Could This Be the Future of Online Gambling?

Speculation abounds on the future of online poker gambling after the Feds effectively shut it down last year. But there could still be hope for sites like Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, Pokerstars is in discussions to buy Full Tilt Poker, and the deal may even involve a settlement of civil charges currently brought against the sites by the U.S. Department of Justice.

If regulatory permissions emerge, maybe after the elections, there could be a boost to existing players in the industry such as the online companies, casinos, resorts, and perhaps most important of all, social networking sites like Facebook and gaming outfits like Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA).

Legalizing online poker could mean that existing partnerships like MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM), Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) and Bwin.Party could ratchet up early and formidable market shares. Another tie-up in waiting is that of Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) with 888 Holdings, which could be a huge beneficiary of regulatory largesse in the future.

Facebook has reportedly explored gambling options in the U.K and presented before the lottery industry on how it could serve as a useful platform. Zynga already had a poker game before creating Farmville, and real-money poker could be right up its alley.

One argument against casino-and-website tie ups is the cannibalization of business away from the brick-and-mortar casino resorts. But this may not be a real problem considering that online players tend to play with low-stakes poker with pennies per bet, while poker is not in the same league at casinos as big money games like blackjack and baccarat.