Calling All Hands in the Fight for Legal US Poker

5 years ago
The Fight for Legal US Poker
19:23
17 Aug

After PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were shut down during poker’s “Black Friday” in 2011, the prevailing wisdom was that while the crackdown would bring a lot of short-term pain, it was also the first step in a process that would bring online poker out of the shadows and make it viable over the long term. If someone offered to bet you that by the summer of 2016 we would only have regulated online poker in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, you would have been a fool to not to bet against them at almost any odds.

Yet today we all know that, remarkably, it would have been a losing bet. It’s been five long years and yet we have only the smallest amounts of progress. But it bares repeating that we do, in fact, have small amounts of progress. Even though it might not be what was expected, there are a lot of reasons to focus on that fact and be optimistic. There are a lot of things going on right now that could break the right way for online poker - if the community is willing to get out there and be vocal in support.



Pennsylvania on the brink of regulation

While it was great to see any state regulate online poker, the fact remains that liquidity remains a key issue. It’s increasingly clear that online poker needs a big, populated state to take the plunge to really get the ball rolling. That’s why current developments in Pennsylvania and New York are especially exciting.

Pennsylvania’s lower house recently passed bill HB 2150 that would regulate online poker. Now, the fight turns to the Pennsylvania State Senate where poker players will have the opportunity to see a new market of nearly 13 million people open up. It’s critically important for players within PA to seize this opportunity and get involved by contacting their Senators, and Governor Tom Wolf. The Poker Player Alliance’s Rich Muny has been particularly explicit in his calls to action:


New York and California showing progress

Residents of New York and California also have reason to be excited. Although progress has been slow, New York did recently pass a bill legalizing Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), and the move to regulate online gaming instead of banning it is very positive. Although online poker didn’t make it through the state assembly this year, there is a lot of optimism that a deal is possible given enough time.

Online poker in California faces a more difficult road to regulation, but despite special interest in-fighting, the issue continues to be brought up every year, suggesting that everyone wants to see a deal get done - it’s just a matter of the details. Amaya’s PokerStars brand as been especially vocal in sending Twitch celebrities such as Jason Somerville to add some star power to the fight.

Here too, it’s a critical time for online poker advocates in these states to get in touch with their representatives and push aggressively to make their voice heard.



The looming specter of a federal ban

One of the main reasons it’s so critical to get legislation passed now is that the longer we go without a comprehensive state network, the longer the door is left open to a federal ban. Online gambling in general is always low hanging fruit for politicians looking to score cheap points. And while activities such as DFS or pit gambling have strong backing from the likes of the NFL or corporate casino interests, poker does not have any single advocate with the deep pockets needed to keep Congress at bay.

For example, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Vice-Presidential running mate Mike Pence is a known detractor of online gambling. He is just one in a long line of politicians who openly state their desire to curtail the rights of Americans to play online poker. And I shouldn’t even need to mention the personal crusade of one Sheldon Adelson, casino billionaire and arch-nemesis of all poker players everywhere who recently donated millions to that same campaign.



So get active

Politicians only listen to two things - money and votes. Online poker advocates in the United States have a lot of reason to be hopeful that big changes could be coming. For example, if Pennsylvania were to regulate the game and link up with New Jersey, it could cause a domino effect. But these things won’t happen unless those who want to see the game legal get out there and have their voice heard. The time is now for all poker players to get out there and advocate for the game we all love. If we don’t, we may never get a better opportunity to make a difference.


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Bradley Chalupski made his first deposit onto an online poker site in 2009 and has been paying rake and following the poker scene ever since. He graduated from the Seton Hall School of Law with a J.D. in 2010.Read more

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