View: This Is The Moment The Poker Community Needs To Make Its Voice Heard

Posted By Steve Ruddock on March 2, 2017

[toc]During the past few years, online poker advocates have issued a number of calls to action.

We often hear things like: “This could be the year ‘x’ state joins Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey and passes a bill legalizing online poker.”

Or, “Fight for your right to play!”

“This latest compromise is a good sign for online poker in California!”

Massachusetts appoints panel to study online gambling!”

“New York online poker bill gaining momentum!”

In the end, we have little substance to show for all those tweets, emails, and calls, so it’s easy to understand why many in the poker community have grown frustrated and cynical about these “false alarms,” why they post pictures of Lucy yanking the football away from a charging Charlie Brown, or why some poker players simply refuse to take further action.

But here’s the thing: Those tweets, emails, and calls have had an impact — a positive impact. And a renewed push at this point could have a critical impact as big-name states are on the verge of passing poker bills.

We are now at a true tipping point

We’re closer now than we’ve been since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed an online gambling legalization bill into law in February 2013.

Both Pennsylvania and New York are in play this year, and with a combined population of 33 million residents, this is the moment that legal online poker has been waiting for.

Instead of wondering what’s the point, it’s time to redouble our efforts and let our collective voices be heard.

If you live in New York, you can contact your representatives here.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can contact your representatives here.

Your voice does matter

Ask any lawmaker in a state that legalized daily fantasy sports in 2016, and they’ll tell you that a big reason why DFS legislation passed in statehouses across the country was the number of calls, emails, and tweets lawmakers received from the DFS community.

The same inundation of calls and correspondence nearly derailed several Donald Trump cabinet picks, overloading phone lines and email servers and forcing Congress to take notice.

You also see the effect this grass-roots mobilization can have at town halls where elected officials find themselves playing defense.

It’s time for the poker community to do the same: Speak with one voice, and let elected officials know they will be questioned and hounded until they act on online poker legislation.

We don’t need millions or even thousands of people calling lawmakers; we need only hundreds to let them know this is an issue their constituents care about.

Imagine the impact it would have on a state representative in Pennsylvania or New York if they were to suddenly get dozens of calls and emails day after day about online poker.

New Yorkers can contact their lawmakers here, and Pennsylvanians can contact their lawmakers here.

Now is not the time to retreat into cynicism

I get the cynicism.

I’m just as frustrated as anyone, probably more so, considering I spend most of my work day looking through the minutiae of legislation… and a whole lot more.

  • I’ve spoken to regulators and lawmakers (on the phone, via email, and in person) to make the case for legalization.
  • I’ve spoken to potential stakeholders to calm their concerns.
  • I’ve given background information to mainstream news outlets so they’re better informed about online gambling.
  • My colleagues and I do research and study data trends, make ourselves available for hearings, publish white papers, appear at hearings and conferences, and help prepare other conference speakers and witnesses who appear at hearings.

Yes, it’s frustrating that despite all the time and energy we’ve spent, another state hasn’t legalized online poker, but turning cynical is no use to anyone.

These previous efforts are not all for naught, as even the most jaded among us has to admit progress has been made. It’s been slow, but three states have legalized online gambling, and others are right on the precipice of joining them.

Who would have thought that would be the case on April 15, 2011?

Now it’s time for the final push.

I’m very positive about this year’s efforts, but to be completely honest, I don’t know if they will bear fruit.

What I do know is they won’t fail because of complacency on my part.

And I won’t stand for seeing these efforts fail because the poker community has thrown in the towel.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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