The Struggle to Legalize Online Poker in US
Recent events surrounding the US government and online poker industry have led many to believe that there simply is no hope left for the legalization of online poker in this country. But in reality, it could be just the push that American online poker players needed to force the issue into the senate in such a manner as to finally establish, one way or another, the legalities of internet poker in the US.
On April 15, 2011, now dubbed the Black Friday of online poker, the FBI seized control of four vital poker sites that supported US player acceptance; PokerStars.com, FullTiltPoker.com, AbsolutePoker.com and UB.com. An indictment had been filed against 11 individuals, including represetatives of these poker sites—the largest US-facing poker rooms in the world—by New York’s Southern District US Attorney Preet Bharara. The allegations included money laundering, bank fraud and unlawful internet gambling.
When PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and UB went down on that ominous day, their traditional web sites replaced with a dark and oppressive message regarding the actions that had been taken against them by US authorities, it seemed all hope would finally be lost for American online poker players who garnered hopes of one-day a legal and regulated internet gambling industry in the United States.
But instead of crushing the aspirations of US poker players, the DoJ just might have created a perfect breeding ground for the legalization of online poker. With more supporters up in arms than ever before, the government is going to be under a great deal of pressure to make something happen.
Just last year, Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader from Nevada, attempted to pass a federal-level poker bill that would regulate online poker in the US. His bill actually had the most likelihood for success because of one major aspect. It would invoke a broad blackout period, in which time American casinos would be able to establish an internet gambling structure.
As it stood, US land-based casinos felt that the competition would be too great to contend with existing operators like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. To legalize online poker would allow Americans time to join these offshore web sites on a 100% legitimate basis, thus leaving US based gambling sites to play catch-up in a highly aggressive business.
The bill was rejected, even though it would give US land-based casinos plenty of time to launch a site with competitive software, features and functionality. Even with the imposed blackout, the proprietors of potential US online poker sites still felt the opposition of distinguished offshore poker sites would be too much to overcome.
Now that the top of the online poker industry’s totem pole has been decapitated by the FBI’s closure of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB, this would be an optimal time for US land-based casinos to establish themselves and seize control of the US market.
Add to this the ongoing struggle by the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) to push for legal online poker, plus the millions of Americans that are, for lack of a better term, extremely pissed off, and the multitude of public officials who have spent the last five years urging the government to increase tax revenue by billions via online poker regulation, licensing and taxation, and you have a proverbial hot bed for the birth of legal online poker in the US.