Online poker booms as pandemic presents opportunity 

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Online poker booms as pandemic presents opportunity 

While casinos have been closed and sport is played behind closed doors, it appears online poker companies are raking in more money than ever during the pandemic.

Market Watch reports that New Jersey hit a monthly revenue record of $93.5 million in October from online poker and casinos, up 106.7 per cent from the same time last year.

Pennsylvania saw its online casino and poker rooms generate a record $59.8 million gross revenue in October, a record for the state.

Those two states, along with Nevada, have typically the most gaming revenue in the United States and are good indicators for the industry.

“On a purely business level, it strengthened our business. Our business has really thrived,” vice president of US Business at Gambling.com Max Bischel said.

“We had more people focused on online casinos. The online business grew substantially throughout quarter two and three to a new level.”

Gambling.com connects bettors with online gambling companies.

While no major professional and college sports were being played from March to May, the industry saw a big jump in its total players.

Bischel claims players who might normally bet on sports would play “a couple of hands of blackjack or sprint the roulette wheel a few times” during the summer sport hiatus.

Now that sports are back, bettors are not choosing to either bet on sports or play online poker, they’re doing both.

“You’re back to pre-pandemic levels with sports, coupled with the increase in online casino activity,” Bischel said.

“It’s hard to think in retrospect what would have happened with a pandemic, but as the situation stands today, it’s pretty positive for the industry.

Aussie Millions poker event postponed indefinitely 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the indefinite postponement of the 2021 Aussie Millions, which may not return in 2021.

Cards Chat reported in November that Melbourne’s Crown Casino made the news public via an announcement on its website, citing safety concerns at the popular tournament.

The postponement comes just days after the Melbourne venue was given the green light to reopen in a limited capacity, with a maximum of 100 patrons permitted since mid-November.

Losing the Aussie Millions is a big blow for poker players, with the event a staple of the calendar since 1998.

Originally known as the Australasian Poker Championship, it was later rebranded as the Aussie Millions.

In the past two decades, the main event has grown in popularity, with the last three champions, Toby Lewis, Bryn Kenney and Vincent Wan all outlasting more than 800 players to win the $7,650 Aussie Millions Main Event.

The Australian series was also an early pioneer of super high roller events, with the $100,000+ events creating a new vibe at the event and ensuring big names continue to attend.

“Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Crown Melbourne wishes to advise that the scheduling of the 2021 Aussie Millions poker tournament and other poker events due to take place in 2021 will be placed on hold until further notice,” Crown’s website read.

Whether or not this means the event is on hold until 2022 is unknown at this point, with the situation currently fluid.

“Crown will continue to monitor and review the situation, working closely with the Victorian Government and health authorities to determine if and when such events can be safely revisited,” the update said.

Relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Australia hasn’t stopped officials from imposing some of the toughest restrictions in the world.

Stay at home orders have run alongside travel bans and the closure of non-essential businesses.

While some other major poker events have shifted online in 2020, due to regulatory restrictions in Australia, that would exclude one of the event’s main demographics.

Online poker has been illegal in Australia since 2001, but the Interactive Gambling Act until recently contained loopholes that allowed offshore operators to continue serving Australian residents.

The government closed these loopholes in 2017 with the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill.

Pro online gambling groups have been fighting back, but every major operator has exited the market.

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