In a recent article warning of the dangers of unregulated online poker sites, I briefly touched on my belief that online poker advocates calling for regulation in the U.S. should be very discerning when it comes to the content they share.
As a member of several pro-regulation groups, I find they are often sharing links from content sites that promote offshore online poker rooms serving the United States.
Even the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the chief lobbying group for legal U.S. online poker, has a habit of sharing links to sites promoting unregulated online poker sites to U.S. players, simply because they like the message.
While the message might be great, we also have to make sure we are considering the messenger.
Quality is one thing, context is another
This doesn’t suggest these websites and their writers are necessarily producing shoddy content, or content not worth sharing.
It’s not the authors’ fault that their employers are still driving traffic to unregulated online poker sites operating in the U.S., but if we want to affect change industry-wide, we need to apply pressure to affiliates that promote offshore sites.
I’m not even calling for a boycott of these websites. Many produce terrific content and have talented writers on staff.
What I’m suggesting is online poker advocates do the following:
- When two options present themselves (such as two similar articles on the same online gaming hearing) the site promoting regulated online gaming sites should be given priority.
- When it comes to regulatory news, look to the following websites for information, as these are the sites that have decided to forego the more lucrative business model of promoting unregulated U.S.-facing online poker rooms: PokerFuse, Bluff, PokerNews, PocketFives, USPoker and FlushDraw.
Why supporters of regulation should care
With the advent of the social media age, information is shared and disseminated at lightning speed. This context breeds several negative outcomes.
Problem #1: Rewriters reduce rewards for quality work
Unfortunately, the person responsible for breaking the story doesn’t always get the credit.
Sometimes another organization, with perhaps a larger social media footprint, is able to usurp the story by doing a quick rewrite (which can sometimes border on outright plagiarism) and using a catchy title.
From my own experience I can tell you that likes, shares, and retweets do not necessarily mean people are reading the story – in poker, it’s often the headline that is being shared.
When a news story is retweeted and “liked” by the PPA, it tends to go “poker viral.” The problem is, the PPA and its staunch supporters don’t do a good enough job of trying to find the original article, or casting a discerning eye on the website they are essentially promoting.
I mention the PPA largely because of their genre-leading reach and influence. I’ll also note that PokerScout.com’s highly respected article aggregation also falls victim to this from time to time, as do various industry analysts and observers.
This is why we as a community need to do more research into links before we share them.
Far too often, clear rewrites of other people’s work are selected for promotion instead of the original article.
If we want better journalism in poker, we should reward the person doing the legwork and breaking the story, not the people who have a good SEO team.
Problem #2: Sending traffic to unregulated sites hampers progress of regulation
Here is my question to online poker advocates: Do you want regulation or not?
You may not realize this, but sharing a story from a site that promotes CarbonPoker, AmericasCardroom, BetOnline and other unregulated U.S.-facing online poker rooms steers players away from regulated sites such as WSOP.com and BorgataPoker.com.
It also damages the affiliates who have decided to forego revenue streams stemming from unregulated sites in order to advance online poker regulation in the U.S. with an eye towards future revenue.
So, every time you share an article from a site promoting unregulated U.S.-facing online poker rooms instead of a site promoting regulated U.S. online poker rooms, you are potentially sending a player to BetOnline.com instead of WSOP.com and hurting the regulated market.
Right now this is a relatively small problem, and only an issue in three states (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware), as the rest of the U.S. has no choice but to patronize unregulated sites if they want to play online poker.
However, as more and more states regulate online poker (California, Pennsylvania) this could be a huge issue for regulated online poker sites and affiliates who would have to compete with unregulated sites and affiliates capable of promising the moon – and more often than not, not delivering.
If we want affiliates to switch from promoting unregulated sites to regulated sites, we need to give them a good reason to do so.
With this in mind, if you’re an advocate for regulated online poker in the U.S., here are the two questions you should ask yourself before sharing a poker news item:
- What website broke the story/has an original take on the topic?
- Is the hosting website a site I want to promote?
It shouldn’t take you much longer than a couple minutes to make sure you’re sharing the proper story and not compromising your advocacy efforts.