2014 Poker Legislation Battles: Winners and Losers

December 26th, 2014 | by Greg Shaun
Steve Wynn Massachusetts

Steve Wynn is bringing the first casino resort to Massachusetts, making him a big winner in 2014. (Image: bostonhearald.com)

Poker legislation is moving at a pace nearly as fast as the flop. States around the country are debating whether the legalization of online gaming is beneficial to its specific economy, and of course its residents.

Like most political initiatives, the conversation is heated as the outcomes have the potential to alter the gaming climate for years to come.

From multi-billionaires and politicians, to non-profits and casino operators, 2014 was a busy year for chartering the future of online poker. Some got their way, others didn’t.

Here are the winners and losers from the past 365 days of poker legislation:

#5. Federal Government’s Inaction

Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware now offer legal online gambling to residents. 10 more are considering Internet casinos including California, the most populous of the 50 states. While lawmakers on the state level have realized the demand for iPoker and the possible taxation benefits that come with it, the federal government has largely remained mum on the idea.

Congress seems afraid to touch the subject, failing to voice an opinion one way or another. The silence out of Washington has left the legality of online poker in a perpetual purgatory. Though a GOP-controlled Senate and House might lead to a proposed federal ban on online poker in 2015, the stagnation on the part of our elected representatives in 2014 makes them a LOSER.

#4. Wynn and MGM

After years of being frustrated as it watched residents travel to Connecticut for land-based gaming, Massachusetts opted to bring the casino home. In September, after five nail-biting days of debate, Steve Wynn was awarded the Greater Boston casino license over Mohegan Sun.

Wynn plans to build a $1.6 billion resort just north of Beantown. The gaming commission also opted to award MGM with the Western Massachusetts license, a planned development in downtown Springfield. Wynn and MGM are certainly WINNERS.

#3. Ultimate Gaming

They were the first to bring regulated online poker to the USA, but now Ultimate Gaming has ceased operations in two states. Company Chairman Tom Breitling explains, “The state-by-state approach to online gaming has created an extremely cost-prohibitive and challenging operating environment.”

Its shutdown in Nevada follows its New Jersey closure just two months earlier, after Trump Taj Mahal Associates LLC filed for bankruptcy. Although the country’s state-by-state laws and policies certainly hampered Ultimate Gaming, they still must be considered a 2014 LOSER.

#2. Poker Players Alliance

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is a non-profit group aiming to promote the game of poker and protect your right to play in all available forms. Of course, that largely means the right to play online.

Ahead of the November midterms, the PPA released a list of political “Jokers,” state and federal lawmakers who, according to the PPA, wish to deny your right to play Internet poker. The organization’s message didn’t seem to resonate with voters as just one of the 22 “Jokers” didn’t win re-election, making the PPA a LOSER.

Sheldon Adelson

Online poker continues to expand even while billionaire Sheldon Adelson campaigns against it. (Image: calvinayre.com)

#1. Sheldon Adelson

It’s tough to outspend a politically and financially motivated advocate when he’s worth $37 billion, but pro-online gambling groups did just that in 2014 over business magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The outspoken enemy of Internet poker, Adelson is the owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Many experts suspect certain GOP lawmakers of being hesitant on proposing legislation in support of online poker due to Adelson’s large contributions to the Republican Party.

While money certainly talks, Adelson’s continued lobbying hasn’t. As additional states consider online poker, Adelson looks more and more like a LOSER.

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