Poker and the Presidency: What’s at Stake in the US Election
By Seth Shafer, Special to PokerListings
Tuesday's US Presidential election is bearing down on the nation but poker players, for the most part, may be more focused on getting access to their Full Tilt balances.
As a quick primer on where poker sits on the political priority scale, let’s look at three different post-election scenarios and what each might mean for poker in both the long and short term.
Barack Obama is Elected President
Right now it’s looking like Obama is holding pocket kings and just snapped off Romney’s overshove with pocket jacks.
The popular vote will be a coin-flip -- and Romney might get slightly more total votes come November 6 -- but Obama is leading in the states that count the most.
Obama is currently a 75% favorite at most sportsbooks and betting exchanges that offer political bets, making him the best bet to win the Presidency.
What would another four years of Obama mean for the poker world?
Probably not much different than what we’ve seen already, with legal online poker on the federal level still likely a no-go.
Obama has said he enjoys playing poker but his administration has shown no signs that it wants to roll back the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in 2006 that eventually gutted the US online poker market.
The last four years has seen very little progress on legislative fronts to tax and regulate online poker -- the biggest development instead was the federal government cracking down hard on PokerStars, Ultimate Bet, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt on Black Friday.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and other legislators have crafted several different bills to try to carve out room in federal laws for legal online poker but have met with no success.
A bipartisan bill from Reid and Jon Kyl is currently being crafted but many have doubts the votes are there to pass it.
Despite his appreciation for the game, online poker just isn’t high on Obama’s agenda to deal with.
He’s received the standard donations from the gambling industry -- with slightly more money coming in from casinos in the US outside of Vegas -- but nothing that might signal any change on the federal level to legalize online poker.
Mitt Romney is Elected President
Romney will likely have to spike a two-outer to be the next President but stranger things have happened and the popular vote will be very close.
There’s not much for poker players to root for in Romney.
He’s Mormon and he’s had little good to say lately about gambling in general and online poker specifically.
At a recent campaign stop he said he opposed online poker because of the social costs. He added:
“I don't want to increase access to gaming. I feel that we have plenty of access to gaming right now through the various casinos and establishments that exist.”
His campaign has turned down some contributions from gambling companies -- although he was happy to take the tens of millions that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has thrown his way -- and he’s repeatedly pointed to the social problems created by gambling.
Romney as President would likely have very little impact on poker directly on the federal level, as like Obama he’d have bigger issues to tackle.
One glimmer of hope for poker fans is that Romney has repeatedly called for smaller government and has been very pro states rights.
That raises hopes that he might not interfere with individual states such as Nevada or California rolling out their own online poker offerings for residents.
Encouraged by the recent Department of Justice ruling that the Wire Act only applies to sportsbetting, numerous states are now investigating options for passing state laws and regulations that allow for online poker for residents.
Nevada has already passed legislation to allow legal online poker and is awarding licenses to operators. The target date for the first sites to be running is before the end of 2012.
The best bet for legal online poker in the US in the next four years would be on the state level, and Romney may in fact be more likely than Obama to give states an explicit green light to set up and manage their own online sites.
Gary Johnson is Elected President
The Libertarian candidate is drawing completely and utterly dead.
Still, he’s the only candidate that actually reached out to poker players and made legalizing and taxing online poker part of his platform.
Johnson was endorsed by the Poker Players Alliance and popular poker forum 2+2, but his best polling at the moment is in Colorado where his weed-friendly stance might get him 2-3% of the votes cast there.
That's if they remember to show up.
Mitt Romney will be the best American president of the last century.
A horrible choice between two horrible choices. But Mitt Romney just might be the most embarrassing candidate ever put forth by the Republican party.