The political side of online poker has languished in the background for several years now. At this moment, it is currently getting about as much attention on the national political scene as what position a candidate has regarding eradicating Athlete’s Foot. But one Tweet can change the conversations completely and that Tweet came out yesterday.
Andrew Yang Voices Support
Current Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has never previously voiced any position on the subject of online poker. As a former business executive, his political positions on many things were previously unknown, to be honest. But with one Tweet, Yang arguably swayed the opinions of many in the poker community by Tweeting this:
Within roughly 12 hours of the Tweet, more than 31,000 likes were registered and it was retweeted more than 5000 times. And it drew the attention of many of the biggest names in the poker community, who seemed to be supportive of Yang and his statement. At the same time, however, there were some realists in the crowd who pointed out the “Hail Mary” nature of his stance regarding online poker.
Daniel Negreanu was one of the first to jump on Yang’s Twitter policy statement, Tweeting, “Ummmm YES!!! Poker players who want the freedom to play poker from home, this just might be your guy.” Negreanu would go on to state that there are many positions that he agrees with Yang on. He wasn’t the only poker industry insider who made their agreements with Yang known.
Phil Galfond agreed with Yang and piped up on Twitter, “What most outside of poker don’t realize is that MANY sites still operate in the U. S. but, because it is outlawed, the ones remaining are those who ignore all regulations including responsible gaming, security, anti-money laundering, etc. Legal poker makes Americans safer!” Liv Boeree, who might not have a voice in the Presidential election as a British citizen but can still offer an opinion on the subject, said that she “really wanted” Yang to win the nomination.
But there were some that didn’t exactly embrace the Yang position. Ben Wilinofsky stated on Twitter, “If you weren’t Yang Gang before the poker tweet and you are after the poker tweet, you’re not significantly different than rich people who just vote for whoever will give them the lowest taxes.” Katie Stone also was dismissive of the statement, saying “This will be one of your highest performing tweets this month…that’s probably noteworthy.”
Difficult Trail for Online Poker in Politics
Online poker has routinely had a difficult time in the political spectrum. Since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, online poker has had a bullseye on it. While the UIGEA didn’t make online poker illegal, it did make it that financing an online gambling account was illegal. That law was allowed to ferment for five years before the next shoe dropped.
In 2011, “Black Friday” – the actions by the Department of Justice that effectively shut down the major online poker sites in the U. S. – struck the online poker world. In one swoop, hundreds of thousands of online poker players had the game yanked out from under them. But a decision in late 2011 that current federal gaming regulations only applied to sports betting would put another twist in the situation.
That decision, where a DoJ dictate said that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting, opened the doors for the individual states to do what they pleased on the subject of online poker. In 2013 Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey started their own online gaming operations, but further efforts for online poker sputtered after that. They didn’t get another spark until the U. S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, at which time several states passed online sports betting regulations and seemingly let online poker fall by the wayside.
What effect will Yang’s policy Tweet have on the 2020 Presidential campaign? At this mark, the race for the Democratic nomination is among 18 candidates and Yang isn’t exactly doing well. According to Real Clear Politics, Yang is currently polling at 2.5% on their “poll of polls,” a distant sixth place behind candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden, current Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
While it is good to get a candidate on the record regarding their position on the question of online gaming and poker, it isn’t exactly important that one candidate has this position. More important is changing the opinion of a bulk of the party that sponsors said candidates. For more than a decade the Republican Party has had positions that were distinctly anti-online gaming and the Democratic Party isn’t exactly rushing to change the laws either. Thus, while Yang’s stance is a nice moment for online poker, it isn’t going to change without massive change in the thinking of the political masses as a whole.