Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Future of Online Poker – Four Years Later, Part Two

In my last post, I was talking about the future of online gambling.  I made heavy emphasis to Zynga and all of the other “social gaming” that takes place on laptops and mobile devices worldwide.  It’s a $3-billion-plus industry and growing…but it’s not the be-all and end-all of online gaming here in the US.  At least, I hope not.

I said in Part One that we need to look at England and I hinted at where else to look for something that will finally bring online gaming where it should be in the 21st Century – legal, available, regulated, and fun.

Why can’t we be like the English?  The link I referenced above (and here for you who are too lazy to scroll up) states that, in a recent survey, almost half of all respondents said they had gambled in some form or fashion in the last month.  More women are gambling than before, and in another survey, younger punters(18-24) showed an increase, too.  The report also cited an uptick in those gambling on a mobile device.  The UK has a very well regulated gaming industry, and that includes the online component.  All gambling is controlled by just ONE national commission, although there’s plenty of different ways to gamble, just like here in the US.

One of the most popular and long-running gambles are the football (soccer) pools.  As Wikipedia states, “The pools are typically cheap to enter, with the potential to win a very large sum of money.”  There are more than 1,000 betting shops in London alone, and the football betting market is estimated to be worth about 650 million pounds (about $800 million US).  Most Englanders love to gamble, and the government makes an effort to provide those who do with a safe and legal gaming environment.  Face it – gambling is accepted and ubiquitous in the UK.  And rightly so.

How so very different than here, where so-called “guardians of morality” protest lotteries as a “tax on the poor” and local casinos are “predatory.”  And we all know who decries online gaming as a scourge – “think of the children, click on a mouse and lose your house.”  That this hypocrite obtains his vast wealth from gambling – the very industry that he chastises in a different form – is repulsive.

Yes, it’s Sheldon Adelson I’m talking about.

Adelson may be the biggest hypocrite about gambling, but he’s certainly not alone, and that’s why the state of online gambling is where it is.  It seems that most who have a say in the matter know there’s an absolute shitpile of money that can be made – but no one wants to do much sharing.  So we putter along in dribs and drabs…a couple of states launch online casinos and poker rooms, and then Sheldon starts his CSIG.  Daily Fantasy Sports suddenly explode on the scene, and then just as suddenly they have their own “Black Friday.”  DFS is making a bit of a comeback, as many states are changing their laws to allow DFS; however, some other states are going in the other direction, prohibiting it just as they do other online gambling.

So is DFS the future of online gaming?  Well, not quite.  I alluded to this in my last post.  I said, “Look at the top left-corner of your PokerStars app.  That’s a clue…”  See it there – Fantasy Sports.  That’s the clue.  But it’s not DFS that will bring the USA in line with the UK and into a modern age where gambling is seen, like in England, as something completely natural, fun, AND legal.

It’s sports betting. 

Actually betting on the game, not some made-up lineup in a make-believe world.  If you’re a fan of Daily Fantasy Sports, well, that’s just great, but face it – DFS is a poor substitute for REAL sports wagering.  Kinda like Zynga is a poor substitute for PokerStars (the way it was, anyway).  DFS took off because it was available – the only thing going – the only game in town.  If you had a choice, would you spend your time and money coming up with fantasy drafts or just root, root, root for the home team…to cover the spread?  I thought so.

Again, look at the UK.  DraftKings and FanDuel are finally up and running as of last summer there, but they are a pale shadow to the amount of $$$ that goes into the traditional pools.  Google “DFS in UK” and you get a furniture store, not gambling.

There is some positive movement that maybe, just maybe, we’ll shuck our Victorian ways on this.  It’s no secret than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a proponent of betting on games.  He’s been consistent on this for the last few years.  Just last month MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was it's time for Major League Baseball to give "fresh consideration" to legalized sports betting.  It’s no secret that MLB, the NBA, NFL and NHL are all participating in advertising and sponsorships with Daily Fantasy Sports.  So is betting on games the next logical step?

The American Gaming Association thinks so.  They’ve called it a “perfect storm” and are lobbying Washington to make it happen.  They even think Donald Trump is the man to make it so, and he took a cautious approach to subject when asked about it on his Super Bowl Fox interview.

I’ve long said that once the NFL figures out how to get 3% of the take on sports betting, they’ll give it their stamp of approval.  Hell, if they get 3% of damn near anything they’re likely to say AOK.  It’s always about the money.

So while there’s some excitement in the online poker advocacy world that we might DOUBLE the number of states offering iPoker from three to six with NY, PA, and MI (and that’s only a hope, remember), that only leaves 44 more to go.  And you can play DFS in Utah (does Chaffetz know that?) – so let that be a beacon shining a bit of clarity as to what it’s gonna take to make online gambling a reality here.

This is how it will happen.  I don’t know how soon…it might be in the next four years, maybe not.  At some point, Americans will quit caring how other people spend their time and money and let that which is regulated and controlled be, even if they don’t wish to participate.  Tobacco.  Liquor.  Gambling.  Gay marriage.  Marijuana (getting there…and Utah might NOT be the last holdout).  Hard to fathom that of all of these, gambling is the last thing the Puritans hang on to.  But it’s not about what’s right and what’s not – it’s about the money.


Always has been.

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