Permanent Prohibition: Reid Efforts Dead for 2012
Online poker prohibition in the U.S. is here to stay. This is the reality the poker world is left to face after Senator Harry Reid conceded last week that his ambition to legalize online poker at the federal level during the lame duck legislative session has expired. "We have simply run out of time in this legislative calendar," said Reid in a statement.
Reid made similar efforts in the same legislative window in 2010 where, for a moment, it appeared as if a true glimmer of hope existed for online poker to gain legal status nationwide. Instead, that 11th hour effort failed to congeal. Four months later, American poker players were dealt the worst blow imaginable when the U.S. Department of Justice targeted online poker rooms ushering in what has since been an era of prohibition on the game. While some unreputable operators continue to compete for American dollars in the online poker arena, the music stopped in the U.S. the moment an FBI seizure letter replaced the standard homepage at PokerStars.
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No Reason for Hope
Harry Reid says that online poker "will be a priority" for he and fellow Senator from Nevada Dean Heller in the new legislative session in 2013. These are hollow words from a man who lacks the political clout to impose meaningful dialogue on a subject as unimportant as online poker in the national discourse. Reid says he has the votes to push poker legislation through the Senate; it remains for him a priority to appease the casino overlords who helped him secure his job for another six years during his 2010 reelection bid. But in truth, online poker is a priority for Reid like complying with U.S. Justice Department wishes is a priority for operators still servicing American players. There are too many important things on Reid's radar, including now a gun control debate in Washington through which he must delicately balance his allegiance as a "true champion" of the National Rifle Association, for it to be reasonable to expect him to lead change in the online poker industry. He has shown himself to be ineffective on this matter and there is scant reason to hope this will change.
This is certainly not new news for the poker world. Since the passage of the UIGEA in 2006, rarely has there been even slight justification for hope that online poker will become legal in all 50 U.S. states. Reid, to his credit, was quick to make sure there was nothing worth getting one's hopes up about during this go-around of lame duck legislating.
Embrace the State-by-State Misery
The future of online poker in the U.S. will be one characterized by years or perhaps even decades of miserable legislative initiatives that take place on a state-by-state level. If legal online poker is important to you in the U.S., then you need to start caring whether states you probably don't even live in begin dialogues on online poker legislation in hopes that maybe, just maybe, four years from now the state you live in might opt-in to their legal poker framework. There is no glory on the poker player side of this legislative fight.
If you have the energy for it, then throw your hopes behind outcomes like New Jersey legalizing online poker and Nevada deciding to encourage other states to opt-in to their legalized online poker network. Oh, and also don't forget to root for the heavy hand U.S. Justice Department to stay at bay while the lightly-populated Nevada tries to establish itself as the online poker mecca on American soil. Because before Nevada online poker can expand its offerings to your state, there's no saying that an ambitious prosecutor or legislator won't try to make a name for themselves by bringing a halt to or in some way complicating Nevada's ambitions. The glass-half-full version of this story requires one to hope that Nevada's online poker market blossoms nicely and causes federal regulators to intervene in helping to lay the framework for what will inevitably become a nationwide market. That'll only take about a decade or so to pan out.
Indeed, the online poker outlook in the U.S. is grim. When the lame duck legislative efforts of 2010 came up short, the poker world was able to rally around the notion that maybe the same approach would work in 2012. We didn't even get a good sweat.
If you're an American and online poker is your game, you're in the wrong country.