Regulated poker sites in the US may be capturing the headlines, but evidence shows that overseas sites are increasing in popularity due to geolocation issues.
The initial hype about the regulation of online poker in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware dominated the majority of headlines relating to online poker in the US last year. Ultimate Poker´s Nevada launch in April, the re-entry of Party Poker into the US online poker market, and PokerStars failed attempt to get a license in New Jersey provided many column inches for US poker players to get excited about.
However, now the dust has settled, the growth of the regulated online poker sites has quickly flat-lined; predominantly due to geolocation issues which are disconnecting players in mid-game. The dissatisfaction of the systems implemented to allow regulated online poker is increasing, as players find themselves regularly losing money due to technical issues. This in turn has resulted in more players returning to overseas poker sites, which are enjoying a renaissance.
Forums Full of Complaints
Players in all three regulated States have filled multiple threads on the popular online poker forums with complaints about location verification and disconnection from tournaments, with no site appearing any better than another. Players have witnessed up to ten disconnects per night, tables with half the players “sitting out” and being able to watch while their stacks get blinded down while they are unable to do anything about it.
An online poll on the 2+2 poker forum recorded 84% of player frequently getting
booted off the New Jersey sites they were playing on, and one player in Nevada even called for the sites to be shut down completely until the issue is fixed. The problem is also exacerbated by the issue being out of the hands of the poker sites´ customer service departments, which is the only point of contact that most players have.
Geolocation Companies Not Doing Their Job
Whereas many of the contributors to the poker forums might be considered online “degens” (after all, why would you continue to lose money through technical inadequacy?), respected poker broadcaster and commentator John Mehaffey has added his voice to the growing number of people complaining about being disconnected while playing online poker in the States.
Mehaffey recently called out the geolocation companies in an article in which he expressed his anger at geolocation companies
not doing their job, taking down time for
scheduled maintenance and failing to notice when he was driving across State lines while playing poker on his mobile. He states that players are sick of the inexcusable problems that are still re-occurring after nine months (Mehaffey lives in Nevada) and comments that the entire (Nevada) interactive gaming industry depends on this issue being fixed.
Overseas Sites Profit from Geolocation Negligence
Due to these ongoing problems, traffic at the “overseas” online poker sites accepting players from the US has increased noticeably. The leading poker site serving players in the States – Bovada Poker – has seen an overall growth of 10% in the past three months, while the Winning Poker Network has seen traffic increase by more than a third since the Fall.
The Merge Poker Network – which had previously been in decline – has now recovered to the levels of traffic it experienced six months ago, and the Bitcoin poker site – Seals with Clubs – has enjoyed 100% more traffic in the past three months, despite the value of the Bitcoin increasing nine-fold against the dollar. There has even been room for the introduction of a new USA friendly poker network – the Equity Poker Network – which is peaking at three times the traffic of all the regulated Delaware sites combined.
Do Geolocation-Dependent Sites Know Where They Are?
One of the major problems about the geolocation issues is that few sites provide hand histories so that players can calculate how much they have lost through disconnects and recovery the money from the companies (those that have a disconnection policy). Many poker players have complained to customer service representatives that they have suffered losses, only to be told that the fault was at the player´s end and there is nothing they can do about it.
As one commentator wrote on the 2+2 forum:
Higher limits are OFF limits until these sites get their acts together
That pretty much sums up the opinion of many players trying to play online poker “legally” in the US, and the ongoing geolocation issues are developing into a situation which may – in time – make it unprofitable for the regulated online poker sites to continue providing a service. More good news for the overseas sites who are now reaping the benefits from a lack of service by the domestic
regulated online poker sites.