PokerStars Pro Somerville Takes To CNBC To Talk Online Poker Legalization

Dustin Gouker August 10, 2016
Somerville online poker CNBC

The effort to regulate US online poker got a rare moment in the sun on Tuesday, as PokerStars pro Jason Somerville gave an interview on the subject on CNBC.

Somerville: Regulate it

Appearing on CNBC’s Power Lunch, Somerville was advocating, not surprisingly, for legalization and regulation of online poker.

The poker industry probably can’t find a more well-spoken advocate to speak on its behalf on television. The poker pro has a wide following in the US and around the world by streaming his online poker sessions via Twitch.

“Online poker exists in a regulated environment in the majority of other countries around the world ,and it’s great to see states like New Jersey take a forward-thinking approach on this, taxing and regulating,” Somerville said.

He presented the consumer protection argument that has gained some traction this year.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already playing online poker, but they’re playing on unsafe, unregulated sites, where they don’t know the games are square, and they don’t know their money is safe,” Somerville said.

He also pointed out the hypocrisy of the US, where a wide range of gambling options are available legally, while online poker is not:

I hear from these Americans, who say ‘Why can’t I play a $1 buy-in poker tournament from the comfort of my home, while I am able to bet on horse races, buy lottery tickets, play daily fantasy?'” Somerville said. “Why is poker not being treating the same way as those industries that we’re taxing and regulating?”

You can watch parts of the segments below:

On the other side of the online poker debate…

Rev. James Butler, from the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, was speaking against the idea of online gambling in the CNBC segment.

Butler trotted out the argument of “negative social consequences” associated with online gambling, even though many European and rest-of-the-world countries have regulated iGaming without the world coming to an end.

Butler also argued that governments — both state and federal — should take action to stop online gambling sites. That is not something that has happened in a meaningful way since Black Friday in 2011. That’s not to mention that the efficacy of shutting down online gambling sites is in question, when new ones can crop up in their place.

Who can legalize in the near future?

The segment on CNBC comes as California is poised to take action on a bill that would regulate online poker in the state. A vote on legislation could come as soon as Thursday, although its chances of getting to the governor before the legislature adjourns at the end of the month is in doubt.

Other states where online gambling regulation could happen within the next year:

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