US Online Poker: Reading the Industry’s Major Players

It has been 12 months since online poker went live in certain US States, but as we head into 2015 the igaming landscape seems to be more uneven than ever. In between mismatched expectations, logistical problems and the ongoing debate around Sheldon Adelson and RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act), the community is struggling to decipher the next moves of the industry’s major players.

Although the outlook for US poker fans is far from bleak, there are still a number of debates for the industry. It’s almost impossible to predict the future (UIGEA virtually came out of nowhere), but it is possible to gain some sort of read on the game with some logical analysis of the situation. Far too often, poker writers have been quick to take a pessimistic view of the industry’s future and while some of their points may be valid, there’s also a lot of unnecessary scaremongering.

Major Players1by  eastcoastgambler99 Caption: American businessman Sheldon Adelson

In fact, when comparing Betfair Poker Europe and its US counterpart, you’ll see that there isn’t much difference on the face of things. With the US platform only being available to those in New Jersey, the amount of traffic is less on the latter. However, by simply comparing the two products in a vacuum you can forget this fact temporarily and remember that online poker sites are the same on both sides of the Atlantic and, for that reason, they harbor just as much potential.

However, as all poker players know, a pair of aces is only as good as its post-flop dynamics. Indeed, if your Ac As runs into a board showing 4h, 6c, 5h, 7h, 8d and you opponent is firing bullets at you, it’s probably a good sign that your hand is in trouble. In that same way that a poker site can look the same on both sides of the world, it’s not always true that their performances will be the same.

US igaming’s Dynamics

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the factors currently affecting the US online poker market and whether the dynamics are conducive to the success for sites such as Betfair.

Sheldon ‘The Aggressor’ Adelson: One of the toughest player types you’ll face at the table is the aggressive bettor. Unfazed by pressure and fostering an apparent disregard for his chips, these players can be a nightmare to compete against; especially if the cards aren’t falling in your favor. In political terms, Adelson is the biggest aggressor against the online poker world at the moment. The billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp has been a strong opponent of online poker for a number of years and, despite his advancing years, his desire to see the industry outlawed doesn’t seem to be fading.

In 2014, the political donor put his name to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). The proposed legislation would bring back the full force of the wire act which would essentially outlaw online poker in the US by making it illegal to transfer wagers via a wire signal (in this case the internet). If this bill is passed at a federal level, it would overturn the 2013 rulings by New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to allow online gambling. Moreover, it would prevent any other States from offering online poker.

The Conservatives:Despite Adelson’s RAWA bill gaining more traction following the recent US elections (namely because more Republicans won power), there’s still a lot of opposition to the bill for numerous reasons. One of the main contentions raised by members of GOP in recent weeks was that the bill goes against core conservative principles.

Led by Grover Norquist, a group of 10 conservative group leaders stated that States “don’t need federal government babysitting them” and that Republicans should be focused on preserving the “authority of the states.”

Major Players2by  Gage Skidmore  Caption: Grover Norquist does not want federal government babysitting

Adding to the conservatives’ concerns was former Senator Ron Paul. Keen to highlight what he believes amounts to “crony capitalism”, Paul believes that donors, such as Adelson, shouldn’t be allowed to dictate politics in order to further their own business interests.

At present, these two political opponents appear to offer two of the strongest arguments against RAWA, moreover, Adelson. There are many other reasons why groups in the political world are against the bill, not least those that voted for regulation in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware but as 2015 dawns it seems that the Tenth Amendment and the backlash against cronyism are helping tip balance in poker’s favor.

Commonsense: Although there’s often little room in politics for commonsense, there is a hope among some that logic will ultimately prevail. Regardless of whether Americans enjoy online poker or not, all of them can spot fallacies and hypocrisies. Adelson has hinged his anti-online poker campaign on the idea that he’s protecting families from an immense evil.

Despite a wealth of security in the online poker world, Adelson has claimed that children could easily log into an online poker site, make a deposit and start playing. Unfortunately, that’s simply not that case and even if it was an accurate assessment of the situation, it’s also an argument that could be leveled at any online site that takes payments (an iPhone app, for example).

On top of this, Adelson is a live casino owner and, despite painting gambling in a negative light when it’s conducted on the internet, he has an interest in seeing his virtual competition outlawed. In fact, Adelson’s live casino properties have been fined vast amounts of money in recent years for allowing underage patrons to gamble. If protecting “the children” is such as concern for Adelson and his supporters, then he should also be in favor of imposing restrictions on his own business.

Your Move

OK, so now you’ve got an overview of the current US igaming landscape, it’s time to make your move. Although a significant amount of political pressure and commonsense will need to prevail before the industry is finally left to expand, your help is also needed. Unless the poker community makes itself more vocal and actually starts standing up for its right to do something it enjoys, then people like Adelson will be left run riot and have things their own way.

In reality, it doesn’t matter whether it’s poker, knitting or drag racing, what’s at stake here is personal liberty. While some may not agree that playing online poker is a productive thing, it’s the right of every US citizen, moreover, person across the world, to be able to do something they enjoy.

Online poker in the US still faces a number of hurdles, but there really is no difference between the game on one side of the Atlantic or the other. Going back to our initial example, Betfair Europe is currently flourishing while its transatlantic cousin is facing a dangerous flop. Fortunately, the turn in the river is yet to be dealt which means, providing we can all play our cards right, there’s still hope things will improve in the coming months.