Monday, September 5, 2016

CA's #ipoker Failures are Telling

While Washington State's legislature simply ignored our issue, the last biennium saw a real dogfight in California over internet poker. That dogfight ended in a tie for the combatants, with no deal being hammered out between stakeholders, and no bill getting through the legislature. The problem with this is that the real victims of this dogfight are left ignored and forgotten.

Is the reason for discussing internet poker legislation to allow foreign operators a new market? Or is it to assure Tribal gaming interests get their fair share of any potential pie? Because these appear to be the only two sides being discussed, the only two sides being heard.

I put it to you that neither are valid reasons. There is only one reason to look to regulation for online poker, and that reason is to protect those who wish to play online poker.

I viewed the CA debate as the quintessential special interest lobbying duel, where well heeled gaming interests fought for their bottom lines, an all or nothing approach from both sides that guaranteed continuation of the status quo. That status quo hurts neither of them, but it leaves the players, the people, vulnerable. It leaves them still playing on unregulated, often sketchy sites that contribute nothing to the general fund.

Meanwhile here at home, Washington State has been continuing the status quo for ten years now. No, passing a law didn't make online poker go away. It cost us a few sites, the larger and most reputable of course, but left us plenty of other options. It's more difficult, but we can still play. The legislature didn't solve the problem they made online poker out to be in 2006, They simply passed a law, patted themselves on the back, and then turned a blind eye to the issue.

All of the reasons raised for passing a felony prohibition of online poker remain today. Nothing has changed fundamentally. Some players quit, but those were the casual players to which the game meant little, and whose risk from online gambling was negligible. Those aren't the players the demagogues were worried about. All that was effectively prohibited by the 2006 statute was our state's gaming interests being able to offer online games today. Online poker sites are no threat to in state casinos. Rather, they have been handed the market gift wrapped by the legislature. Prohibition and a blind eye never solved anything.

We want #waleg to open those eyes and see there is a better way.