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Online poker has been hit hard by several legal issues in the United States lately, but overall the industry seems to be doing quite well.  Many experts agree that better times are ahead for online poker and some say we could see growth of over 15% per year over the next few years.

Playtech, “the world’s largest publicly traded online gaming software supplier,” has recently released 3rd quarter earnings.  They announced that poker revenues alone increased 88% for the first 9 months of 2008 compared to the same time period last year.  888holdings (Pacific Poker and others) has also announced a 3rd quarter increase in gaming revenue of more than 20%.  And it’s not just Euro sites that are doing well.  Just this past Sunday, PokerStars broke its own record for most cash players online at one time with more than 30,000 hitting the tables.  Also, PokerStars and Full Tilt are the first two sites to increase their traffic from October to November.

Online poker proponents received some additional good news concerning Kentucky’s seizure of several high profile poker site domains.   A three-judge panel has granted a stay of the forfeiture order, which will delay the hearing.  This will allow the appeals court more time to consider the many issues brought forth by this unique case.  It also will allow the sites in question time to bolster their defense against the seizure.  Interestingly, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway seems to be backing himself away from the case.  He has reportedly asked that his name be removed from the case entirely.

The Poker Players Alliance has issued a statement on their website and is obviously keeping very close tabs on the case and updating the information as it becomes available.  Their statement includes the argument that the court was simply wrong in ruling that poker was a game of luck, and not a game of skill.  “The PPA filed its brief because they believe the court made a gross error in judgment when it ruled that the “essence” of the game of poker was chance.  While the State offered no evidence to prove that chance is the essence of the game of poker, those representing the online poker industry and its players provided substantial evidence to the court showing poker to be a game of skill.”

They continue, “This evidence was apparently ignored by the court and the court failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing – a fundamental principle of legal due process.  The judge simply ruled on the point of fact, without the state offering any facts contrary to the substantial evidence submitted by PPA.  The issue of whether poker is a game of skill, and thus legal in Kentucky, has support in case law and in science.”

Someone else who would like to see poker classified as a game of skill rather than of chance is Harrah’s Chairman and CEO, Gary Loveman.  Harrah’s holds the rights to the World Series of Poker brand name and stands to gain a lot if online poker were legalized.  Not only would their brick and mortar casinos benefit from increased traffic and interest, but it has also been speculated (with no confirmation from Harrah’s) that Harrah’s could run an online casino or poker room if it were legal in the US.

Many of the friends of online poker know that the next few months could be crucial for the industry, with several important rulings and events taking place.  The Kentucky ruling will no doubt be followed by both sides of the matter, as it is the first case of its kind and will likely set the precedence for future cases.  Also, with President-elect Obama taking office in January, many believe the democrats will overturn some of the legislation regarding online poker, as well as introduce more poker-friendly bills.  So, although things may seem grim at times there does seem to be positive signs within the industry itself.  We just need to survive the bubble.