“Legal Online Poker Drove Land-Based Expansion of Poker” -- John Pappas, Former PPA Executive Director “Legal Online Poker Drove Land-Based Expansion of Poker” -- John Pappas, Former PPA Executive Director

Land-based poker experience has everything to gain from online.

Legalized online poker has been a catalyst for the expansion of land-based poker in the US. That’s according to John Pappas, former Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA).

In a recent pokerfuse podcast, Pappas shared his perspective on various topics pertaining to online poker, including bringing shared liquidity to Pennsylvania (#GrowPApoker) and advice for expanding online poker across the US.

The discussion also raised the contentious issue of whether online gaming cannibalizes land-based casinos — a concern that has sparked debate among stakeholders and policymakers alike.

“Land-based poker experience has everything to gain from online,” Pappas said. He pointed out the transformative role of legal online poker in driving growth within the industry, noting, “online drove land-based expansion of poker.”

Using an example, he recalls the stark contrast in the WSOP between the early 2000s and compared to the explosion of interest and participation witnessed from 2003 onward. He points to the impact of Chris Moneymaker’s win, who famously earned his Main Event seat through an $86 buy-in online qualifier on PokerStars. His win in the WSOP Main Event ignited the poker boom.

What followed after his win was a surge in interest and participation in the WSOP, fueling unprecedented growth in the Main Event’s turnout each year. This evolution, according to Pappas, exemplifies how online poker has driven the expansion of its land-based counterpart, highlighting the strong relationship between the two.

There’s no question in my mind that more legal online poker is only going to help the retail poker industry

Pappas acknowledges the persistent concerns regarding the cannibalization of land-based revenue, referencing studies such as one linked to Maryland, which projected a 10% cannibalization rate. They argue that online gaming including online poker could siphon players away from brick-and-mortar card rooms and casinos, leading to a decline in attendance and revenue for these venues.

Yet, he emphasizes the lack of concrete evidence to support such claims, noting that legalized online gaming has not resulted in job losses within the land-based sector in states where it has been implemented.

Indeed, recent research conducted by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG), commissioned by iDEA Growth, challenges the common assumption that online gaming cannibalizes revenue from land-based casinos. Contrary to this belief, the study found online gaming enhances casino revenues across the board. The study which was carried out across six states with legalized igaming, reported a 2.44% quarterly revenue increase for land-based entities following the regulation of online gaming.

“There’s no question in my mind that more legal online poker is only going to help the retail poker industry,” Pappas affirmed.

How Expanding Online Poker Will Led to Growth of Live Poker

Currently, only eight states have legalized online poker in the US: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Connecticut and Rhode Island. However, online poker is active in only four of them: Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

With each new state that legalizes online poker, the potential player pool grows. Legal online poker provides an opportunity to reach a broader audience of players who may not have easy access to live poker venues.

Furthermore, the convenience and accessibility offered by online poker can serve as a gateway for new players to try live poker. Online qualifiers and satellites, and online Day 1s provide flexible participation options for players, allowing them to qualify for and participate in live events from the comfort of their homes.

Indeed, recently there has been a proliferation in the number of online qualifiers for major live events. Operators are expanding their online qualifiers campaign to capitalize on this trend.

Hosting online qualifiers and satellites not only attracts online players but also exposes them to the brand and allure of live poker tournaments, potentially leading to increased participation in future events. Furthermore, online poker can serve as an additional revenue stream for live poker operators, particularly during times when live events may be limited or restricted.

The expansion of online poker legalization across more US states as highlighted by Pappas holds immense potential for the growth and revitalization of both the online and live poker industries.