When poker’s Black Friday happened back in 2011, nearly everybody in the United States believed it was just a temporary measure. It seemed like the DoJ and the government wanted to remove unlicensed operators so they could bring some order and establish well-regulated and properly taxed online poker network.
While the prospect of taxation wasn’t particularly appealing, people in the States didn’t really have much to complain about. After all, they are used to paying a tax on everything, so why should online poker be any different? What no one really expected was a five years hiatus that ensued.
Online Poker Regulation
We are now in August of 2016, which means that more than five years have passed since Black Friday. Half a decade is long time and everyone interested in the matter would have a full right to expect significant progress in the area of the US online poker regulation.
But, here’s the kicker: by this point in time, only three states have adopted an online poker law.
With a few other states dancing around with the idea, the rest of the USA doesn’t seem one bit phased by the issue. This, of course, pertains to politicians, as there is little doubt there are many poker enthusiasts in the Land of Free who would love to be able to enjoy online poker the way they used to prior to April 2011.
Unregulated Sites as Only Alternative
The three states where Americans are allowed to play regulated and safe online poker are Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Everybody else must turn to unregulated betting sites as their only alternative to enjoy real money games.
The problem with these sites is they can be slow to pay their players, the traffic is not so great, and, at the end of the day, players don’t have any real recourse if something happens to go wrong. They could lose their entire bankrolls literally overnight and there would be nothing they can do.
Here’s the deal: if you play on an unregulated site, you are taking all the risk and your benefits are very limited.
Despite all of this, some players still take the risk because they simply love the game too much or because they have a big enough edge over their competition that even the added risk factor doesn’t deter them. The real question, however, is why should players have to take any risk at all?
What’s the Holdup?
The issue of online poker regulation in the States has been dragging on for what seems like an eternity. With a few states showing some initiative, others are pretty much dormant, and the possibility of a regulation on the federal level seems like a wild imagination at this point; not to mention the possibility of US players rejoining the global pool.
You might be wondering: isn’t it in the best interest of both, the state and players, to have a regulation in place?
The question is spot on, but the answer to it is much more complicated than it may seem on the surface. It isn’t as simples as “yes” or “no.” There are many powers at work when it comes to online poker in the US and some of them have a lot of influence.
Major Lobbies Pushing Their Agendas
Politics in general, but US politics in particular, is all about lobbying. Certain powerful groups from different walks of life support particular politicians or political factions in exchange for passing decisions, laws, and regulations that favor these groups.
The support is not always just financial. Some of these groups have very strong rapport with the people and can bring a lot of votes to those political figures and options they decide to stand behind.
Land Based Casino Conglomerates
One of the biggest adversaries of regulated online poker in the States are, surprise – surprise, land based casinos. These establishments have been around for decades and have been operating on pretty much the same business model since the inception.
Regulated online poker would create a disturbance in the Force, so to say. These huge business operations are already struggling in many parts of the country. Atlantic City, for example, saw four casinos close their doors during the past couple of years and even the legendary Taj Mahal is on the verge of being extinct.
Considering the situation, it is hardly surprising that likes of Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner, will stop at nothing to prevent the online poker regulation, especially on the federal level. If you’ve been following some of the debate on the issue, you’ve probably had an opportunity to hear the most ridiculous of reasons being pulled out.
Adelson, who built a major part of his wealth on gambling, has the audacity to claim that his reason for not wanting the regulation is preservation of true American and family values. He claims that it is one thing to have remote casinos that people can visit, but it is something completely different to bring the casino inside everyone’s homes.
Of course, one must admit that there is some truth to these words, but coming from someone like Adelson, it is more than clear that his motives are miles away from trying to protect anyone. In fact, his rhetoric is in line with that of the religious groups and other organizations that oppose gambling in general and online gambling in particular.
Thus, he is creating unwitting allies from those who probably don’t share his world views in the slightest.
It’s All One Big Poker Game
Politicians and other stakeholders in the United States may not be sitting around the green-felt covered tables, but they are more than used to playing extremely high stakes poker games. There is bluffing, pushing, and squeezing your opponents every step of the way.
The online poker regulation situation is no different. There are many players involved and they are all making their moves. The ultimate goal, it is quite clear by now, is not to come up with a regulation that would best suit the purpose, but rather to squeeze as much as possible from the current stalemate position.
The regulation will only be passed when all politicians and other involved parties have had their say and staked their claims. At the end of the day, once everyone is happy, the stalemate will be resolved.
Now: for US players this spells bad news, because it is impossible to say when, if ever, this will happen.
The sad part is there isn’t much anyone can do. Petitions and letters may nudge things a bit, but one thing we can all be certain about is that politicians will take their sweet time and pass the law(s) only when it suits the majority of the most important stakeholders – and not a moment sooner.