BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: DEC. 6, 2011
Sizing Up Recent Poker Headlines: Are They Good News or Bad?
Recent poker headlines left players wondering: Was that good news or bad news for the game? Let’s see how they score.
— Headline: “U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won’t seek re-election in 2012.”
My first reaction was that losing the longtime Massachusetts Democrat — poker’s staunchest and most active ally in Congress — had to be bad.
After all, from 2007 to 2009, Frank introduced four bills favoring legalized online poker or gambling. Just last month, the 71-year-old congressman testified on behalf of regulated online poker at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.
The bombastic liberal isn’t likely to get off the “let people play” bandwagon in his final year in office. So, can Frank lead online poker legislation through Congress before retiring?
I’m not sure that matters now.
Frank’s efforts were critical when the online poker movement needed a champion after the GOP-led 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act threw the game for a loop.
Five years later, that movement has sustainable momentum, much greater political promise and many new supporters.
Regulated online poker is coming, with or without the controversial Barney Frank, so let’s rate this headline 60 percent good news.
— Headline: “Iowa study could open door for intrastate online poker.”
The numbers sound enticing: An estimated 85,000 online poker players in Iowa could generate up to $13 million in revenue annually for the state if the legislature establishes regulated online poker within its borders.
That’s one of the findings in a study by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Lawmakers turned to the IRGC for more research in March after an online poker bill stalled for the second straight year.
The study projects that, before Black Friday, Iowa players paid about $13 million to $60 million annually in rake (fees) to offshore sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt.
Those behemoth sites and others were shut down in the U.S. after the April 15 indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice.
You can’t blame Iowa for trying to capitalize on the situation. If you live in Iowa or Nevada or some other place where the online game could soon become legal, you’re probably happy.
But that overlooks the best feature offered by the foreign mega-sites — a multitude of games at all stakes, with tens of thousands of players worldwide active around the clock.
Intrastate online poker can’t match what players had nationwide before, so this story gets a score of 80 percent bad news. Piecemeal poker isn’t the way to go.
— Headline: “Phil Ivey returns to poker at APPT Macau.”
For the record, the biggest-name player formerly fronting the tarnished Full Tilt Poker brand made it to Day 2 of the Asian Pacific Poker Tour Macau main event. Off the record, he mostly was there to play in nosebleed-stakes cash games behind closed doors.
To show his anger at Full Tilt’s mismanagement of players’ funds, Ivey boycotted this year’s World Series and dropped off the tourney trail after Black Friday. Tens of thousands of players with frozen poker accounts didn’t really care. They still just want their money back.
Until Ivey, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar and others at Full Tilt explain their actions or are punished for them, news of their exploits on the felt strikes a nerve. Let’s score this 98 percent non-newsworthy.
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COPYRIGHT 2011 RUSS SCOTT
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