Internet poker first started in the United States, with Planet Poker in 1998. Party Poker which launched in 1999, would go on to become the largest online poker-room. That was before Black Friday; the online poker world in the U.S. came tumbling down on April 15th, 2011. The Justice Department on that day filed charges on Poker Stars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker for money laundering and bank fraud. The sites quickly stopped allowing U.S. players access.
Fast forward 8 months, the beginning of an election cycle, and everybody is looking for votes. More than votes they are looking for money, donations to campaigns, and fundraising. The companies that own these poker sites are ready to tap into a giant U.S. market. Opening their wallets may be the first step to getting online poker legalized in the U.S.
Nevada has already passed legislation outlining how to get your permit to run online poker sites in that state. The Justice Department this past Friday decided to reverse their position on whether online poker is illegal or not. The official position now is, being poker is not a sport, it is not covered by the Wire Act of 1961. Texas Representative Joe Barton will introduce legislation to legalize online poker this next spring. California, not to be left behind has also introduced legislation to legalize online poker.
With the brick and mortar casino companies throwing their money and influence behind online poker, it is only a matter of time before we can all enjoy playing poker from our couches or offices again. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada was opposed to online poker until Caesar's Entertainment along with Bally's Technology reversed their positions, announcing interest in wanting to get into the online poker business. Reid now wants to regulate and tax online poker.
Like everything else, poker players need to get ready for a license fee of some sort. Whether it is a state, federal, or a combination of both, it will happen. Hunters pay a fee, fishermen pay a fee, drivers pay a fee, and poker players will pay a fee. The difference is poker players would pay the fee gladly to be able to play from home. From home there is no travel time, no gas money, no airline ticket, no out of pocket cost what so ever. Just sign on, and join in, choose the game and amount you want to play.
The government will need to be involved. We need safe guards to prevent online sites from coming into a market, accepting players and their money, and then disappearing into the night. Had the government taken this position in the beginning, Black Friday players might still have their money, some may never get that money back. It is easy looking back to blame, but looking forward we have the opportunity to get it right.
Playing online gives a player so many options, so many choices. Two recent World Series of Poker Main Event winners came from the Internet, Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker, both won their seats online. Many players will have that option again in some fashion, sooner, rather than later.
J. Brackston is a veteran of three World Series of Poker appearances, two World Series of Poker circuit events in Oklahoma and Louisiana, and an appearance in The River Poker Series in Oklahoma. Has won many local poker tournaments since beginning playing competitively in 2004.