The Future of Online Poker in the US: Managing Expectations
Many people await the day when online poker is fully licensed and regulated in the US, but visions of 2005 or anytime pre-Black Friday are likely to bring disappointment. Even worse is the unwillingness to accept anything less than what we had before.
While it is certainly understandable for people to long for the days when PartyPoker and then eventually PokerStars ruled the online poker world: Those days are gone. If we have any hope of getting back there or eventually surpassing the popularity that online poker players enjoyed in those days, we will need to venture down a different road.
Take a look at Illinois’s recent failed attempt to pass online gambling legislation. There was a lot of negative talk by some people and conspicuous silence by others. Much of the vocal opposition to Illinois’ proposal didn’t come from anti-gambling groups, but from online poker proponents that thought the outlined structure was bound to produce something less than acceptable.
“It’s just a money-grab by the government,” “It will never be successful because they don’t know anything about running an online poker network,” and “I’d rather have a Federal bill pass” were some common sentiments expressed by people that were unsatisfied with how they believed the Illinois bill would play out.
Governments find online gaming attractive because of the revenue component. Providing money for the government is the only chance we have of getting our game back. I understand that this is a time when people’s faith in the government is not at an all-time high, but make no mistake, the governments that are considering online gaming are doing it for the money. That includes the federal level, the state level, Spain, France, Italy: all of them. With money as the motivating factor and with plenty of examples of taxing structures that work and those that don’t, there is a very reasonable chance that future legislation will follow the way of the former.
Not only are there examples of successfully run online gaming environments, but there are also successful gaming companies. These operators are being called on to supply the products and expertise to allow even some of the most ignorant governments the opportunity to run a successful online gaming platform. In the case of Illinois, its success would have been directly tied to the vendors they would have chosen to provide the platform and the Executive Director hired to run the Division of Internet Gambling.
And though there has been progress in the way that online poker is perceived in this country, it is still a long way away from the glory days we experienced in the first decade of the millennium. There has been little actual progress on the Federal level in the past year in spite of the DOJ’s revised opinion limiting the scope of the Wire Act to sporting events and contests. And Nevada is still the only state to have passed legislation explicitly permitting online poker on the state level.
Can Nevada do it alone? The jury is out on that one, but the more states that move in the direction of online gambling the more other states will follow suit and the better the chances of interstate (and eventually international) player pools.
There will be those states that feel the need to keep up with the Jonses and will be close behind the early adapters and those that wait until the numbers roll in and prove online gaming is profitable. But most important are the early adapters. Successful or not they will spur on activity that is needed to create a successful online gambling environment in the US.
So whether one believes in what might have been in the state of Illinois or other states striving to be early adapters, it is important to consider the domino effect these states can have on the entire country. And the sooner the better because the online gaming legislation landscape in the US is like a big ship: It takes a long time to turn around.