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Black Friday sent most online poker players in the United States into a confusing and sad few years. It quickly became apparent that the industry was going to have to start from the beginning and pass legislation in individual states. The process didn’t look as difficult as it proved to be, though, and there are still only three states that have regulated and licensed online poker in the five years since that fateful day.

Nevada and Delaware didn’t take much convincing to legalize online poker and see the potential for the future – revenue, interstate agreements to create liquidity, a burgeoning market that could lead to its own poker boom. New Jersey got on board, too. But the train seemed to be stuck on the tracks after that, with various states considering bills year after year but making little progress.

States like California and New York have boosted the hopes of online poker players in America several times, and each session ends with another dead bill. But something changed in 2016.

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Credit: ESPN

Is Momentum Finally on Our Side?

New York began to move bills on the Senate and Assembly side of its state legislature at the very beginning of the year. California Assemblyman Adam Gray worked so diligently to bridge the gap between different factions that everyone agreed on a massive annual payment to the horse racing industry to move a bill forward. Michigan sprang out nowhere to put a bill in motion. Pennsylvania looked more promising than in years past as well.

Analysts vary on the reasons for the apparent momentum in 2016. State lawmakers are sick of the failures, and all of them want those millions of dollars in monthly revenue to help their own state budgets. But perhaps the biggest reason for the push is that daily fantasy sports (DFS) is seeing success in numerous states with incredible lobbying efforts.

Momentum Becomes a Movement

The Poker Players Alliance has been the primary lobbying organization behind online poker legislation for years on both the state and federal level. But without much room for success in Congress, the focus has shifted to the states with the most promise. And with some notable success in 2016, it gives poker players something to boost their hopes.

That is when a movement really begins.

PPA Executive Director John Pappas has been traveling the country to testify in state committee hearings and pushing hard for various state bills. And the way to increase the visibility of the pro-online poker movement and push legislators into supporting bills is to make the voices of the masses heard. Rich Muny of the PPA talked to us about what every player can do to make a difference:

“There are several ways to take action. The first thing everyone should do is to visit the PPA’s action page. There, poker players and activists can find actions specific to California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and across the US. After that, I encourage everyone to go to our daily action Facebook page, where we can all take important actions in just five minutes per day. And, of course, everyone should call and write their lawmakers to tell them to support poker.”

Muny continued, “In New York, we came from nowhere to a 53-5 Senate victory. The clock ran out on us this year, but we start at the front of the line in the Empire State in January. That Senate victory will help in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and actions in those states will aid the New York fight next year, especially if one or more pass poker this year. To win this fight, we need all hands on deck. Be sure to do your part.”

PokerStars Urges Participation

PokerStars recently stepped up to the plate as well to encourage its players and fans to join the #Fight4Poker. Amaya and PokerStars VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser penned a post on the PokerStars blog to encourage involvement on a grand scale. He wrote, “While there are a lot of people doing their part, PokerStars very much included, there are isolated but influential forces working to keep online poker locked away. That’s why the support of the poker playing community can make a real difference. Together, we can show that the discussion is not all about taxes, state borders, or political maneuvering: it’s about being able to play a game that you love in the safety of your home protected by consumer regulation; the right, as an adult, to make that decision for yourself, not have it made for you.”

Hollreiser points to the success of New Jersey for online gaming, which now includes PokerStars among its regulated sites, and notes that it is a “convincing template” to which other states can look for the safety and profitability of regulated online poker.


“Call, email and tweet your elected officials to remind them how important the regulation of online gaming truly is,” Hollreiser said. “Find 10 other supporters to take action. Make noise. It is common-sense legislation that protects consumers and benefits players everywhere. Help us make this a reality. Now is the time. Now is the moment. Now is when the PPA and poker need you!”

Somerville Supports Efforts

Jason Somerville is widely regarded as the poker player of the people and for the people. The Team PokerStars Pro has a wildly popular following on Twitch that translates into the live poker world and social media as well. He spoke with us about the online poker movement, about why players should not be discouraged but encouraged to help make a difference.

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Credit: PokerStars

“American poker players often feel cynical about the political system, and rightfully so given how online poker was taken from us with no debate or discussion via the UIGEA in 2006. After a decade, we are finally at a time where several legislatures are considering online poker regulation, and public support goes a long way toward getting bills passed. The PPA has made it incredibly easy to send emails and messages to your representatives, and I urge players to help our cause by reaching out and expressing their support for online poker regulation. It’s a freeroll – either your messages makes no impact or it influences your representative in a positive way.”

Take it from Somerville… or from PokerStars… or the PPA… or the legislators who are fighting for your rights. It’s time to support the movement.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.