Today the Obama administration effectively shut down Internet poker in the United States by indicting 11 people including the founders of three of the largest sites. The crackdown makes almost no sense. Some form of gambling is allowed in all 50 states – many states like California allow poker rooms. I contend that two things are true about online poker: a) poker players will find a way to play poker online and b) the more the government cracks down on online poker sites the more corrupt the poker sites will become (only criminals will be left to run online poker sites).
Almost a decade ago I began watching, studying and playing poker. I read more than 15 poker books and half as many books on game theory. Mostly I played in LA and Vegas, but sometimes I would play in a card room here in Dallas and even once in the Aviation Club in Paris. I even tried my hand at online poker. I placed 74th in the Legends of Poker tournament at the Bicycle Casino in LA. Poker requires an enormous amount of concentration and attention to detail and I just didn’t have the stamina or the desire to play at the level I wanted to play at. By 2005 I decided I there were easier ways to make money – i.e. starting companies.
While I played around with online poker I was quite concerned that I might be a) playing against a bot or b) the online poker room was somehow cheating so I stayed away from the practice. I assumed that eventually the Federal government would get their act around to regulating and taxing online poker paving the way for recognized casino brands – like MGM to get into the business. Nevada does a great job regulating casinos and I figured that they would do similar job regulating online poker rooms. I was wrong. Instead of regulating online gambling the Federal government made it illegal to accept electronic payments for internet gambling in 2006.
Despite the law more than 15 million Americans play online poker for money. The current crackdown on PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker takes the three largest poker sites out of play. Major casinos like Wynn and Station Casinos have had to end their partnerships with these sites. The only guys left standing are the real crooks and as a result Americans are going to get cheated. Senator Alfonse D’Amato responded to the Obama administration’s decision by explaining, “Online poker is not a crime and should not be treated as such.”
I agree. The Federal government should get out of the regulation of online poker – leave it to the states to regulate.