Online poker in the U.S. is slowly stirring back to life, even though it technically never left. A record-setting sale of a poker domain could be more evidence that the gambling vertical has a bright future in the U.S.
In the nearly 10 years since online poker’s so-called Black Friday in April 2011, unregulated offshore sites and regulated poker sites in a few states have filled the void created from a federal government crackdown on global online poker juggernauts.
Last week, Poker.net reportedly was sold for $750,000 to the Minnesota-based marketing ADX Labs. It marks the new record for a .net domain, crushing the $500,000 price tag for Mobile.net a handful of years ago, according to DN Journal, which covers the domain industry.
Minnesota doesn’t have regulated online poker, and it doesn’t look to have it anytime soon.
In the online poker world, .net domains for poker sites typically are the free-play version, with .com used for the platform offering real-money games.
Purchase comes in wake of Michigan online poker launch
Though the Poker.net acquisition is unrelated to regulated online poker in the Wolverine State, it seems notable that it came not long after the state kicked off online poker. Michigan represents the greatest crack in the online poker dam since Pennsylvania launched in 2019. The dam is breaking.
Currently, just Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have sites providing regulated online poker. West Virginia legalized it but hasn’t launched games. North Dakota looks to stand at least a 50-50 chance of passing a bill this year that would have voters decide if they want it. Additionally, a recent gambling agreement in Connecticut puts regulated online poker on its horizon.
Other states including California, New York, Indiana, and Iowa have considered online poker at some point in the past.
The potential for online poker in the U.S. hasn’t looked this promising in about a decade. Around 2012, it did appear that regulated online poker could relatively quickly sweep the country, as former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada was backing it at the federal level. Those plans never came to fruition, and since then online poker has been rolled out at a snail’s pace in state-by-state fashion.
Recent favorable federal court developments pertaining to the 1961 Wire Act offer optimism going forward. Also, Las Vegas Sands, the casino-developing juggernaut that for years opposed online poker regulation, has finally signaled an interest in online gambling.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in mid-2018 that struck down the federal sports betting prohibition was, indirectly, the biggest win for regulated online poker. With most states looking at online/mobile sports betting, it enables online poker to ride the coattails. Indiana, for example, legalized sports betting in 2019 and this year considered an online poker bill, but it was tabled until next year. Approval of additional online gambling verticals doesn’t necessarily come quickly, but Indiana should have online poker sooner or later.
It’s unclear what exactly ADX Labs will do with Poker.net, but the price tag is yet another sign that poker over the internet has promising days ahead after years of near dormancy. The CEO of BetMGM, which launched online poker in Michigan on Monday, said last year that he expects to see online poker virtually nationwide with liquidity-sharing within another decade.
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