State Regulators Should Consult Before Further Legalizing U.S. Online Poker

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Online poker games are still a “Drama Magnet” more than a decade after the 2011 “great reset.”

What do you get when you mix a pinch of high stakes online poker and a bevy of well known personalities with a vial of frog spit and a touch of Hawaiian shaman mojo?

If reports linked to the latest poker news happenings are to be (at least partially) believed, you get an overflowing, swampy fjord of unnecessary nonsense that continuously rises to engulf the waterlogged regulatory marshland known as “online peer-to-peer” gaming — a casino “vertical” that is arguably the progenitor of most modern-day regulated U.S. iGaming activities.

Readers who haven’t listened to a “recap” (of several other “recaps”) related to the latest (alleged) online poker shenanigans can check out an April 2022 “Cracking Aces” podcast episode (published by Barstool Sports) for up-to-date commentary on what has become the leading “Poker Drama Of The Year” candidate.

The show features veteran live/online poker player, five-time WSOP bracelet winner, and self-proclaimed “Mark Up Police” commander Shaun Deeb, who appears on the program to provide a summary of the latest high profile poker allegations surrounding former GGPoker ambassador (and current all-time leading live poker tournament cash prize winner) Bryn Kenney.

Note To State Regulators Concerning Online Peer-To-Peer Gaming/Gambling

You’re not ready. The product isn’t ready. The personalities/players aren’t ready… at least not for a massive expansion of regulated interstate U.S. online poker.

And that’s because the “game integrity/security” tech itself (or rather, the public “ways & means” communications infrastructure surrounding it) isn’t ready.

Until that’s ready to go (which could be years still), it may be ill-advised to formally encourage new American-based online poker players to sign-up and begin “competing” against an expanded cross-state player pool.

A superior option — in this author’s opinion — would be to continue promoting the addition of legal statewide online sports betting products, and grant more time for lawmakers to consider possibly adding (much more profitable) legal iCasino products in jurisdictions (like Colorado) that have yet to take that step.

As of May 2022, only five U.S. states have decided to formally regulate iCasino products: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, and Connecticut. What’s more, online casino games are becoming more accepted by a younger generation of sports bettors — many of whom will play offshore iCasino games if there is no legal option for them to register in their home state.

Regulators Should Consult With Operators Before Further Legalizing Online Peer-To-Peer Games

The “leadership” role in providing game integrity/security to online peer-to-peer gaming participants should be taken on by the “operators” themselves — with the vast majority of “personalities” taking a back seat on related outreach so operators can effectively modernize their internal protocols. Or perhaps even better… “personalities” could bolster their support for operators to implement technological solutions, in the name of ensuring a cleaner competitive product that is equally entertaining to players of all skill levels.

Again, in this author’s opinion, lawmakers and policymakers in states that are considering expanding into legalized online poker (or other online peer-to-peer gaming) products should take the necessary steps to engage with multi-national gaming corporations — in an effort to better understand, and expand options for — future data driven “game integrity/security” solutions.

These solutions may (or may not) include tier-based player pools, exclusion of specific bad actors, reduced stakes, faster “turbo” formats, or even increased rake… but all of these possibilities will likely come from proprietary tech as opposed to online cardroom managers.

This in turn would probably require a public communications apparatus (to explain the tech and reassure new players) to already be in place before the games are mass-promoted under a legal, interstate expansion infrastructure.

Current Landscape: Legal U.S. Interstate Online Poker Games

The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) currently allows cross-jurisdictional “shared liquidity” of legal online poker player pools between the states of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

The state of Michigan is presently conducting a final review to decide whether to combine its online poker player pool with NJ/NV/DE.

It is this author’s hope that, regardless of what is decided, state lawmakers will begin to consult with legal U.S. online poker operators in an effort to come up with more “advanced” mechanisms that will ensure a more modernized solution for “competitive, skill based” interstate online peer-to-peer games.

And in the meantime, it might be a “great” idea for numerous U.S. statewide jurisdictions (including the Centennial State of Colorado) to take another look at potentially legalizing online casino products that could bolster state tax coffers in a much more meaningful way than online poker ever could or will.

David Huber is a seasoned writer with over 15 years of experience covering the online poker, online casino, and online sports betting sectors. He has performed various roles within the iGaming industry since 2006 including: reporter, editor, virtual assistant, podcast host, and lead forum moderator.

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