While some have bemoaned the lack of progress towards regulated online poker in the U.S. since the repeal of PASPA, it´s actually been good news for players.
Yesterday saw the first anniversary of the Supreme Court repealing PASPA – an event it was hoped by some would result in a massive wave of sports betting legislation that would include measures to regulate online poker. Sadly for those optimists, the wave of sports betting legislation failed to materialize; and, to date, only eight states have regulated sports betting.
Of those eight states, one (Nevada) already had regulated sports betting, three had already passed legislation in preparation for the Supreme Court´s decision, and one only allows sports betting under a tribal compact. Even with my ropey math, that means just three states have passed sports betting bills in a year – and one of those only got the Governor´s signature last Monday.
What about Regulated Online Poker?
In the past twelve months, online poker has largely been ignored by lawmakers. Only West Virginia has passed a law that makes a provision for regulated online poker – but the prospects for a regulated playing environment may be thwarted by DOJ enforcement action if interstate compacts are prohibited. West Virginia simply doesn´t have the population to support a ring-fenced market.
The one bright-ish spark on the horizon is that – more than eighteen months after legislation was passed – regulated online poker in Pennsylvania may actually get the green light on July 15. The official launch of the ring-fenced and highly taxed market is still subject to the satisfactory testing of payment processing services, geolocation services, and responsible gambling measures.
Examining Comparative Performances
To explain how post-PASPA inactivity is good news for online poker players, you have to examine the comparative performances of the regulated and unregulated markets over the past year. Whereas the regulated market has seen a 10% decline in player numbers (and a 6% decline in tax revenues), cash game players in the unregulated market have increased by 10%.
Although cash game traffic can be an unreliable source from which to determine trends (because traffic monitoring sites don´t account for fast-fold poker games, Sit & Go games, or online poker tournaments), it´s also noticeable that operators in regulated states are reducing their guaranteed tournament prize pools (i.e. NJCOOP), while operators in the unregulated market are increasing theirs.
How is the Inactivity Good News?
Had more states passed legislation, a larger number of players would have been trapped in declining regulated markets, and the unregulated market may not have grown as much as it has – although USA-friendly poker sites operating in the unregulated market are not US-exclusive, and they could have seen an influx of players from other countries as well.
Regardless of the reasons for the unregulated market growing, players eligible to play at USA-friendly poker sites enjoy more liquidity, more rewards, and more opportunities than their compatriots playing in regulated environments. They also have the opportunity to bet on sports from their mobile devices – an activity prohibited in many states that have regulated sports betting.
My Message to Lawmakers – Keep Up the Inactivity
Consequently, if I lived in a state threatening to regulate online gambling, I would be hoping for the legislation to fail. Most regulated online poker sites only see meaningful traffic during peak hours so the passage of the legislation would remove my freedom to play whenever I want and – due to many operators being charged unreasonable tax rates – reduce the likelihood of enjoying a profitable session.
Therefore, my message to lawmakers is keep up the inactivity, and if you must regulate something, keep your hands off of online poker. I´m very happy with the status quo, and I guess a lot of other poker players share my views – otherwise they would have told you by now.