In the aftermath of the Reid bill discussion, it seems time for a discussion on what we can reasonably expect to get through Congress.
I've had the honor of working for our rights over the past four years. During that time, I've had a chance to analyze quite deeply the broader situation of which we poker players are a part. Data for the analysis came from stated goals of B&M interests, lawmakers, our opponents, and others.
My conclusion is that we're not going to get 100% of what we want. No one stakeholder will, in fact. PPA can put our opinions forth, but cannot run over everyone else.
Additionally, IMO the fall of the status quo has started. WA is gone. FL, CA, NJ, WV, and other states are looking into offering intrastate only poker. We can be sure these states will criminalize offering of unlicensed poker if they pass such licensing legislation. Most importantly, U.S. based interests have publicly declared their interest in being licensed to offer services, even earning the support of the Senate Majority Leader. It's hard to imagine Congress saying, "no....let the current reverse protectionism of offshore sites only continue."
Meanwhile, the DoJ continues its attacks on payment processors unabated. There are also troubling signs for future enforcement. The DoJ and the Dept. of Homeland Security have seized over 80 websites for selling counterfeit goods (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010...t-goods-raises
). I'm not saying they'll go after online poker sites, but surely the fact that there is now precedent ought to be of some concern. After all, it appears they now have all the tools they'll need.
With that, what can we expect?
A firm, solid foundation on which to build the industry:
The status quo is built on quicksand. Seriously, who in Congress would opt for a market that prohibits U.S. based interests while allowing offshore ones? It's very hard to lobby for continuation of this.
OTOH, a system that allows U.S. and offshore sites to participate in the market gives us a firm, solid foundation upon which to grow and prosper. Rather than worrying if we'll have poker in six months, we'll be able to plan on this existing years down the road. We'll see more advertising and more recreational players who are attracted by U.S. branding and accountability.
Steps to address the competitive playing field:
The current sites have built brand loyalty by offering services in a market where U.S. based interests have not been allowed to operate. It should come as no surprise that some lawmakers and business interests would like to take steps to even this out. Possible steps include blackouts for all sites (where everyone starts on the same date, leaving players only the sites that choose to operate in defiance of new laws during this time period), penalty boxes for sites currently offering services (to give others a chance to catch up), and other possible mitigation steps. While we'd wish for Congress just to let us play, unfortunately it doesn't work that way.
PPA will work to minimize or eliminate blackouts, as these seem to be the least effective means of addressing the issue, but we could certainly see a repeat of a blackout provision in future legislation. Again, we're just one stakeholder of many.
Criminalization and other penalization of players:
To address unlicensed sites, any bill will have some enforcement measures. PPA succeeded in keeping player penalties out of the Reid bill and will endeavor to keep them out of all future bills. We believe players ought not be targets of enforcement efforts. I am hopeful we'll continue to be successful here, but anything is possible.
Congress will not force online poker on states that don't want it. IMO, the long-term solution here is to create a system that states will wish to opt into. As new business interests will lobby states to participate, our letters asking for states to opt in will be that much more effective.
Not every state will join. OTOH, we've already seen one state -- WA -- opt out, and they did so without a poker bill's permission.
Congress may or may not allow international players. This is due to concerns over enforcement of rules pertaining to players, but is also due to the potential of U.S. sites finding themselves competing against sites with large player bases. PPA is working to address such concerns, of course.
Congress will likely add enforcement measures to any bill that provides for licensing. While I'm obviously no fan of this, I believe it will happen with or without us. I'd rather have it happen with provisions to allow for licensed play than as a ban.
So, that's my take. We'll win some battles on specific provisions, but not all. Our choices seem to be to get the best federal bill we can support, to go for intrastate bills, or to ride the status quo for as long as it holds up (and to press ahead with litigation once the status quo begins to falter).