Online poker regulation has found its way onto a number of bills over the years. Some of these proposals sought to outlaw casino games, while at the same time permitting online poker. This includes the 2012 Reid/Kyl bill.
In 2014, USPoker reached out to three Nevada politicians for comment on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. This bill proposed banning all forms of online gambling, including poker.
Rep. Joe Heck, Sen. Dean Heller, and Sen. Harry Reid showed support for online poker, while at the same time stating opposition to house-banked games offered over the Internet. Online casino games are a pariah Nevada politicians do not seem to want to be associated with, while at the same time poker is considered acceptable to them.
Las Vegas Sands is an outspoken opponent of online gambling. The company admittedly sat on the sidelines in 2013 as Nevada legalized online poker, according to testimony recently submitted to the Nevada Legislature.
This author is a proponent of online poker. At the same time, I agree with the consensus that online casino games are undesirable. That does not mean that the activity should be outlawed.
The house is not a home
While skill can prevail in online poker over a reasonable sample size, there is no amount of variance that will make an online casino player a winner. Whether it is video poker, blackjack, or any other casino game, the house will always win in the end if the pay table is less than 100 percent.
Online poker players should be especially concerned about the inclusion of house-banked games. These games take cash directly out of the poker economy without any perceived benefit. There are reasons online poker players should reluctantly accept the regulation of online casino games.
Poker rooms in live casinos are often a loss leader. Poker rooms provide a service that rarely makes money. Poker tables are considered an amenity that draws players. This concept carries over to the Internet.
The overhead is lower at online poker rooms. That still does not make it a profitable niche by itself.
In March, New Jersey online poker revenue was just 17 percent of the total interactive gaming revenue in the month. Poker sites raked $2.2 million. Casino games won $10.9 million during the same period.
The poker revenue by itself could not support the interactive gaming industry. The casino revenue provides marketing funds for the sites and incentive to continue product development.
What’s in it for online poker players?
Poker players should also support casino game regulation because it provides protection to those players. That money is held securely by the casino site in a regulated market. Many of these companies also offer online poker.
That money may trickle over into the poker rooms. Even if that only happens with a small fraction of the deposited funds, it is better than a site like Lock Casino stealing every penny of it.
The ability to offer casino games is very attractive to potential operators. This includes both brick and mortar and software providers. Allowing these games will increase support for the cause among gaming corporations.
The poker-only camp is a narrow group that is in a losing position halfway between the antigambling groups and those that support the regulation of all online gambling.
Opposition has points
This is not to say that online casino opponents are wrong. There are many concerns about these games. They are unbeatable and eventually all players that deposit will lose everything.
It is important for these players to understand that it is a form of entertainment. Problem gambling features must be easily accessible.
I am personally opposed to online casino games. I feel like they serve no legitimate purpose. Poker, fantasy sports, and sports betting are beatable games with a large degree of skill. No amount of skill can ever overcome the house edge on most house-banked games.
The problem is that these games are impossible to ban. Offshore operators will continue to spread these games, regardless of whether federal or state laws prohibit it, and whether online poker receives an exemption from such a ban.
It is better for casino players to get dealt fair games verified by experienced gaming commissions and for funds to be held by licensed companies. That way the players that experience positive short term variance can get paid.
Some of that cash will inevitably end up at the poker tables networked with the casino. At the very least, it will not end up in the pocket of operators that never intended to pay winners in the first place.
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