As they prepare to drop the ball in New York City, it is appropriate to look back at the year gone by in the poker world. When it comes to politics regarding poker in 2017, for the first time in ages it wasn’t just the States of America that had its issues. Turmoil regarding poker, especially the online version, raised its head around the globe. So now, as you get the hors d’oeuvres ready for tonight, peruse these instances from the 2017 calendar year in no particular order.
NO JOY “DOWN UNDER” WITH NO POKER
In a move that had been brewing for several months prior to the start of 2017, the Australian government went ahead and passed sweeping gaming regulations that, as an after-effect, saw the nation’s online poker industry chopped off at the knees.
In November 2016 (to get control of online wagering in the country), the Australian Legislature introduced the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act of 2016. The law aimed to put some controls on the companies working in the online arena, forcing these companies to apply for licensing from the Australian government. Without a license, online operators faced hefty fines totaling millions of dollars.
In March, despite many of their brethren suggesting that it would impact legitimate operations, the IGAA was passed and its impact was immediate. Yes, shadier online operations were shut out of the country but those that were providing online gaming that the government was OK with – online poker especially – had to depart also. Such companies as The Stars Group (PokerStars), 888 Holdings (888Poker) and partypoker had to pull their poker products (and online casinos) from the country because they lacked the licensing necessary to operate (and, as publicly traded companies, they could not operate in markets with laws against their product).
By the end of 2017, the Australian government was reexamining their regulations to allow those legitimate companies back into the country. But as they put their finishing touches on the fireworks on the Sydney Harbor Bridge for New Year’s Eve, nothing has been changed yet.
NOW YOU KNOW WHY THE GERMAN PROS LEAVE
Germany has long had a bit of a love/hate relationship with poker, especially online. Although some of the best players in the game hail from the country, many of them don’t live there because of their archaic online poker laws. An incident from earlier in 2017 shows that situation isn’t going to change anytime soon.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, Germany, ruled in the fall that a ban on Internet casino gaming, poker and “scratch card” games was legal, despite the objections of the European Union to the ban. Two cases brought by unidentified companies outside of Germany were ruled on during the fall, with the Court ruling that individual companies could pass legislation that, while violating the European Union’s treaty regarding free trade between the 26 Member Nations, was enacted to “protect children and vulnerable people” from predatory actions.
The moves by Germany flew in the face of some of the other nations in Europe. During the summer France, Spain, Italy, and the EU came to an agreement for shared liquidity between the countries. Helping to spur the action on the “ring-fenced” nations was the goal of the agreement, with the countries allowing for play over national borders instead of blocking such activity. At some point in 2018, these countries will begin full-throttle online gaming in the entirety of Europe, something that hasn’t been a reality since the mid-2000s.
FINALLY, SOMETHING IN THE U. S. TO CHEER
Since 2013, there have been three states – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – that had passed online casino gaming and/or poker regulations. Despite the fits and starts that other states in the U. S. had gone through (we’re looking at you, California), no other states for four years had even gotten close to passing legislation to legalize online casino gaming and poker. That was until Pennsylvania got in the game.
In what was arguably the biggest story of 2017, Pennsylvania passed online gaming and poker regulations, with the operations set to open at some point in 2018. Although they had passed a budget that incorporated online gaming revenues in it in 2016, political infighting in the state delayed the passage of that budget until the spring of 2017. Once that was passed, the battle then moved on to the online question.
For much of the spring and summer, the debate raged in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and, to be honest, the legislators tried to find other ways to raise revenues and not expand gaming. But, in a frenetic two-day period in October, HB 271 (the online gaming and poker regulation bill) was passed and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. With that sweep of Wolf’s pen, the Keystone State became the fourth state to pass online gaming and poker regulation.
There were plenty of other occurrences during the year…what were some of your choices regarding politics and poker in 2017?