While leading online poker site PokerStars expects to deal its 100 billionth hand sometime at the end of June, the first 100 percent legal hand of online poker in the United States was dealt by Ultimate Gaming on April 30, 2013. Though New Jersey and Delaware have taken steps to deliver legal online poker, it was the streamlined regulatory approval process in Nevada that resulted in Ultimate Gaming getting a 30-day trial period as the first legal online poker room in the United States, and Nevada dealing the first truly legal hand.
While it may not have the same ring to it as Black Friday, Ultimate Gaming CEO Tobin Prior dubbed the day “Trusting Tuesday”, hoping that players are willing to return to the tables even while as much as $150 million in U.S. players’ funds remain unreturned more than two years after Black Friday. In addition, just last week a former employee of Ultimate Bet (not affiliated with Ultimate Gaming) released audio recordings of Ultimate Bet owners and executives openly discussing and colluding to cover up the fact that one of the owners, Russ Hamilton, had swindled players out of $16-18 million dollars by manipulating the software to allow him to see other player’s hole cards. Following this release, it also came to light that Ultimate Poker was using the same security software service provider, Iovation, that Ultimate Bet had used, and Ultimate Poker was pressured to terminate its relationship with Iovation. Online poker rooms rely on random number generators rather than dealers to “shuffle” the cards, and its these types of scandals that cause further apprehension among players and make it even harder for online poker sites to attract new players.
In addition to the easing concerns of customers, online poker sites will need to also satisfy the concerns of politicians and regulators if they hope to become a permanent fixture in Nevada and expand into other states, by addressing concerns such as underage gambling and identity theft. Unlike past online poker sites that required players to only check a box confirming they were 18, signing up for Ultimate Gaming’s online poker room requires a Nevada address and a social security number, as well as further security measures during play relating to geolocation (to ensure all players are within Nevada state lines).
If these pitfalls can be avoided, the players flock to the tables and Nevada can realize the projected millions of dollars in additional tax revenue, it will likely be only a matter of time before other states rush to adopt their own online poker regimes.