Despite D.C. Legalization of Online Poker, Players Leave USA

It is perhaps a little ironic that the most vocal opponents of online poker will soon be the only people in the USA who can legally play online poker. The District of Columbia is moving forward with its plans to run the pilot program, which will allow 20 to 30 places around D.C. to offer online poker within the next week or so, despite the claims of corruption during the initial phases when the plans were pushed through the legislative process. If all goes well, the virtual poker rooms will open their doors to anyone (of age) in the District by the end of the year.

The planned system in D.C. has a lot of problems from a free market standpoint. For one, a monopoly system of government run poker room eliminates competition and the benefits that come from that. In the pre-UIGEA, pre-Black Friday era of online poker, players would quickly realize if a poker website had unfair odds, shady practices, or something as simple as bad customer service and they could and did move on to other poker rooms on the Internet. There would not be such an option for D.C. online gamblers.

Even with its problems, the D.C. online poker system would set the District on a path toward legalized online gambling. Unfortunately for poker players in the rest of the United States, they are left with a choice of either driving to the brick-and-mortar casino or moving to another country.

Most recently, world-famous poker champ Daniel Negreanu posted an article on detailing the process of relocating back to his native land of Canada so that he can continue to play online poker. Negreanu is not alone: many other players have been reportedly leaving the U.S. for Mexico and Costa Rica as well as Canada. Most of those immigrants are likely players in their 20’s or early 30s without families or anything holding them to a state or nation. Unfortunately for many online poker professionals, leaving the U.S. is not an option.

For those who are stuck in the U.S., a country that is increasingly invading private life and stripping its residents of their right to property and privacy, they still have some hope that the Federal government will make a move on legalizing online poker. In the current debate about debt-ceilings, government spending, and revenue, some observers believe online poker has a good chance of getting a bill through congress. Some have noted that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction could look to legal online gambling as a way to increase revenue and because of the unprecedented power the Committee wields and limited membership, it might be the best opportunity legalized online poker has had in the last 6 years.

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