It is entirely possible that first normalizing Poker Online will cut a swath for all gamblers, and looking at the progress lately it seems to be part of some people's plans. I say this because the American Gaming Association (AGA) who represent the US Casino Industry on land, today called on congress to legalize online poker. It came with a code of conduct and a slick YouTube video (see below).
This same day, white collar criminal henchman, Preet Bharara accused the Directors of Full Tilt Poker (FTP) of operating a "ponzi scheme" and pocketing hundreds of millions while their players were left holding the bag after the April take down.
The AGA changed position from opposing-to-neutral nearly a year ago and came out in favor of online poker today. This is the voice of Las Vegas and Atlantic City Casinos in Washington DC and they can stuff some pockets… err grease some wheels, err make nice campaign donations. But still you will find dogs tugging on bones in different directions - it would seem at first anyway. Really it is all pointed to one conclusion and that is the outright illegalization of online gaming as we know it. Hail Caesar!
The corporations that own well over 80% of the Las Vegas Strip are Caesars and MGM. They own all the hotel casinos that come to your mind and they want a piece of online action, in fact they probably want it all.
There is a 'grass roots movement' called Fair Play USA that was actually funded by these two mega corps (according to the Press of Atlantic City) whose stated goal is to define the law in relation to online gaming and have it enforced. They seem capable of crafting those laws for the big boys (who will of course be the only ones allowed to play) because the hired guns for this outfit are the former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge - and the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh.
They seem to be telling us that the only way to make online poker safe is to bust all the casinos serving the US today.
News like this sketches us a pretty fair picture of the future as it only becomes more refined with time. Poker first - who could argue with the Code of Conduct presented by the AGA? It is sponsored by the same people who will bring AC and Vegas into our living rooms and solves all the problems people complain about; an effective consumer protection system, problem gambling, under aged gambling, money laundering and the ability to identify and prosecute illegal operators and people trying to play from restricted jurisdictions (which includes many US cities and States.)
Beyond the lukewarm diversion of espousing to be a poker advocacy group it doesn't take much to see another motive of the 'Fair Play USA' folks. Their manifesto's first articles read,
"Strengthen the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 to unambiguously eliminate illegal Internet gambling."
"Provide tools to crack down on unlicensed foreign operators who do not comply with U.S. law; removing U.S. banks as the enforcers under UIGEA and empowering law enforcement to shut down illegal operators."
That's all she wrote folks - they come in purporting to be pro-poker but they are out to make all 'unsanctioned' Internet Gambling illegal. The laws are not ambiguous, the court rulings spanning over 50 years are not ambiguous - they come to make it illegal and to set the stage for the big boys to monopolize the market, beginning with poker. But it's all good, they were bought and paid for fair and square.
It is mind boggling to look into individual State's attempts to deal with this issue and it really isn't that complicated if you take away commercial interests and the agendas of those who would wish to legislate morality. Whatever collateral issues are raised it really comes down to personal choice. Massachusetts dropped a paragraph or two into a 160+ page gambling bill that got everyone excited about the possibility of licensing online poker there. It doesn't stand a chance in committee and isn't that important if it survives to the Governors signature.
Even in the District of Columbia where a bill was passed allowing certain online gambling, two council members are working to have it repealed and the D.C. Lottery Commission hasn't even held public hearings on it yet because of all the uproar.
There's been some activity on the part of U.S. Digital Gaming, "the nation's first company created specifically to legalize and operate regulated Internet gambling" in coalition building including presenting a forum in conjunction with the Los Angeles Business Journal. They seem to want to make California the 'gateway' for all legalized online gambling in the US but they are active out of State as well and will be a name to pay attention to in the near future. Some of their innovations include a 'gaming license' for players that includes your personal info. Not bad for a Silicon Valley software developer (who happen to have poker client software.)
Back to the sketch, same as it ever was. No casino that has operated serving casino games to the US after the UIGEA of 2006 came into law in will be able to get a license. There will probably be a requirement of the games being served from a land based casino with regulatory agency oversight - Ladbrokes, 32Red, etc. will not be allowed because of that requirement. Rogue Casinos will continue to operate for awhile (to include the solid honest casinos of today) and the feds will beef up financial institutions reporting requirements to include all gift card purchases and foreign transactions.
People will gamble, it's a fact of life and it's time for the government at all levels to simply accept this and stop interfering. It would be so simple to enact a law addressing the current online reality and let the big boys play by those rules. But it aint gonna happen. Never was going to. These are the days of wine and roses, so enjoy!