Ultimate Poker opened its virtual doors on April 30, enabling those age 21 and over in Nevada the opportunity to play poker from their computers. The movement to legalize online poker has been long and difficult, but Ultimate Poker is the start of what poker players hope is the wave of the future. And there’s no more fitting place for the revolution to begin than Nevada.
Although Nevada has long been a popular tourist attraction for gamblers, the casino strip has fallen on hard times of late. Las Vegas casinos have seen a 30 percent dip in revenue in the past 10 years, according to USA Today, a slope that is likely to continue downward due to the tough economy and people choosing savings over vacations.
Now we watch to see if other states move to adopt online gaming. Los Angeles Times estimates that legal online poker nationwide could be worth as much as $10 billion each year. Nevada, in on the ground floor, would get a healthy cut from negotiating and consulting with the other states.
The historic first deal of April 30 is something that looked impossible two years ago, when the FBI initiated its crackdown on online poker sites. Black Friday, as it has become known colloquially, occurred on April 15, 2011, when the United States government seized the domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. This crackdown destroyed 95 percent of the online poker market, leaving players with nowhere to go, CNBC reported.
Players couldn’t cash out once the government seized the assets of the aforementioned websites. For some players, it meant thousands of dollars, if not more, were tied in lengthy legal proceedings. The more immediate concern for most was that their main means of playing poker was gone. The only way to play online was to deal with an offshore betting company, which had varying levels of security, trust and competition.
Rebuilding Online Poker
It’s no secret why online poker was so popular in its heyday. The ease and convenience of playing online, without traveling to a casino, was a beacon for many. New players could learn quickly, and veterans could try new strategies and (hopefully) make money. Unfortunately, government legislation and the Black Friday raid put an end to most players’ fun.
The loophole which has allowed these websites to flourish is a law called the Wire Act of 1961. This law declared gambling illegal, but the only venue specified was sporting events. With this piece of jurisprudence in tow, Nevada led the push to pass an in-state online gambling law, with a view toward setting up the rest of the country on online poker. Part of Nevada’s rush was to beat New Jersey, the next most logical home of online gaming, to the punch in terms of setting up the infrastructure. Part of Nevada’s offering is software that restricts gamers to only those who are physically in the state, ensuring that outsiders are unable to take money out of the state.
While the legalization of online poker in Nevada is a major step forward, the risks are still high for players. The main risk is that of players getting in too deep, using money they shouldn’t be spending for their online poker playing. There is also the issue of online security, particularly when adding new funds to a poker account. Services like Life Lock may be necessary for those players who choose to play on public Wi-Fi connections.
As the big poker sites closed and some poker players moved to offshore sites, many wondered why the government wouldn’t just legalize online gambling, regulate the industry and tax it heavily. In theory, it would solve the problems of giving players a safe place to play as well as giving the government a cut. Nevada’s legislation is the first step towards that goal.
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