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A new study from PokerStars.com says that the Texas Hold ‘Em has grown massively in popularity in Eastern Europe and Asia since the 2000s, with Macau, near Hong Kong, now overtaking Las Vegas as the gaming capital of the world.

Much of this growth, according to the study, has been due to the penetration of internet poker in the region, with countries such as China, South Korea, Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union showing the highest growth.

Texas Hold’em has also grown in popularity in other regions, although at a lesser rate. South America (particularly Brazil and Peru), Western and Central Europe, and New Zealand are producing high participation rates in the game of poker, according to the internet gaming site.

PokerStars commissioned a heat map to track that year-on-year growth to show when and where poker exploded onto the scene, and, according to the Isle of Man based company, North America is still enjoying “a rapid rise in 2006 in the years following [Chris] Moneymaker’s momentous [World Series of Poker] win”. However, the growth there just is not at the same rate as other regions and countries, such as Eastern Europe, Russia and Brazil continue to lead the charge in the game.

In many ways, that’s to be expected given the tough regulatory environment in the United States which has presented a major obstacle for online betting websites dating back to Black Friday in 2011.

That’s when the US Department of Justice shut down online poker sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, arguing the game was illegal in the country and accusing the sites of money laundering and wire fraud among other charges.

Following Black Friday, many American professional poker players exiled themselves to Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Macau, and Australia.

Macau in particular is an attractive proposition for poker players where the card game has also helped to make the city a gambling hub nearly three times larger than Las Vegas in terms of annual revenue. It is estimated that Macau’s casinos combine for nearly $29 billion in annual revenue while Las Vegas casinos add up to around $10 billion per annum.

This could all change, however, as the US is poised for a poker renaissance. Since 2011 there have been numerous attempts to legalize online poker and internet casinos and several states in the US, including California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and Mississippi, are seeing efforts by local legislators to pass legislation that would legalise internet gambling.

In May, Nevada became the first state to legalise online poker and has awarded online gaming licenses to nearly 30 companies. PokerStars is among them, but, if the conclusions of its own study are anything to go by, perhaps the sites attentions would be better served concentrating on Asia.

The company is the world’s largest online poker site and boasts 50 million registered users, having dealt 100 billion poker hands in its 12 years in operation. Last week it announced that it will be supporting the second annual Seoul Poker Cup which will be hosted by the Paradise Casino Walkerhill from August 23-25.

The Seoul Poker Cup features two Official Asia Player of the Year events including the $970 buy-in Main Event.

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