Live poker reluctant
to embrace onliners

Aug 8, 2006 5:59 AM

The impact and appeal of Internet gambling shines like a beacon as the World Series of Poker dwindles to its last few days.

Close to 5,000 of the 8,773 entrants in the main event — the $10,000 buy-in no limit Texas hold’em championship — arrived at the World Series via Internet qualifiers of one kind or another.

The top bosses at Harrah’s, which owns the World Series, do not want to know about these stats. They don’t even count them.

Not officially, anyway.

The 4,900 to 5,000 Internet entries from more than 30 countries was the consensus guesstimate of the representatives of poker sites reluctant to be identified, lest they be dragged into detention by a Justice Department that says Internet poker is illegal, although people continue to play.

Go figure. Maybe it’s because people like to gamble.

The Justice Department position only shows that its lawyers lack a sense of history.

Remember, the feds weren’t happy eighty-something years ago about the American appetite for illegal, untaxed whisky.

But people drank anyway, and in very large numbers. Lawmakers eventually shrugged in acknowledgement of the fact people are going to do what they are going to do and the constitution was amended to reflect the will of the people. Prohibition was repealed.

Which brings us back to the World Series and the fact more than 30,000 men and women signed up to participate in one or more of the events comprising poker’s biggest show, bar none.

For the Rio and Harrah’s, the result is a spending spree by poker buffs that resonates throughout the company thanks in no small part to over a dozen sponsorships and licensing agreements that are generating (even as we speak) well over a hundred million in revenue.

And by the way, dot-net companies ARE legal since they don’t take real money.

People who cringe at the image of men and women hunched over computers, playing poker for fun in the privacy of their own homes may roll their eyes at this statement.

But the use of dot-net and dot-com to differentiate between gambling and non-gambling websites has been found to be legal by sharp-eyed, nit-picking lawyers at the state and federal levels.

One other thing.

State Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander explained that the Nevada prohibition on Internet poker came into being several years ago when the state was getting ready to regulate such pastimes as Internet poker at the state level.

That effort was shelved when the feds said in so many words that there was no way they would stand still for this sort of action.

So we’re lodged in what was thought to be a moment of transition.

The powers that be, those with their focus on the big picture of industry issues, decided there was nothing to be gained by getting into ”¦ what’s that legal term? Not to be crude, let’s call it a shouting match.

Yes, that’s it, a shouting match.

"We’ll just wait," a senior gaming industry executive chuckled, "until the day when we have a different president and attorney general."

Sounds like a plan.

Getting back to the World Series and its main event.

Close to 5,000 of the 8,773 entrants qualified for the event via a series of budget-oriented tournaments sponsored by operations such as PartyPoker, PokerStars, Full Tilt and so forth.

Sites such as Full Tilt were particularly aggressive in their promotions, saying that if the main event winner qualified on its site that winner would get an extra $10 million.

Not bad for a couple weeks of card playing.

The status of Internet gambling is a familiar story, but think of the additional business that might have been produced and the taxes generated if Internet poker could be operated domestically without fear of unexpected visits from the Justice Department’s poker police.