Nevada is in the forefront of the intrastate online poker race with the most recent timetable of having poker sites up and running tentatively set for early 2013. The whole poker industry will certainly be watching to see how successful the first state will be in offering poker to only residents and tourists within the state. With a population of about 2.7 million, the Silver State ranks 35th out of the 50 states.
Nevada has expressed an interest to partner up with its neighbor, California, in an interstate format that would boost player liquidity for the Silver State in a huge way. California is the most populous state with roughly 37 million residents that, prior to Black Friday, was responsible for about 60% of online poker players from the U.S., approximately 2 million players.
However, having about the same population numbers as Canada, California certainly could go it alone without agreeing to any state compact agreements that would be vital to the success of some of the smaller states. As the big daddy of the states, California could use this to their advantage were they to eventually forge agreements with states needing the liquidity provided by such a large base of players.
That brings up the issue of extremely small states such as Delaware, who recently advanced gambling legislation through a committee that will head to the House for a vote. With less than a million residents, Delaware has expressed an interest to partner up with Rhode Island and West Virginia in an interstate online poker format, although neither of those states has a bill in front of their respective legislatures. How can a small state expect to compete in any online gambling scheme without combining player pools with other states? They probably can't.
It will be interesting to see how all this pans out once Nevada has started the process of offering online poker. They do get millions of tourists every month, but how many of them will play poker online while in Nevada? Seriously, it appears the player pool may not be enough.
It seems like the whole state by state format of online poker legislation that we are currently embarking on may take quite some time to work with enough available players to make it all worthwhile. Without entering interstate deals with other states, it may not work for states acting alone. For this reason, California is crucial in making any U.S. online poker scheme viable. And if the Golden State should want no part of interstate compacts, what then?
It would have been much better, and still would be, if federal lawmakers would pass legislation so that all the problems that are bound to occur on an individual state online poker basis can be avoided. With a federal framework that would allow states to opt in or out at their choosing, player liquidity issues would not even have to be considered. As it stands now, player liquidity will be a major concern.