When the US Government decided to try to stop poker players from cashing their checks from some of the largest online poker sites, many people began to wonder what the ramifications would be to those sites. Well, since the payment “freeze”, traffic at PokerStars is down, but all in all, the news is not really that bad.
In fact, traffic at Full Tilt, the other major site to have assets frozen, is up during the same period. Since the week that payments were halted by court order, cash game traffic at PokerStars is down about 8 or 9 percent. However, traffic counts at Full Tilt show that they are up about 2% during that same time. One theory of why one site is down and the other is up is that Full Tilt seemed to correct the situation a little faster than PokerStars did. It seems that the folks at Full Tilt were perhaps a little more prepared for a situation such as this as they were quickly able to get back-up processors to handle the payment transactions, causing fewer headaches for their customers.
Another major site that could possibly be benefiting from this situation is Party Poker. Cash game traffic at that site is up more than 20% over the past few weeks. One reason may be because of the current promotions going on at Party. However, it might not be a stretch to say that some players who have a choice on whether or not to play on a “U.S. friendly” site, are choosing to keep their bankrolls safe and play elsewhere.
Overall, online poker continues to grow at an incredible clip. According to Poker Scout, the number of people who are playing online poker is growing at a rate of about 30% per year. This year is no exception, as overall traffic counts continue to grow at a healthy rate. PokerStars has been the largest poker site on the Internet for some time now and does not really seem in danger of giving up that title. It will be interesting to see, though, how the industry will evolve if the U.S. continues to crack down on Internet poker sites. The hope, of course, is that the government will see that online poker can be a great ally and income stream and we, as American players, will not have to worry about this much longer.