Legal Online Poker Debuts in the US

01 May 2013 | 05:35 Author: Seth Shafer

The first hand of legal online poker was dealt in the U.S. on Tuesday morning, with Ultimate Poker getting the action started for Nevada residents and visitors to the state.

Ultimate Poker -- not to be confused with UltimateBet which previously operated illegally in the U.S. and was involved in several cheating scandals -- won the race to be the first legal U.S. online poker site, with Nevada grabbing the early lead in the race to be the king of online poker in the U.S.

The site opened with more of a whimper than a bang, as traffic on Ultimate Poker was pretty minimal throughout the day, highlighting one of the biggest challenges that online poker will face in the U.S. now that several states are moving to legalize it for residents and visitors.

Nevada, New Jersey, and several other smaller states have passed legislation on the state level to allow for legal poker and casino games, essentially bypassing any efforts on the federal level to make online gambling legal throughout the U.S.

While passing laws on the state level are allowing legal online poker for the first time, it also means that each state will struggle initially to draw traffic to their sites as they can only draw from a limited number of potential players.

Both Nevada and New Jersey have introduced language in their online poker laws to potentially allow them to network with other states where online poker is legal to pool their player bases but it remains to be seen if the federal government will actually allow that.

Until then efforts will proceed on a state by state basis, with multiple online poker operators and brick-and-mortar casinos angling to grab a slice of the online gambling market. Many casinos are struggling in the wake of the recession to generate new revenues and many see online gambling as a potential lifeline, especially for desparate casinos in Atlantic City in New Jersey.

Ultimate Poker is owned by the same company behind the Stations Casino Group and the UFC, with the online poker site already being heavily marketed through both enterprises. Residents of Nevada and visitors to the state can play in cash games and tournaments on the site, with deposits available via credit cards as well as by buying in at cages at any of the Stations Casinos. 

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