For years online poker has resided in a gray area – legal or not? The UIGEA stipulated banks could not be involved in funding online gambling accounts for US citizens. But did that make playing poker online illegal? Three of the biggest online poker rooms; Full Tilt, PokerStars, UB/Absolute Poker said no - and kept their doors open to Americans.
Then came April 15, 2011 and all hell broke loose as the Department of Justice handed down indictments against those three poker sites, causing a tidal wave of grief dubbed Black Friday to wash over online poker players who were shut out from playing online. Since that time, poker players across the country have been searching for any news that could result in allowing them to get back to the online poker tables. That good news may be coming from some very big companies who are betting on the future legalization and regulation of online poker by putting their money where their mouth is.
According to the Wall Street Journal; one such company is U.S. Digital Gaming. Founded in 2009 by former casino executive Richard Bronson, U.S. Digital Gaming is a venture backed by some very prominent casino executives. No stranger to the casino business, Bronson who once ran Mirage Resorts development operations for former owner Steve Wynn, retains many high powered ties in the casino industry including his former boss.
What does this have to do with poker? Bronson has a vision, and that vision is propelling his company towards a business plan that banks on the fact that online poker will become legal in the United States. Part of Bronson’s online poker wager includes naming Jon Richmond, a former entertainment industry executive, as U.S. Digital Gaming’s new CEO.
Although U.S. Digital Gaming currently has no revenue, Bronson is a visionary and wants to position his company as a provider of a full package of services other companies would need to run online gambling sites. Those services would include not only the software to run the site, but other services such as providing guidance on licensing and gambling laws and the ability to run Web sites for clients and handle all of their marketing and advertising needs.
"We want to be in position to be able to move forward quickly," said Bronson, who expects online gambling legalization will spread from statehouse to statehouse. He also believes legalization will start with online poker games, "There's no doubt in my mind that this is upon us."
So far, Bronson’s company has raised close to $6 million in capitol with half of that coming from outside investors like prominent real estate developer Herb Simon, a mall developer who owns the Indiana Pacers basketball team. The other half is from Bronson and Richard Baskin, his partner in the venture who previously had served as chief executive.
Other established casino companies who are also betting on the legalization of online poker include casino giant Caesars Entertainment, several slot machine manufacturers and lottery software providers.
In light of several state legislatures, including California, Nevada, Iowa, Florida, and New Jersey, that have introduced "intrastate gambling” bills that would legalize online poker only for residents of their states, Bronson said he hopes for a mix of state laws to spread across the country. To help speed up their agenda, U.S. Digital Gaming has hired lobbyists in several states to push for legalization of online poker and Bronson says his bet is ‘that state-by-state legalization would create a mix of companies including; commercial casinos, state lotteries, and Indian tribes. And all of them will need help in obtaining online gambling licenses in the various jurisdictions.’ So far the only law that has passed allowing online poker is in Washington, D.C., where the poker room will be run by the city's lottery system.
The goal which is being pursued by U.S. Digital Gaming, Caesars Entertainment and others is that the federal government will legalize online poker across the nation which would open the field to large websites that operate nationally, rather than smaller ones within a single state. Caesars, owner of the famous World Series of Poker brand, already has an online unit of the company in place and ready to go in anticipation of the legalization of online poker.
Seeming confident that his company and others are betting on a winner, "This is a matter of being in position when legalization occurs," Bronson said. "If they never legalize poker online then we've made a bad bet."