Online Gaming is the Future: Time to Embrace It

What to do about online gaming?

Congress isn?t creating a national framework for it. Sheldon Adelson hates it. But Nevada?s already approved poker, and Ultimate Poker is up and running.

So is online gaming here, or not?

The answer is yes, and today?s news about the latest online gaming partners confirms it.

Ultimate Gaming, which is based in Las Vegas and which, in conjunction with majority-owner Station Casinos, offers Ultimate Poker, has inked a deal with a Trump Entertainment Resorts subsidiary to offer online gaming in New Jersey in partnership with the Trump Taj Mahal.

It?s proof that like water seeking its own level, where there?s money to be made, deals will get done. Ultimate wanted access to New Jersey?s 8.9 million residents (more than quadruple the population of Nevada), and the Taj?s owners wanted a share of the online market without the expense and liability of developing their own software. So, the deal got done.

This means that, in the absence of Congressional action, online gaming will continue to grow, and unless opponents take the radical step of denying states the right to determine which forms of gambling they do and don?t allow, there?s not much anyone can do about it. Actually, there is one group that can halt online gaming dead in its tracks, at least for a while: poker players. Because as along as players sign up and deposit their money, operators are going to want to offer online play, and as long as there?s a buck to be made, state governments are going to be more than happy to allow it to happen, as long as they can tax it.

Looking back at gambling history, technologies have sometimes taken longer to make themselves felt than they should have, but in the end convenience and money trumped tradition. Look at ticket-in/ticket-out slot gaming. It was technically feasible as far back at the 1980s, but casinos were wary of rolling it out, believing that players were so keyed to the feel and sound of coins that they?d stop playing without them. They were wrong. The convenience of a quick ticket more than compensated for any aesthetic letdown, particularly once players realized they wouldn?t have to wait 30 minutes or longer for slot attendants to refill coin hoppers. In 2002, casino operators were holding their breath as they bought expensive TITO systems, but in retrospect, they seem silly for not having moved away from coins years earlier.

By the same token, online gaming offers players convenience and, while it might lower visitation to some casinos (thus depriving them of ancillary non-gaming revenues) it has the potential to be used to market local and destination travel to casinos. At the end of the day, online play will likely be more convenient for players and a way for casinos to diversify their cash flow, meaning that this is an innovation that is here to stay.

Politics can slow it down, just like institutional timidity has slowed other innovations. But as long as players want to play online, nothing is going to stop online poker.