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Commerce Casino Throws Poker World Under the Bus

THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2010-08-29, by Ozone, TwoGun

Last week, there was a lot of ruckus in the poker world about comments made by Commerce Casino board member Tom Malkasian to a Congressional committee in July regarding H.R. 2267. In his statements before Congress, Malkasian urged committee members to vote against the resolution that would lay the foundation for online poker to be legalized and regulated in the U.S. by saying, "I must testify in strong opposition to HR 2267 and urge Members of the Committee to vote against it, barring numerous and significant changes." The poker world was outraged upon learning of Malkasian's testimony and many top pros have threatened to boycott Commerce Casino which is home to America's largest poker room.

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A website called PlayersBeforeProfits.com is giving poker players the chance to sign a petition asking Commerce Casino to change their stance and come out in support of H.R. 2267. The petition states, "By testifying before Congress in opposition to HR 2267 -- where Commerce Casino allied itself with those seeking to ban online poker across the nation -- your organization demonstrated complete disregard for every poker player who has ever patronized your establishment."

The petition continues to say, "Poker players hate hypocrisy. So, we are particularly dismayed that while your testimony before the House Financial Services Committee criticized federal legislation and regulation of online poker, Commerce Casino is actively promoting legislation to create a segregated, California-only online poker network. That proposal would create a monopoly that would harm California's poker players by severely limiting the pool of players against whom they could play as well as the options for sites on which they could play. It could also set the stage for other states to follow suit, possibly resulting in a balkanized online poker world, where players across the nation would be limited in their choices of where and against whom they could play."

The poker world clearly has a right to be upset at the stance Commerce Casino has taken against this bill. For years, the Poker Players Alliance has lobbied Washington to pass legislation that would treat online poker as a legal, regulated activity. To have one of the largest casinos in the U.S. speak out against such legislation is certainly detrimental to the PPA's efforts.

In a response to the poker world regarding their outrage over his comments to Congress, Malkasian said, "The Poker Players Alliance is ignoring the grave threat that the federal and state legislation poses to everyday poker players. America's poker industry should be united in opposing the Frank and McDermott legislation and keeping American dollars at home." He continued, "If domestic card casinos do not defend themselves from offshore interests, we stand to lose not only revenue but also the loss of jobs."

These comments by Malkasian make one question if he even knows what he's talking about. The current status quo is that revenues generated by U.S. online poker players are heading to offshore interests. H.R. 2267 is actually detrimental to these offshore interests as it could potentially pave the way for U.S.-based online poker rooms, though this is not guaranteed under the current wording of the bill.

The only thing Malkasian got right in his testimony to Congress was telling them that expecting $42 billion in tax revenues over the course of ten years is based on, "false assumptions and conflicting representations." To put this in perspective, the average amount of tax revenues per year, $4.2 billion, is more than 40 times what Party Poker makes each year in net profit. Congress must think everyone in the U.S. will start playing real-money online poker if it becomes regulated. They would be lucky to get a tenth of that expected revenue over ten years.

It's hard to guess what motivated Commerce Casino to speak out against H.R. 2267. Perhaps they're holding out hope for a bill that would prevent existing, non-US based online poker rooms from accepting U.S. customers and instead would open the door for themselves to seize a chunk of the U.S. market share by starting their own online poker room. However, not only is that a huge longshot, but it's also quite stupid. Under the current legislation, they could probably start their own skin on the iPoker Network or something and not even have to hassle with creating an online poker room from scratch.

It's also possible that they're just afraid of change and think that Americans playing online poker is bad for their bottom online. That's very 2002 logic if they think that, though. While they're at it, they might as well buy Citigroup at $40 a share and support an invasion of Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam Hussein's hands.

If land-based cardrooms lobby against any bill that would legalize and regulate online poker, it would probably kill it, so you might as well join one of the 5,000+ people to sign the petition against Commerce's stance. Go ahead and boycott their poker room too. Heck, boycott the whole state of California while you're at it.

The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.

 


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