Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2008) in Poker Player newspaper.
Today, our questions relate to online poker. Despite current legislation aimed at preventing United States players from participating in worldwide poker games, poker’s future is online. That doesn’t mean real-world poker rooms won’t prosper. In fact, over the new few decades they’ll become much more common than they are today. But most poker activity will be online.
So, let’s get started with this short two-question interview. As always in this series, I get to ask the questions and answer them. Hey, it’s my entry.
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Question 22: When will online poker return to the United States?
Actually, it never left.
Current laws make it illegal for real-money online poker rooms (and other online gambling sites) to headquarter in the United States. All the major Internet poker rooms are licensed in and operate from foreign soil. They are governed by regulations, pay taxes, and act as respectable businesses.
The United States has never made an effort to arrest or inhibit poker players from participating online. And it’s unclear whether playing is even illegal in most states.
Clearly, most players don’t think of themselves as criminals and don’t believe they’re morally wrong when they take a seat at a poker table on the Internet. Legislation is aimed primarily at discouraging online play by putting the burden on financial institutions to prevent money from getting to those tables. This has partially succeeded. But many online poker rooms continue to welcome United States customers — including Doyle’s Room, FullTilt, PokerStars, Ultimate Bet, Bodog, and Absolute Poker.
The question is, really: When will the legislative madness stop? Truly, it is madness for our elected officials to act as our parents, instead of as our servants. This is precisely what they do when they try to prevent Americans from participating, while players from around the world legally sit at the tables, honoring our poker tradition.
The answer to when online poker will fully return to the United States is soon. You just need to visualize.
The exact scenario is cloudy, but it’s hard to see a future 10 years from now when Americans are still leaving empty seats in the worldwide poker arena. There will be too many opportunities for sanity to seep in.
We’re living in an age where increasing tolerance for diverse lifestyles and activities surrounds us. In an era where adult videos permeate, where state-sponsored lotteries are hyped, and where citizens are demanding less and less interference in their social lives, it’s hard to imagine that a little thing called poker will be forever forbidden. A ban like that doesn’t fit in. And it simply won’t endure. Trust me.
Question 23: Who’s really against online poker?
Almost no one.
Some politicians have sought to gain favor with a perceived powerful minority that is adamantly against online poker. They’re catering to a ghost they imagine, but that doesn’t exist. I know. I live in the Bible Belt — on a lake near Branson, Missouri, just a mile north of Arkansas.
Yes, I’m surrounded by fundamentalism and more churches than you can count on a 12-mile drive to the Wal-mart Supercenter. But these are friendly people who live and let live.
So, I began to ask: Do you care if I play poker online? So far, dozens of people don’t care and no one has expressed an opinion against online poker. It’s a non-issue.
In fact, out here there exist Texas hold ’em nights at bars and restaurants everywhere. Nobody pickets. Nobody complains. Nobody is shocked. There is simply no outcry against poker. So, clearly you offend more voters than you cater to by banning poker.
And it’s primarily the fact that, politically, there’s little to gain and much to lose by pretending to be anti-poker that means this short-lived blip in poker prohibition will fade. By being opposed to poker — online or in the real-world — politicians put themselves on the wrong side of an issue with no votes to gain.
Why waste energy doing that? No reason. So, eventually, prohibition won’t continue. We’ll just look back on it as a brief period of historic silliness and ponder why it was. — MC