Online poker sector overview for 2021: Stats, key drivers and more

Between 2003 and 2006, the world witnessed a poker boom. The popularity of the game became considerably more popular globally. This had a knock-on effect on the online poker sector, seeing its number of players double each year. But what’s the state of play now? Some 15 years after the boom officially ended, is setting up an online poker site worth it for operators?


There are lots of different estimates on how many poker players there are global. The  World Poker Tour places the figure at around 120 million worldwide, and that’s just for online poker. The fact is that poker is one of the oldest, most iconic, and therefore most popular gambling games globally. As with other areas, the online poker sector soared during 2020 as consumers opened many new accounts. This surge in popularity started around April and lasted until the summer months, totalling double the usual number of players.

While the figures dipped in fall 2020, many operators have retained a good percentage of their new customers. By the end of the year, the figures confirmed the trend. Five of the biggest online poker operators reported a 20% increase in profits on the previous year. Furthermore, Google searches for ‘online poker’ reached a five year high.

But overall, gambling is booming. The market will grow from $70.01 billion by the end of 2021 to $112.09 billion by 2025. The compound annual growth rate of 12% demonstrates health and sustainable growth. While this growth comprises sports betting, casino, and eSports, poker is a component. Simply, if the gambling sector is doing well, poker is as well. Many gamblers will play different games when they log onto bet. They could come for the slots but stay for the poker and live dealer games. Therefore, it’s wise for operators to include poker, considering its popularity and these other factors.

Key drivers of the online poker sector

As with other forms of gambling, key drivers of the online poker sector are accessibility, the pandemic, and the digital revolution. In this section, we will take a look in a bit more detail.

The pandemic

The pandemic drove forward online gambling in many ways. Firstly the lack of sports betting options left fans looking for other forms of gambling. Secondly, social distancing and closed casinos meant there were few options to play in person. An inherently social game, many players enjoy it for the social aspect. This was entirely curbed during the pandemic, except for online. Thirdly, people wanted ways to spend their leisure time. Options were severely limited, and all forms of digital entertainment grew in popularity. Online poker was no exception. While many countries have eased measures, many consumers have gotten used to online entertainment. Lots of land-based casinos haven’t reopened. Therefore the online poker sector niche is set to continue growing.


There are over 6 billion smartphones in existence, almost enough for each person in the world to have one. Over 4.6 billion people also have regular internet access. When we compare the figures to ten or five years ago, there have been big increases. As a result, a digital shift occurred. People now look to their smartphones for work, communication, knowledge, and of course, entertainment. Smartphones have made gambling more accessible to a wider audience. People of all ages now happily play poker, slots and engage in sports betting via mobile. Fast, easy to access the internet, and high-tech handheld devices have contributed significant growth to iGaming and the online poker sector.

Increased confidence

As people use the internet more, they are more comfortable with making digital payments. Using credit and debit cards, eWallets, and payment processors has become second nature. They know how to protect themselves and their money and what precautions they should take. This means online gambling sites can benefit from confident players that are willing to transact.

Areas of interest for the online poker sector

With the online poker sector, there are a few areas of particular interest. The following are verticals that are driving forward and bringing in new kinds of players. If you set up an online poker site, take notes!

Live Dealer games

Live dealer games are gambling games where a croupier is a real person. For example, when you play a poker game, you can see and interact with the person dealing the cards. Some games also give you the chance to interact with other players. These games are incredibly popular. The social and interpersonal element of live dealer games means players stay longer and gamble more. If they like your setup and dealers, their brand loyalty will also increase. If you’re serious about your gambling site or offering online poker, including live dealer games is a must.


Cryptocurrency has been making waves in iGaming for quite some time, including the online poker sector. If you accept crypto payments, you are accessible for more players and offer higher security. Crypto transactions are faster, more cost-efficient, and provide more client confidence. In the case of a dispute, the blockchain provides an immutable record that cannot be disputed. You can integrate crypto payments directly or via a wallet or specialist processor. Crypto payments are the future and will bring you increased revenue and happy clients.

Mobile and progressive apps

As we’ve detailed above, mobile is the future of the online gambling and online poker sector. This can be achieved through two approaches; mobile or progressive apps. Mobile apps for gambling sites are becoming increasingly popular. Specially designed by the operator, they provide smooth and secure in-app gambling, including poker, slots, and live dealer games. The alternative is progressive apps. These are in-browser applications that make the user feel like they are using an app without downloading anything. Progressive apps are a great alternative to regular apps, although both are even better!

Emerging jurisdictions

Asia is a key jurisdiction for both iGaming and the online poker sector. All the Asian countries have high traffic volume to gambling sites and players that like to spend money. This is not only the largest region for growth but the fastest. Other areas to keep your eye on including Latin America. While gambling isn’t legal in some of these countries, governments are making headway. Several countries are creating legislation to regulate the sector, opening the door for operators.

Europe will remain a very safe bet. A popular location for all forms of gambling, the Europeans are fans of digital entertainment and have higher disposable income levels. This means it must remain a target area for any serious online poker or casino operator.

Just be aware that regulatory requirements can vary significantly between countries and continents. Always ensure you are on the right side of the law. The best way to do this is by speaking to Fast Offshore.

Contact Fast Offshore

If you want to be a part of the online poker sector, Fast Offshore can help. We have over two decades of experience helping entrepreneurs like you set up their businesses. Our team is ready to help with everything, from incorporation and tax to licensing, banking, payments, and compliance. With a focus on honesty, transparency, and great customer service, you won’t be disappointed. Let us help you launch your successful business today!

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