becoming more confident in playing poker online. 

These include a welcome bonus for registering on the poker site and a deposit bonus for making a deposit. There are also rewards for long-term players and multiple online tournaments where players can win exciting prizes. Some of these tournaments are even broadcasted live on television.

  1. Cryptocurrency

Currently, it’s illegal to deposit money from an American bank into any online poker site, except in the six states where online poker is legal. This is due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

However, with the emergence of cryptocurrency and the mass adoption of the decentralized blockchain network, banks now have little or no control over how people move money. Many online poker sites have now integrated cryptocurrency into their payment systems, making it easier for Americans to deposit and withdraw funds from any state. 

The anonymity and freedom of cryptocurrency are among the biggest drivers of online poker in the US. The US currently tops the list of countries with the most cryptocurrency ownership, and this growth in cryptocurrency usage has led many to try online poker. There are no longer payment restrictions, and players can now enjoy their favorite games anonymously.

The Bottom Line

The popularity of online poker in the US cannot be understated. The World Poker Series reports that there were roughly 100 million online poker players in the world in 2021. Sixty million of those players were from the US alone.

Some factors driving this surge in online poker in the US include the easy accessibility to the internet, the rise of cryptocurrency, sound marketing strategies, legalization of online poker in some US states, and the after-effects of the pandemic.

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