PokerTube Prediction

2 years ago
PokerTube Prediction: US Online Poker Grey Market to Explode?
05 Dec

Next month sees President-elect Donald J Trump take over the reins at the White House, heralding in a new era in the USA – for poker as much as anything else! But will it be one of prosperity and enlightenment, or a return to the Dark Ages and prohibition for the online sites and players? With all the information we have to hand, it seems a perfect storm is brewing…

The current situation regarding online poker is as clear as mud and as sticky as a swamp for those pushing for regulation and ‘legalisation’, as well as those conservative-minded individuals and groups they are fighting against.

The Background

Since the frankly ridiculous 2006 UIGEA was enforced against poker sites on Black Friday in 2011, the once murky waters were instantly made crystal clear –online poker within the US would lead to serious punishments, the operators faced massive fines and jail terms, the players lost $millions in the process.

But times have changed somewhat, and you can now play online legally in several states. But what we have to remember is this:

"There is no federal law that prohibits US players from making online poker accounts and playing for real money online."

As explains it.

"When it comes to state law, the picture gets cloudier. Many US states have outdated gambling laws that fail to directly address US poker sites. A few address online gambling in general, but just one state - Washington - explicitly makes playing online poker a crime."

OK, so what difference to all of this will ‘Trump goes to Washington’ make? The answer is, as always in poker…it depends!

Two sides to every story

Sheldon Adelson, the fiercest critic of online poker, is a huge problem. As I wrote back in the summer,

"A Republican presidency with Trump at the head would be a huge boost to Adelson, a man who shares many of the same extreme views and aggressive business practices as Trump, and would doubtless prove to be a serious problem for those attempting to legalize and regulate online poker and other forms of internet gambling across the US."

On the other hand, Trump himself has been intimately involved in the gaming business and is seen by many as extremely unlikely to take an especially strong stance versus those who break the law. In 2011 he stated: “We have been looking at this for a while”, when discussing the sudden interest of ‘the richest people in the country in anticipation that a regulatory regime for online gambling is coming at either the federal or state level.’ Trump added:

"This has to happen because many other countries are doing it and, like usual, the U.S. is just missing out.”

We have to add in to the mix – unfortunately –his Vice-President elect Mike Pence, a long-time critic of online gambling in general who this weekend was presented with a 10-strong Attorney General letter demanding a return of the full force of the Wire Act which would prohibit real-money online gaming.

However, with the situation at a standstill of sorts, legislation tied up in legislature in many states, the murkiness and political changeover could work to online poker’s benefit.

A boom in the US grey market could easily fill the void, the current ‘no-man’s land’ of online poker. There are already companies like Bovada and ACR who are more-or-less allowed to continue operating with no heightened sanctions or deterrents, but no legal framework to allow legitimate competition.

Is this the return of the Wild West?

If there is no sea-change in political opinion from Trump at the top of the new pyramid of power, but rather a continuation of the laissez-faire attitude with which he treats many other aspects of the economy, it might well be that the balanced persuasions leave things undecided for some time to come.

Stepping into the space left open could be any number of online poker sites brave enough to take a probably small risk and potentially huge benefits. Would a Trump-presidency really sit back and watch or allow a prosecution of the very freedoms and people he has been appealing to for the last few years? Poker is an all-American game!

Isn’t it more likely that any fallout from increased online poker availability will be shrugged aside as the will of the American people? Especially since Trump of all people knows that casino gambling and poker are two very different things? Something proponents of poker legislation have been continually trying to get through to people like Adelson and his crew of ‘alt-right’ backers.

Poker sites without the online casino baggage are the way forward in the interim, while the legislators hammer out whatever state and federal arguments are brought to the table. The world is changing, and during great change the Wild West can have its time! Optimistic? Yes. Possible? Also yes!

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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