Baby steps. One yard a time. Rome wasn't built in a day. Patience, grasshopper. All of those cliches have been used to explain the frustrating slowness of change in online gaming legislation. In a blink of an eye, the federal government shut the door on online poker, but it's a glacial process to get online poker back. The igaming battle has been on a state-by-state basis. Only three U.S. states offer legal online poker: Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. But it's the dawn of a new era. Say hello to a new era of shared player liquidity!
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey announced an agreement with Delaware and Nevada. All three governors will allow shared player platforms for their online gaming rooms, which includes slots and online poker. The exact date is still being discussed, but this is amazing news for American poker players. It's the first step in a long journey back to the halcyon days of online poker. We've still got a long-ass way to go.
In a press release, Governor Christie said, "New Jersey has been a pioneer in the development of authorized, regulated online gaming, which has been a budding success since its launch in late 2013. Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance annual revenue growth, attract new consumers, and create opportunities for players and Internet gaming operators. This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor."
The combined population of New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada is less than 13 million and active online gambling segment significantly smaller. The new trinity of American iPoker is still nothing to sneeze at, but it's the first step in a grueling journey that seemed like it might never happen. It's been a while since we saw some positive light. The hard part will be trying to stay patient while more states complete the glacially-slow process of legalizing online gaming and poker. But it's a simple math thing. The pool gets larger and larger as more states embrace the future of internet gambling.
New Jersey currently has 23 authorized igaming websites, but the WSOP.com will the big winner. The WSOP.com has a presence in all three states and the brand is still the most prestigious in all of poker. Expect the WSOP.com to be sending a ton more players to the WSOP via satellites.
The suits at the WSOP couldn't contain their glee. They issued a formal statement, "We applaud the government leadership and the regulators in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware for reaching this meaningful agreement. We will immediately begin efforts to take our existing Delaware-Nevada compact and add New Jersey to the mix by following the requirements established by the regulators so WSOP.com can share liquidity with all three states."
Every American online poker player remembers exactly where they were in April 15, 2011 when Black Friday hit. I happened to be covering the Latin America Poker Tour in Lima, Peru when Humberto Brenes' son broke the news to me. "Is it true? No more gringos can play online poker in America?" It's one of the darkest days of my life. I lost my business and livelihood over night.
Of course, we knew the day of reckoning would be coming. We got the first kick to the nuts several years earlier when the UIGEA went into effect in October 2006. That spineless coup by smarmy politicians snuck Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 onto the same piece of legislation known as the Safe Port Act. The twisted masterminds behind the UIEGA picked the perfect opportunity to pass a piece of anti-terror legislation without a single word of debate. Heck, 99.999% of all Americans had no idea that the future of online poker would be at stake. Unfortunately, the Safe Port Act passed along with the UIGEA, which went into effect in October 2006. While a handful of online poker operators, like Party Poker, pulled from the U.S. market, the other big dogs –PokerStars and Full Tilt – stood their ground. The two squared off in a virtual arms race as both sites fought to win the hearts and minds of Americans during the peak of the poker boom. After a sensational run of 4.5 years, the feds came down hard that gloomy day in April 20015. On Black Friday, the government shut down PokerStars and Full Tilt. From that moment on, American pros had to make a decision... move overseas to continue grinding as an online exile, or move to Vegas (or AC or SoCal) to grind live poker, or hit the road on the nonstop carnival of global poker tours.
Since Black Friday, online poker returned to America on a state-by-state basis. A mere drop in the bucket compared to the gravy days. For a while, there seemed like a glimmer of hope in Nevada and New Jersey. But once the (flat) numbers came it... it was obvious that single-state poker could not thrive unless it was one of the more populated states such as California or New York. The future of online gaming in California is currently a shit show due to the potential involvement of bad actors like PokerStars and their impasse with local Native American tribes. Meanwhile, the budget in fiasco in Pennsylvania put the future on online poker in limbo in the Keystone State.
This week, Americans finally got a bit of hope in an utterly hopeless year of politics. New Jersey opened the doors for multiple-state liquidity, which means it's the first step in a long road toward returning to a world in which Americans can come together in harmony and unity to play online poker together. Obviously, this is a precursor to add future states as the slowly legalize online poker. With Michigan and Pennsylvania on the cusp of bringing back online poker, many more states with fascial troubles have seeking out means to generate revenue. Online gaming seems more and more like a plausible avenue every day.
Chris Christie, sworn in as Governor of New Jersey in 2010, is serving his second and final term. Gov. Christie has been the butt of jokes for the last two years after numerous political scandals, but he bottomed out when his lofty Presidential aspirations fizzled out. Christie became a quick and easy target of Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, yet Christie quickly jumped on the Trump bandwagon and began stumping for Trump. Baffled Politicos quickly noted that Christie was kissing ass to get on the presidential ticket as Vice President. When Trump picked Gov. Pence from Indiana, Christie continued to support Trump, while politicos lampooned Christie as he kissed even more ass to secure a cushy cabinet position, such as Attorney General. Alas, Trump stiffed Christie once again and he went back to New Jersey with his proverbial tail between the legs.
With Christie's big-time political aspirations crushed to a pulp, he returned to governing New Jersey for his final term. Christie has been an avid support on online gambling and legalized sports betting. If Christie had his way, race tracks and casino in New Jersey would be allowed to accept bets on professional sports. Unfortunately, there's no legal online sportsbetting in America, and Nevada is the sole state where you can legally wager on sports.
Christie worked out an important compact with two fellow governors that would allow his home state of New Jersey to share player pools with Delaware and Nevada (which both had a shared-pool agreement). It's a baby step, but a step forward nonetheless.
Now, which states will be on deck to legalize online poker? We can really get excited as soon as the biggest states come aboard, like New York and California. Who knows when the actual tipping point will happen when the majority of American states get on board. I mean it's 2017 for Christie's sake! And we have driverless cars, but no online poker.
Americans will eventually get a glimpse of the old days... but how long will it take?! Unfortunately, politics in America is an incremental issue. In 2015, during an hour-long interview on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, President Barack Obama explained that it's impossible to make overnight changes in America due to the complexities of the government.
According to President Obama, "Sometimes the task of the government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the Ocean liner two degrees North or South so that 10 years from now, we're in a very different place than we were. But, at the moment people may feel like we need a 50-degree turn. We don't need a two degree turn. You say ‘well, if I turn 50 degrees, the whole ship turns. And you can't turn 50 degrees."
Steer the ship two degrees. Baby steps. One yard a time. Rome wasn't built in a day. Patience, grasshopper. New Jersey opened the door, and the American online poker community is eager to take the first major step forward in almost 6.5 years.
The exact timeline for the NJ-Delaware-Nevada shared pool is still being worked out. Stay tuned for more updates... incremental updates.