For Online Poker to Succeed, Full Online Gaming Has To Be Available

As Congress returns for their “lame duck” session this month, there have been rumblings regarding online gaming and poker.

For now it seems that this Congress won’t be taking any action on any of the efforts to reinterpret the Wire Act of 1961, but there also won’t be any action on bills in the House of Representatives to pass online poker regulation. Still, we have to be vigilant that something isn’t hustled through committees and tacked onto a piece of must-pass legislation (everyone remember the UIGEA?).

Embracing all online gaming

The 114th Congress will be seated on January 3 and with their seating should come different tactics by all in the online poker community.

Since the passage of the UIGEA in 2006, online poker supporters have been advocating for only online poker regulation. For online poker regulation – and the potential US industry that regulation would create – to become a reality, it is critical that online poker advocates embrace FULL online gaming.

For many years, online poker advocates have stated that poker isn’t like other casino games (blackjack, pit games, slots, Keno, sports betting, etc.) because of the skill it takes to play the game. Because of the skill factor, online poker fans perceive that it shouldn’t be lopped in with other casino gaming. This, however, is a short sighted idea.

Rallying more to the cause

One of the major problems facing the online poker drive is the numbers. While the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) may trumpet their million-plus membership, as a lobbying group that is miniscule.

As of May 2013, the National Rifle Association (NRA) counts more than 5 million people as members; AARP, the organization that advocates for the rights of people over 50, counts 37 million people as members; even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) can boast of a 3-million plus membership roll.

For poker to garner some more power in its offensive, it is time that it teams with online gaming advocates to push for full online casino gaming in the United States.

The Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) is one of the top international organizations advocating for online gaming and would be a key partner in any full push for total online gaming in the US.

The International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) could show that online gaming could be adequately regulated under a US system.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) would be another organization that would be an excellent alliance as the casino advocacy group would coalesce the “brick and mortar” casino industry behind the online fight (we’ll get to a problem with this group in a moment).

If the PPA could partner with these organizations, suddenly we go from a million-member, admittedly vocal advocacy group to one that has several million members that actually has a bit of firepower in its approach.

Where’s the resistance?

There are a litany of problems with these potential partnerships, however. The AGA took the cowardly stance earlier this year of removing themselves from the online fray because of the “divisiveness” of the issue inside their membership (that “divisiveness” consisted of solely Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson and, to a lesser extent, Wynn Resorts’ Steve Wynn). They need to take a stand for the majority of their membership and get back in the game rather than kowtow to the whims of the minority.

The IGC and the IAGR, while critically important to the fight, have a pretty full plate with their international commitments and tossing in the US situation could stretch their resources thin.

The perception of online gaming

Then there is also the problem of the perception of online gaming. Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) isn’t content to just stop online poker, it wants the entire enchilada with ending a potential US online gaming industry.

The ones who would make the decisions regarding regulation – politicians – also are wary of pushing through such regulation on both sides of the aisle.

The GOP has already came out (per their 2012 platform) against a federally regulated US industry on “moral grounds” and, while they haven’t put a plank in their platform on the subject, there are many Democrats who believe that online gaming would be detrimental to those less fortunate in our society.

Looking forward to 2015

Through the partnerships between several of the pro-online gaming advocacy groups above, online gaming and poker would have a larger voice in the fight when the new Congress comes to power in 2015.

That voice would, at the minimum, stop any anti-gaming regulation and, in the best case scenario, could actually push for something that would be critical: a fully regulated online casino gaming industry that would include poker (for those who want it) and other games (for those who aren’t poker fans).

It’s time to set aside the poker community’s perceived superiority regarding the online gaming issue (don’t we often complain about why horse racing and fantasy sports are exempt from the UIGEA?) and join forces with like-minded groups to push for what could be a lucrative US online gaming and poker industry.

About the Author


Various members of the staff contributed to this article.