Was the U.S. Poker Ban a Mistake?: A Case for Regulation Over Banishment
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2015-01-25, by JTringerThere are a lot of things to love about the United States, but there are many approaches to important issues that could be improved.
For the "land of the free", a country that derives its identity from the supposed freedom its civilians are intended to have, the U.S. is incredibly trigger happy when it comes to banning controversial activities and substances.
Alcohol Prohibition in the United States
It's crazy to think that there was a time where alcoholic drinks were banned, but that's exactly what happened from 1920 to 1933.
The government banned alcohol sales, production, and distribution of alcohol, despite only a relatively small fraction of powerful people actually wanting to ban alcohol. There was no health or safety reason for this decision, just a crusading movement, mainly by Protestants of the time.
What was the result? A man named Al Capone, leader of organized crime saw an opportunity to capitalize. All prohibition did was drive money into the hands of the mafia.
Sort of like how Sheldon Adelson, an owner of many casinos, is lobbying to keep online poker illegal in order to stifle competition.
Once the government legalized alcohol again and regulated sales, tax revenue shot up.
The U.S. makes over $6 billion per year from taxing alcohol sales. Isn't that better than giving money to those with selfish and unethical motives?
The War on Drugs
History always repeats itself, and we can see other modern examples of where banning substances people want simply does not work.
The war on drugs has been a complete and utter failure, there's not much arguing that.
The real problem is prohibiting access to substances, like marijuana, that aren't a danger to other people. While it may be negative to some users, much like some poker players are gambling addicts, that doesn't mean it can't be a beneficial thing for many people.
If people are truly free, they should have a choice.
Contrast marijuana prohibition with alcohol prohibition of the past and there are many similarities. The ban has driven money into the hands of drug cartels, groups of vicious and dangerous criminals.
Since marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, it's had a huge impact on the revenue of cartels. Even better, the government can provide assistance to those who have drug problems easier, and tax revenue for the state reached 8 million in July of 2014 and have kept growing since.
Regulation equals better support for those with problems, and more revenue for the government.
Poker Prohibition in the United States
From the birth of online poker, it grew rapidly in the United States. It was an amazing way to play a fun game for a few dollars and connect with people all over the world.
All was fine until 2006, when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was passed. For a while, this has no real effect to players, so much so that it went unnoticed by all except the very vigilant.
Then Black Friday occurred on April 14th, 2011, an event that will always be remembered in U.S. poker history. The department of justice, under the justification of UIGEA seized funds and domains of the three leading poker platforms, including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The event also led to the bankruptcy (although not the only factor) of Full Tilt, and the closure of Ultimate Bet.
This left poker players in the United States with three options:
1. Move to another country like Canada: Many professionals decided on this option.
2. Quit playing: Most hobbyists simply stopped playing, which benefits no one.
3. Play on sketchy sites: Sites with questionable operations sprung up offering to accept Americans. Players faced immense issues with deposits and withdrawals.
At this point, poker was the new alcohol of the 1920's.
Why Regulation Makes More Sense Than Banning Online Poker
One of the main arguments against online poker is that it will increase underage gambling and hurt those with gambling issues. There have been many studies completed on legalizing a banned substance (alcohol and marijuana) and rate of underage usage. They have found that after legalizing the substance, the rate of underage usage either stays the same or declines.
As we've already seen (doesn't anyone learn from history?), regulating online poker would only benefit those with online gambling issues. The government could set up programs with the tax generated from the games to actually make a positive difference.
That brings us to another benefit, the tax generation. Online poker has the potential to be a massive industry in the United States given how popular it was before it was all but outlawed a few years ago. The government could collect a substantial amount of revenue and use it for a variety of beneficial projects and services. Online poker in the U.S. would bring in an estimated $2 billion a year in tax revenues.
While some states are slowly introducing regulated poker, it's time for the rest of the United States to catch up. After all, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat 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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