Lame Duck Congress Could Propose Poker-Only Passage – Why Poker Players Should Hope That Doesn’t Happen

In late 2012, a late year poker-friendly congressional proposal made it as far as backroom discussions. The idea was that, in the wake of the Department of Justice giving the go-ahead for individual states to legalize online poker, Congress would legalize Internet poker nationwide. And that sounds like a great thing for virtual poker players across the United States. At the time the Poker Players Alliance, the largest nonprofit pro-poker organization in the US, was totally behind the proposal made by the Senate Minority Whip at that time, Jon Kyl of Arizona, and Nevada Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In what looked like a devastating blow to legalized online poker in the USA, that proposal never made it any further than closed-door posturing. And actually that might have been a good thing, as the proposed legislation would have simultaneously outlawed all forms of online casino gambling while giving the go-ahead for Internet poker. Here is why that matters.

Why Internet Poker Needs Casino Gambling to Succeed

In August, the great state of Nevada generated $742,000 in online poker revenue from its 3 virtual poker properties, which include both regular games and Vegas online poker tournaments. The licensed offshore poker sites included in our Las Vegas online poker reviews are not factored into the revenue figures.  That is the total take of their online gambling industry, since the Silver State does not offer legalized Internet casino gambling to its residents. In comparison, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced that August Internet gaming revenue totaled $10.5 million, with $2.2 million generated by online poker. Nevada claims just under 3 million residents, while New Jersey is home to 9 million. Factoring for population, the online poker numbers are just about equal. However, the $8 million in extra revenue generated by Internet casino gaming in New Jersey means much-needed advertising and marketing cash which can be used to promote Internet poker. Poker is part of the overall iGaming industry in NJ, so poker benefits from Internet slots and casino gaming. This illustrates the dire need for poker backers to also support Internet casino gambling, and John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance understands this all too well.

PPA – From “Poker Only” Supporter to Protester

As mentioned above, Executive Director John Pappas, along with the rest of the Poker Players Alliance, was totally behind the 2012 legislation which proposed to outlaw Internet casino gaming while blessing virtual poker. Pappas is 2 years wiser these days, and has flip-flopped his opinion on the matter. What has caused Pappas and the millions of PPA members to hope that this year’s lame-duck Congress does not pass a poker only iGaming piece of legislation? The answer lies in the numbers above. As a standalone product, real money online poker in the United States has not proven to be the cash cow that was hoped for. But as part of an overall Internet gambling industry which gives customers plenty of choices, poker benefits from the overall boost in revenue, even though it is not the most popular real money online gambling activity. Pappas remembers his backing of the 2012 poker-only proposal. But he says the PPA is prepared to “fight tooth and nail to protect the interests of poker players” by boycotting any non-casino gambling legal poker legislation.

Does Your Vote As an Internet Poker Player Matter in November? You May Be Surprised at the Answer

A lame-duck Congress occurs when defeated members hold office for a short period of time before the new Congressional session is convened. This year, that could or could not be good for online poker in the United States. Right now the Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives. The Democrats control the Senate, and if the November elections keep this contentious division as is, a lame-duck proposal by one party or the other could include poker-only legislation as is related to online gambling. But if the Republicans can find a way to grab control of the Senate from the Democrats, they would not likely put forward any lame-duck proposal. This is because with unilateral control guaranteed in 2015, they would simply wait until then and pass whatever bills they desired. This may not be a good poker forecast for 2015, as leading Internet gambling opponent and billionaire Sheldon Adelson has made significant contributions to several politicians who may reward him next year with anti-gambling legislation. But for the time being a Republican House and Senate would virtually guarantee no lame-duck poker-only legislation.