Will online poker ever be legal, taxed, and regulated in America? Lots of hubbub lately has built up around whether or not online poker will be a taxed and regulated entity on the state or federal level sometime in the next couple of years. Criminal charges are starting to come down for men indicted in last year’s Black Friday online poker shutdowns and arrests, so it may seem a strange time to be talking about legalization.
Believe it or not, there are some who don’t believe Americans will ever play legal online poker. Amid all the gossip about what state legislatures are trying to start up state-regulated online poker games, there is a healthy minority who refuse to believe that America will ever get over its conservative politics enough to enjoy new tax revenue income from online poker and casino gaming.
Their arguments are mostly based on an old understanding of American morality. Online poker laws exist explicitly in only 8 of 50 American states, but that isn’t enough to convince those who say legal online poker in America is a pipe dream.
Those who study gaming law are warning that the Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act is not permanent and may be withdrawn from the record at any time. Yes, the DoJ’s latest interpretation of the Wire Act have paved the way for state governments to offer their own gambling sites, or to tax and regulate online poker within their territories, these entities must stay alert, and watch for changes to American opinion, as they can come at any time. There are huge legislative and regulatory hoops to be jumped through, and the transition is not likely to be pretty.
So far, the American Congress has not made any sort of move towards legalizing or regulating the online poker industry at the national level, though there are two proposed bills pending. Most of the focus on American online poker legalization comes from the state level. Though many states are already hard at work to collect millions of dollars in tax revenue generated by online poker sites, it is unclear what that would look like or if the federal government would even allow it.
As for what specific problems may arise in the fight for online poker regulation: expect a big pushback from social conservatives. Many of them are bankrolled by entities with investments in traditional gaming venues like land-based casinos and tribal gaming, but these candidates and sitting politicians won’t mention that in their statements. They’ll hide their fears of lost revenue in a package that makes it look as though they have a moral conviction about providing online poker at the state level.
The fight for legal online poker is far from over. Expect many changes between today and the day that the first state-regulated poker site opens. Poker players need to band together, write to our politicians, and prepare for a long but valuable fight for the game we love.
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