An estimated 1.5 million California residents play online poker every week. And in a state and country where economic woes run so deep, guess where all that poker money is going? Poker revenue from those all those Californians, as well as every other United States online poker player, is running offshore and out of the United States. After Nevada passed legislation legalizing online poker late last year, and Delaware just this month became the first state to pass legislation legalizing a full slate of online gambling casino gaming, federal legislators are no closer to an across-the-board US poker policy.
And in California, a state with a rich history of brick-and-mortar poker rooms, the budget gap could effectively disappear overnight as licensing fees would run into the tens of millions of dollars. Two recent bills in that state that promise to add literally billions in revenue and hundreds if not thousands of jobs included the state’s 109 Indian tribal casinos and 91 licensed card rooms. However, neither bill made it past Sacramento, and that state lies mired in a financial mess of their own doing.
And in fact, it is not illegal for United States citizens to play online poker for money. It is simply illegal for an American corporation based in the US to run online gambling poker operations. So Californians and other Americans open an account online with an offshore company whose base of operations is located outside of the US. But not all lawmakers are blind to US players’ desires, as well as the financial windfall that could benefit both the players and individual US states by offering a safe and responsible federally regulated online poker opportunity.
Rep. Joe Barton is a Texas Republican who has been at the forefront of statewide and federal bills proposing legal online poker play in the United States. He recently warned that if the United States federal government does not step in and develop a consensus policy, fractured rules and online environments from state to state could hurt online poker moving forward. Barton has a current bill which is languishing in Congress that proposes the United States Department of Commerce oversee US online poker play.
And in California, the California Online Poker Association opposes any federal online poker oversight. That Association includes a tribal coalition of which the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and others are members. Having run their own hands-off, tax-free operations for so long, they want to see no changes to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which so favorably allows them to do as they see fit. But whether the federal government gets involved or not, online gambling is growing in the US. Global gambling monitor H2 Gambling Capital recently released an updated estimate that a federally regulated online poker presence in the United States could deliver at worst $9.5 billion in revenue in five years. And as more states like Nevada and Delaware decide to dictate their own statewide online poker future, and earnings figures role in, look for federal legislators in the US to move towards a nationwide online poker policy sooner than later.