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Connecticut joined the online gambling party this week with sports betting, casino, and slots games, but online poker players still have to wait before they can ante up online.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp., the Mohegan Tribe, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe officials launched sites online gambling sites on Tuesday, bringing more than 130 digitalized games and sports betting to the state’s 2.4 million residents over the age of 21. Despite that, no player-vs.-player online poker sites were opened.
Although online poker is included in the largest gambling expansion residents have seen since tribes sued to be allowed to open brick-and-mortar casinos in the 90s, no online poker operators have yet stepped into one of the smallest markets in the country.
Nutmeggers can’t go for the nuts
The Mohegan Sun is partnering with FanDuel to provide its online gaming offerings while Foxwoods, which is owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequots, has partnered with DraftKings. DraftKings is trying to get into the online poker business by offering to buy partypoker’s parent company Entain for $20 billion. The Connecticut Lottery partners with Rush Street Interactive, which doesn’t offer online poker.
“This is an exciting moment for our state and our tribal partners,” Governor Ned Lamont said in a press release. “Connecticut has proven to be a leader when it comes to the gaming economy going back decades, and that legacy will continue with the launch of these new online options for all eligible residents.”
The tribes obtained exclusive online gambling rights in the state for 25% of their slots revenue.
Focusing on sports betting and online casino games, particularly slots, is a good bet for gambling corporations. With the online gambling launch, Connecticut connected its residents to an industry that’s expected to continue to grow significantly over the next half-decade.
According to Markets and Research, an investment research firm, the United States online gambling market was valued at $2.178. billion in 2020 and is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of 17.3% during the forecast period of 2021-2026.
Online poker relegated to the rail in West Virginia
Connecticut isn’t the only state where online poker is legal, but games remain unavailable to its residents. West Virginia, another state with a small population, legalized online sportsbooks and casino gambling last summer, including online poker. Even so, none of the five casinos that paid $250,000 each for a five-year online gambling license has launched a poker site in the state where no more than five interactive licenses are available.
While online gambling operators in West Virginia don’t have the will to open online poker rooms, they certainly have the means and expertise to do so. FanDuel, which partners with Greenbrier Casino to run its sportsbook, is owned by Flutter Entertainment, which also owns PokerStars.
Greenbrier also partners with BetMGM in West Virginia. Caesars, the owners of WSOP, runs Mountaineer Casino’s online sportsbook, as well as online WSOP poker rooms in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Size matters in online poker
Because every jurisdiction that currently allows online poker also requires operators to use geofencing to ensure that only players located within their state borders are allowed to play, that limits the available player pools and, ultimately, the number of games and tournaments that can run at any one time. In small states, such as Connecticut and West Virginia, these restrictions limit game selection for players and make it financially unviable for operators to offer online poker in these jurisdictions.
That situation could change, however, if West Virginia and Connecticut officials agree to compacting agreements with other jurisdictions that already allow online poker within their state borders, such as the agreement that allows New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware to combine their individual player pools together.
Until then, however, it’s likely that residents of Connecticut and West Virginia who want to play poker online will have to travel to nearby states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey if they want to ante up without setting foot in a live poker room.