How poker in 2015 operates in the United States could greatly differ from the game as we currently know it, and that’s due to a multitude of issues currently pending across the country.
While many states have legalized gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos over the last decade, the only three states that currently permit online wagering are New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada.
The topic of Internet gaming is a contentious subject. National lawmakers, business magnates, professional gamblers, and amateurs alike all have deeply-rooted opinions.
The conversation is emotional to many involved, as is typically the case when a large financial interest is at stake.
In the coming 12 months, it is expected that many of these highly debated concerns will be resolved, which of course will greatly impact the future of poker.
Since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), the legalization of playing poker online has largely been a state matter. The presidential election in 2016 will likely have little effect on the overall situation.
Nevertheless, candidates will certainly be required to put forth their stance on iGaming. Many of the leading candidates greatly differ on the subject; at least they have in the past:
• Hillary Clinton is the likely favorite for the democratic nomination. She voted in 2006 in favor of SAFE Port Act/UIGEA that prohibits payments regarding Internet gaming, deeming them unlawful. However, she did support a study in 2008 to determine whether online gambling could be properly regulated in the United States.
• Chris Christie, a probably Republican candidate, is a supporter of online gaming after aggressively bringing it to New Jersey.
• Jeb Bush, who recently announced he’s strongly considering a run for the White House, is outspokenly against online gambling. He was the featured speaker in 2014 at a Vegas event hosted by Sheldon Adelson, Internet poker’s biggest antagonist.
Adelson’s Gambling Ban
A lame duck Congress isn’t good for much, unless you’re a proponent of the legalization of playing poker online. In December, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson saw his Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) omitted from the 1,600-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill.
Despite Adelson’s heavy influence and political donations, lawmakers felt the issue wasn’t worth including.
RAWA was Sheldon’s latest attempt to ban virtual wagering. The 81-year-old casino magnate owns the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and is estimated to be worth nearly $30 billion.
While the Act was excluded in December, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead. Should it be passed in 2015 with a Republican-controlled Congress, online poker could be greatly reduced.
Organizations & Lobbyists
On the other end of the spectrum from Adelson are the casinos that support taking poker to the web. Caesars Entertainment has put up nearly $2 million to lobby for online gaming.
The Borgata in Atlantic City has invested over a quarter of a million dollars, as did MGM Resorts.
Founded in 2005, the Poker Players Alliance is another organization with strong interests in advancing online gaming.
Although 21 of the PPA’s list of 22 Jokers won re-election, if the association could gain a stronger foothold and influence in D.C., it would be beneficial for the outlook of online poker.
The easiest way to expand online poker in America is to bring the world’s largest cardroom to the states.
Since its departure in 2011, PokerStars has been barred from the U.S., but there’s a strong chance that will change in 2015.
The likely fit would be for New Jersey to approve a license for the Amaya Gaming-owned network, a scenario that makes sense to State Senator Ray Lesniak. Unfortunately, the approval has been long delayed as politics have gotten in the way.
Should PokerStars enter the United States in 2015, whether in N.J. or another location, it would likely impact poker in a positive way for all involved.
You the VOTER
For online poker to succeed, additional states need to take steps to legalize Internet gaming. That process starts with you and I, aka the voters.
If you’re a proponent of wagering on the web, let your representatives know. Tell them where you stand on the issue, sign petitions, and get out the vote. After all, these people work for YOU.