Skill game, not luck

If nothing else, you’ve got to commend New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow for his persistence. On Tuesday, Pretlow introduced a bill that would legalize online poker something, he has tried nearly every year for about a decade.

Pretlow’s tactic is to classify poker as a game of skill, therefore making it legal. Bill A01380 specifically names Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em, but does add “as well as any other poker game that the commission determines is the material equivalent of either of those, whether in a cash game or tournament,” so really, all forms of online poker are covered. The catch-all is simply easier than listing every possible game and then inevitably missing some, thus keeping those from being legal.

The bill does not include online casino gambling, only online poker. State Senate Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. has indicated that he will probably introduce an online casino bill this year.

Though the first legal, regulated US online poker site launched nearly a decade ago (the now defunct UltimatePoker on April 30, 2013), there are still only a handful of states that allow the pastime: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, and Connecticut. Not all of those even have poker sites up and running; West Virginia and Connecticut have been ignored by poker operators, likely because of their smaller populations.

Poker has been left in the dust

Why is this? There are any number of reasons, though initially it probably had a lot to do with states’ general fear of online gambling, the whole “click your mouse, lose your house” notion. A “casino in every pocket.” That is likely still there to an extent, but it can’t be the main excuse anymore because mobile sports betting is legal in over half the states at this point.

In the present, the reasons for the lack of online poker in the United States might be more an issue of money and logistics. As mentioned, two states have actually made online poker legal, but have no poker rooms because the operators don’t feel it is worth it in states with lower populations. Yes, Nevada and Delaware have online poker, but the former is the gambling capital of the country and they both got on board early on. Plus, they both share their player pools with New Jersey, so they have grown past their own populations.

And while I am no expert on internet gambling technology, I suspect that online poker is just more complicated that sports betting or casino gambling. It is a peer-to-peer game with all sorts of betting mechanics, so I am guessing that states don’t have the appetite to make sure the games are safe, secure, and properly functional, especially when interstate networks are a must (even though there are only two right now). Again, this is just me guessing, but it seems like a reasonable conjecture.

Online poker is also way less profitable than online casino or sports betting, thus there will be less motivation for lawmakers to push hard for it.

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