Poker packs punch in 2006

The American Gaming Association (AGA) recently released its State of the States survey of the casino industry for 2006. Not only did it show a considerable growth in the casino industry, poker alone saw a significant increase.

According to the survey, U.S. casino revenues grew 6.8% to a record $32.42 billion in 2006. Along with revenue growth, the industry is also showing widespread approval with 82% of respondents approving of gambling.

"This year's State of the States report highlights the two-fold success of the casino gaming industry - strong economic growth combines with widespread public approval - that makes casino gaming a mainstay in the American entertainment industry," said Frank Fahrenkopf, AGA president and CEO.

Adding to the growth is the poker sector, which the State of the States reports performed strongly in 2006.

Revenues from poker increased by 15% compared to 2005. Players spent more than $238 million on casino poker in Nevada and New Jersey alone, with the four states that track card room revenues reporting $1.1 billion for 2006.

Helping create that revenue are the 14% of Americans who say they played poker last year along with more than 700 cardrooms in five states: California, Florida, Minnesota, Montana and Washington.

The majority of people who said they played poker played in home games with family and friends and the primary reason they played was because it was an opportunity to spend time with them.

After socializing, the second biggest reason given for playing poker was the skill and strategy involved, which 21% listed as their reason.

The survey also posed questions about the nature of the game and the legality of online poker.

1. Do you believe poker is primarily a game of skill or chance?

  • 45% answered skill
  • 41% answered chance
  • 14% didn't know or refused to answer

2. Do you believe it is legal or illegal for offshore casinos to offer games for money on the Internet in the U.S.?

  • 47% said illegal
  • 24% said legal
  • 22% didn't know or refused to answer
  • 8% said it depends

The answers received reflect the same debates about poker and online gambling that are currently going on in the United States.

Because poker is a mix of skill and chance, its hard to define whether it falls under the same gambling laws as games of pure chance. As a game of skill, it would also be exempt from the online gambling restrictions.

However, the online gambling laws have also created confusion, as illustrated by the survey answers.

There are arguments that online gambling isn't covered by the Wire Act that makes placing bets over the telephone illegal. It's seen as a gray area in the law by some.

But the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed last year making it illegal for financial institutions in the U.S. to make payments to online gambling operations.

This year, legislation has been introduced that would have the government do its own survey to determine what kind of stance it should take on online gambling.

In the meantime, Rep. Barney Frank has introduced legislation that would legalize and regulate online gambling in the U.S., and Rep. Robert Wexler is talking about introducing a bill that would exempt poker from the online gambling ban.

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