Is Online Poker Really in a State of Decline?

If you were to glance at the top-level figures for online gambling in the UK, you'd see a growth marketplace that continues to expand at an exceptional rate.

Once you delve beyond these headline numbers, however, you see several fascinating insights which highlight precisely which online casino games are thriving and which are struggling to engage players.

According the latest numbers from the year ending March 2017, for example, online poker generated a gross gambling yield of £101 million and accounted for just 5% of the industries overall revenues. This is despite the fact that the total yield for the online gambling sector increased to £4.7 billion, while online wagers also rose by 10.1%.

Why is the Popularity of Online Poker Declining?

These figures make it clear that the popularity of online poker is in decline, and there are several underlying reasons for this. Firstly, we've seen the online gaming market benefit from incredible diversification during the last decade, with immersive and themed slots appealing to an entire generation of new and casual players. These games have helped online casinos to enhance their proposition in the digital age, creating a wide range of choice to players and restricting the market share of poker.

While the same can be said of other casino staples such as blackjack and roulette, of course, these games have responded far better to the challenge posed by slot titles. More specifically, developers have created a number of unique and immersive iterations of these games, while establishing the type of authentically paced gameplay that appeals to both casual and seasoned players alike.

Although online poker has seen a number of crossover-style formats designed over the last few years, these have so far failed to engage newcomers while they've also diluted the experience in a way that deters skilled players from taking part.

This is borne out by the fact that slots generated an impressive yield of £1.6 billion in the year ending March 2017, while poker games struggled to keep pace and engage a wider audience of players.

The truth is that the skilled nature of poker creates a delicate balancing act for developers, particularly when marketing this game and creating crossover iterations for the modern age. More specifically, classic formats lack the necessary levels of opportunism or immersive gameplay to appeal to newcomers, while modern crossover formats hold little or no interest for experienced gamblers. As a result, online poker has struggled to evolve at the same pace of other games, or react to the needs of contemporary demographics.

The Bottom Line – What's Next for Online Poker?

In the near-term, it's likely that online poker will continue its decline in popularity. This is partly due to the fact that online casinos will continue to invest heavily in the development of virtual slot iterations, while affording less focus to poker and similar table disciplines.

In the longer-term, much will depend on the strategy adopted by poker developers and online casino operators. So long as they execute a dual-pronged strategy that caters to the needs of both casual and skilled players, this classic casino game will eventually find its own, unique niche online.
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