Why US regulation of Online Poker cannot succeed without Internet Casinos

For the last 8 years now, ever since the UIGEA was passed in 2006, the American online poker community has banned together in support of federal regulations. However, their support is generally limited to a poker-only regulatory scheme. It’s becoming more and more apparent that online poker may not be able to succeed in the US, legally or fiscally, without parallel internet casino gambling.

The threat of the lame duck session in Congress passing Sheldon Adelson’s multi-billion dollar backing of RAWA – the Restoration of America’s Wire Act that would create a blanket ban of internet gambling across the nation – has been suppressed for now. However, the 114th Congress will convene on January 3rd, 2015, and there’s always the chance they will concede to Adelson’s munificently-weighted push for RAWA. That means if online poker players want to get iPoker regulated on a federal level, they need to ban together now in a way that puts a realistically positive stamp on both online poker and casino gaming.

There are multiple factors that necessitate the linking of the two. As was pointed out last week by Earl Burton of NJOnlinePoker.com, the Poker Players Alliance isn’t nearly so strong as it may appear. It takes an enormous mass of supporters to garner the attention of Congress. Yes, the PPA is 1-million strong, but the majority of advocacy groups across the nation who make any notable impact on government legislation have a much larger backing. For example, PETA has over 3 million, the NRA has over 5 million and AARP is around 37 million.

Clearly, the PPA needs to add to its numbers, and what better way than to join forces with supporters of online casino gambling. The number one ally would be the IGC (Interactive Gaming Council), the largest advocate of online gambling in the US. The IARG (International Association of Gaming Regulators) would be a key asset as well, able to document and present research on the efficiency of regulation in other jurisdictions. An alliance with the AGA (American Gaming Association) would be ideal if only the organization could be convinced that online gambling is still worth backing, despite the opposition of just two (out of 65) of its members, casino magnates Adelson and Steve Wynn.

But the number of supporters isn’t the only number that must be observed. Looking at the revenue generated by New Jersey and Delaware – the only two states to have regulated both online poker and casino gambling on an intrastate basis – internet casino revenue has been substantially higher than peer-to-peer gaming.

In October of 2014, Delaware’s three iGaming websites generated a total of $101,958.92 from casino style gaming (slots, table games, etc.), but just $28,509.73 from online poker rake and fees. In New Jersey, the results have been better (thanks to a 10x higher population), but the margin is still there. NJ online poker brought in $1,056,711 in October, while all ‘other authorized games’ generated more than double that amount, $2,183,244.

Realistically, if online poker were to remain an intrastate activity, and casino gambling were removed from the equation, these states would not look nearly so kindly upon the legitimacy of their authorization, and neither will other low-to-mid-populace states who are still weighing the option of legalization. Put it all together, and it’s obvious that online poker and casino gambling need to go hand in hand. If all individual supporters were to ban together now, it just might be enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction before Congress declares ‘Game Over’.

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