Some of our favorite televised game shows have done a great job of catering to the innate greed that most game players tend to harbor within themselves. We want to win, gosh darnit, and we’d rather win more than less! That’s why you can choose a prize from behind another door, try to win both showcases, or keep answering trivia questions until you’ve got $1,000,000 or nothing. But the reality about us and greed is that we’ve always had a rather contentious relationship with our own greed, as well as the greed of others. We like greedy people when those greedy people are US! But if others try to gain an advantage or take from us, then we’re not such big fans of greed. You’re a poker player, so you know how this works both at the micro level (individual hands) all the way up to the biggest macro level (lifetime wins/losses). People have long pointed to Las Vegas in general and the casino industry in particular as a breeding ground for greed and greedy people, but in their latest endeavors, Nevada gaming companies just might be right on the mark.
The issue in question has to do with the intrastate regulation of online poker. Its an issue that’s been on the table in many states, and several states (New Jersey and Iowa, for example) have seen bills come and go quickly. But in Nevada, the debate continues on as to whether or not online poker will be regulated, and if so, who can operate a digital cardroom within the state. That is why Station Casino has partnered with Full Tilt, Caesar’s has allied itself with 888 Poker, and the Wynn Corporation has announced a potential future partnership with Pokerstars. Three Brick and Mortar Casino groups partnered with three large online platforms looks like a New York Yankees-esque alignment of powers, but in reality, it may not be a sign of unmitigated greed, or of impending doom in the gaming world at all.
These land-based gaming brands have drawn an interesting line in the sand. It is widely believed that the real goal of these companies (and the real goal of Caesar’s, in particular) is to hold out for a federal bill that would regulate online poker in all 50 states. After all, federal regulation would eliminate a lot of headaches about who can play and where, and it would also generate a cash influx of multi-billions (some guess its as high as $8 billion annually) for the federal government once poker is allowed. If individual states have to make their own laws and rules, it will be a nonsensical mismatch of rules, poker sites, and player bases. No one really wants each individual state to have to form its own in-house poker network for in-state players only, but these Nevada casinos have shown that if it comes to doing that, they can and will grant state operating licenses to the giants of online poker, and they will be set-up better than any other state to go it alone in the new frontier of intrastate online poker. So, alliances that on the surface might appear greedy could really be designed to achieve an entirely different result — legal and regulated online poker from sea to shining sea.
The fight in Nevada is worth following right now, as is the fight for poker legislation in every state, because the first definitive bill that is signed into law will be the precedent setter for everyone else. As players, we of course hope that the first bill will facilitate a better, more open playing environment for all players. If it takes a little posturing by the big casino corporations to help that happen, then hats off to corporations like Caesar’s, Wynn, and Station Casino for attempting to show the wider public that intrastate regulation will never be a valid substitute for bona fide federal regulation of online poker.