Is Live Dealer Poker Simply Online Poker?

Is Live Dealer Poker Simply Online Poker?
Poker launches on Golden Nugget's online casino

As the new year began, New Jersey’s online casinos took another step in the advancement of the game of poker. Golden Nugget Atlantic City launched a Texas Hold’em game online with a live dealer through its online casino platform.

The live dealer games create a discussion about the difference between online poker and online casino games. In fact, it blurs the line between the two so much that it may become difficult for American states – and other regulated provinces and countries – to separate poker from casino games. This makes a difference for licensing, as poker and other casino game licenses are separate, but also for the definition of poker as a skill game in continuing efforts to legalize poker.

Golden Nugget Launches First

Live dealer games have been popular in online casinos for several years. People playing online games can click on a table to play something like blackjack or baccarat – standard casino table games – and access a table with a human dealer who is in a studio at some central location. The players can interact with the dealer, ask about game rules, and simply have conversation while playing the game. It is a combination of what happens at a land-based casino and what is accessible from a computer or mobile device.

Poker games have been a part of the live dealer circuit, but offering it in the new US regulated market is a first. Golden Nugget in Atlantic City decided to be the first to offer it, and it went live during the first week of 2018 for players located in New Jersey. It adds to a selection of live dealer games online that already included blackjack, roulette, and baccarat.

Live Casino Hold’em is the game, and $1 antes are the stake. The house is the bank, different from the house simply taking rake in traditional online poker games. And it takes place on the Golden Nugget online casino, not on an internet poker site, with dealers appearing on screen from a studio in Atlantic City.

Good for Poker

In general, the move is a good one for poker. As customers in the casino discover the live dealer poker tables, they can get a feel for the game and possibly choose to seek out more of it through an online poker site. New poker players will see that there are some strategies that can be employed to increase their chances of winning, and those strategies can be practiced on a poker site.

This is also a good break for people who do play online poker but miss the feeling of the casino, the interaction with the dealer and other players at the tables. They can still play from home or from a mobile device but take a virtual seat at the live dealer poker game for a bit to feel refreshed.

Questionable for Poker’s Reputation

For years, the goal of the Poker Players Alliance and many players who lobby for the legalization of poker – whether at land-based facilities or online – have argued that poker is predominantly a game of skill. Good players win in the long run. Skills are a huge factor for winning players. Poker is so different from other casino games because of the use of skill and the ability to win more consistently with skill-based strategies.

While these same arguments apply to live dealer poker, it jumbles the issue when poker is offered via the online casinos alongside games like roulette. And when poker can just as easily be offered via an online casino rather than on a proprietary site, it diminishes the need for a separate online poker site, especially in the eyes of lawmakers and decision-makers who don’t fully understand the game or the uniqueness of online poker.

Tough for Licensing

In the new Pennsylvania online gambling environment, online poker and casino games are going to be licensed separately. While the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has yet to determine the details of the regulatory framework, the law states that there will be two separate licenses. Brick-and-mortar casinos will have to determine whether they want to operate casino games only, which are clearly the most lucrative as shown by New Jersey’s revenue numbers, or also run an online poker site. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are required for each license.

If the decision-makers at a casino feel that they can offer live dealer poker on their internet casino sites, will they be less inclined to offer separate online poker? This remains to be seen, but it could be a factor in how many casinos choose two licenses.

Separate online poker sites have their benefits, of course, especially with the option to join other states for shared player pools and the potential to grow online poker as a whole in America. However, the partnership between Nevada and Delaware has yet to show much improvement for the latter, as revenue for online poker has been dropping significantly over the past year. And New Jersey has yet to officially join the online poker network, so it is difficult to know what benefits that will bring. And Pennsylvania has yet to enter talks with the other states about shared online poker liquidity.

This will boil down to brick-and-mortar casinos seeing the long-term benefits of launching an online poker site and knowing the differences between live dealer poker and traditional online poker.

Live dealer poker in small regulated markets, however, blurs the lines.


About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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