It’s no secret that the online gambling landscape in the US has changed dramatically over the last few years. The Obama administration made a decision that has opened the doors for individual states to explore iGaming initiatives. As a result, poker and casino gambling is available in a regulated New Jersey market. Nevada poker players can hop online and play against other players from the comforts of home. And players in Delaware can do the same.
The regulated poker market exists in tandem with an unlicensed market. There are all sorts of poker sites that run in the US from offshore. Many of them lack the player base to make playing worth it, though there are some exceptions.
Online casinos are a bit different. Big names like Slots of Vegas operate in the US market and remain open to US players. Unregulated sites continue to operate because the US government clarified that the Wire Act of 1961 applies to sports betting, not online poker and casino games.
But a bill introduced last month into Congress wants to change all that and reverse that decision. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the bill would ultimately once again ban online gaming of all types.
If that happens—if the bill is successful—the US will continue to miss out on big tax revenue. A recent estimate pegs mobile gambling on smartphones and tablets as a $100 billion industry by 2017. Another study says that if gambling were legal nationwide, Americans could end up spending $4.3 billion during the first year of legalization alone.
Obviously, we support online gambling, but we agree the United States needs to get their stuff together and figure out what their laws are. Even courts within the union don’t agree with one another. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agrees that the Wire Act is strictly designed to prohibit sports betting. District level courts, however, have said it applies to all Internet gambling. No one can agree.
The Poker Players Alliance has already spoken out against the proposed bills. Their argument, which we agree with, is that regulation is a smarter approach than prohibition. When you legalize something, you can tax it. When you ban it, you drive it underground.
We’ll be watching closely to see what happens in the coming months. And we’d like to remind all our American friends that 2014 is an election year for all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of 100 seats in the US Senate. Happy voting!