Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Tale of Poker in Two States

Oregon and Nevada share a border, and in both, you can play poker, but there the similarity ends.  Two events last week prove this in spades.

First, if you haven’t heard, you can play poker online LEGALLY in America again.  In Nevada, exclusively (for now). went live last Tuesday.  This site should not to be confused with the old Ultimate Bet site, as this is from Palace Stations Casinos in Vegas, owned by the same folks that bring you Ultimate Fighting. According to Poker News, the site has 243 players in action on Friday.  That’s not too bad for a 4-day old site…in one state.  Compare that to the old PokerStars site where there might be 33,000 players at one time – that’s tiny.  Compare that to, say, Wednesday night at Spirit Mountain Casino’s poker room in Grand Ronde, OR where 8 players sat on one table (I was there – net loss for the whole trip was $6, thank you) – that’s huge.

Now you begin to understand why online poker is seen as the Holy Grail by so many – the potential is tremendous.

And as for Oregon…as in the last week there were legislative rumblings about poker, but not for expansion (and certainly not for anything online – perish the thought).  A new bill – LC3928 – would amend the laws in Oregon regarding “social gaming” in cards rooms across the state.  There are about a dozen in all, mostly in the Portland metro area, and they serve maybe 50-300 poker players depending on the time and day.  Social gaming players pay a fee to play, and the house takes no rake.

Why the bill?  Good question.  In an article in The Oregonian, the two legislators pushing the bill cite the rooms’ proliferation.  Apparently, when they pass the original laws they didn’t think anyone would do this?  Really?

But look at these quotes:

"These things have exploded," says Rep. Julie Parrish. "It's kind of like hookah lounges."  

"Apparently, if you go into them, you would think you were in Las Vegas," says House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland.

Here’s the bill’s ONE change to the law (in BOLD):

(21b)  If authorized pursuant to ORS 167.121, a game, other than a lottery, between players in [a private business, private club or place of public accommodation] premises operated and controlled by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization where no house player, house bank or house odds exist and there is no house income from the operation of the social game.

I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but I’ll bet a dollar neither rep has set foot inside one of these places.  Why on earth would you have a law, watch people follow the law, and then say, “Oh, wait, we decided we don’t like the law we thought was OK because people are actually following the law, so, we’re gonna change the law”? 

It’s hard to believe that in 2013, we still have that “icky” reaction to gambling.  I think THAT is what this is all about.  I could be wrong, but PEOPLE ARE GOING TO PLAY POKER NO MATTER WHAT.  Been doing it for 150 years.  Not gonna stop – might go underground (that’ll make things safe for America), but don’t waste time creating laws to stop people from doing things that are harmless (as well as fun). 

For now, it’s one giant leap for forward for Nevada, and as for Oregon…well, I’m not planning on moving, but this isn’t a trend that makes me want to stay put.


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