Friday, April 08, 2011

Some Rambling About the Rumble (Online Poker in the U.S.)

Change AheadI have a section here on the blog called “The Rumble” wherein I collect items concerning “how poker is discussed and presented in various media.” Under that heading go posts that deal with a number of different topics, including legislative matters and instances of poker popping up in the culture (the arts, business, news, sports, etc.).

In fact, “the rumble” is a good way to refer to what’s been happening over the last several weeks with regard both to legislative machinations related to online poker in the U.S. as well as all to of these new business alliances with (potentially) great relevance to online poker. So far it’s like a distant storm -- a lot of noise, but still close enough that if something were to happen we wouldn’t be totally taken by surprise. (Although there remains the possibility the sucker could pass us over altogether.)

Bills proposing means to license and regulate online poker continue to be debated in several states. The New Jersey legislature approved one, but last month the governor vetoed it. There’s a lot of impetus behind a bill in Nevada currently. The District of Columbia looks like it is about to offer online poker within its borders (via the DC lottery). And there’s a federal bill that has been proposed in the House (H.R. 1147) that revives Barney Frank’s H.R. 2267 from the last Congress.

Meanwhile, over in the business section have appeared a number of stories of “joint ventures” that have potential significance both in terms of lobbying efforts for future legislation and the landscape of online poker should any of these bills actually get passed into law.

One such relationship involves the online gaming group partnering with Caesars Interactive Entertainment, a union that was allowed to occur after the Nevada Gaming Commission gave its okay late last month. Another involves Fertitta Interactive, the owners of which also own Station Casinos (a Nevada-based gaming company), forging an alliance with Full Tilt Poker that is apparently based on the contingency that some sort of federal legislation regarding online poker in the U.S. be passed.

And perhaps most notably, Wynn Resorts and PokerStars have made a similar agreement, one that marks a notable change in the thinking of Steve Wynn, the chief executive of Wynn Resorts who had once adamantly opposed legislative efforts to license and regulate online poker in the U.S. Again, the partnership at this point is mainly aimed at pooling efforts to help get legislation passed, with tangible consequences of the alliance only being felt if and when that were to occur.

Forbes MagazineNathan Vardi has been reporting on the Wynn-Stars story for Forbes. Yesterday Vardi shared an interesting piece on the meeting between PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg and Wynn that ultimately resulted in the alliance being formed.

The article describes the factors affecting Wynn’s change of heart, a journey that in some ways reflects that which will have to be taken by legislators, too, for any laws to be passed. It’s a good read, and highlights some of the legitimate concerns Wynn previously had about getting involved with online poker while also pointing up the possibility (inevitability?) that something is going to happen, perhaps sooner than later, on the legislative front.

Of course, as of this moment we’re still mainly just hearing a lot of rumbling. Starting to sound closer, though. Might be worth keeping an eye on that forecast.

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