In 2013, it appeared that the online poker and casino industry in the US was poised to explode across the nation. Three states chose to regulate some form of internet gaming that year, but the projected state-by-state expansion stalled out in 2014. Now, it seems that some companies and investors want to circumvent the laws to gain a foothold in other states by exploiting loopholes in the law, but jumping the gun could avalanche into major problems for US online poker and casino gamers.
Last month, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel announced another delay in its intentions to launch a real money online poker room. The original plan, as of June, was to launch an online poker site, PrivateTable.com, under the regulation of the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission as well as the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada. But with all licenses in place, one delay after another (presumably due to expected challenges from state and federal government), resulted in the launch of a real money internet bingo site instead.
Next came Breakout Gaming, which plans to use a faux-currency to avoid being labeled a “real money” online gambling site. Comparable to BitCoin casinos, Breakout Gaming is using a crypto-currency called Breakout Coins, or BroCoins for short. Players can purchase BroCoins, use them to play online poker, casino games and wager on fantasy sports. As for withdrawals, that’s where it gets confusing (as do all digital currency ventures). BroCoins must be traded through an exchange to be converted into real money, and the website clearly states that Breakout Exchange “will not be available within the US”.
Breakout Gaming has even gone so far as to employ several poker pros as sponsors of the site, and for a full month (Oct. 21 – Nov. 19), presented new members with what it called an Initial Coin Offering (ICO); equivalent to an online poker or casino bonus.
Get Lucky Poker
According to an interview on PokerUpdate, Mike “The Grinder” Mizrachi has plans to launch an online poker site that uses digital currency as well. “I have decided to make my own luck,” said Mizrachi. “I am opening my own online poker site. We will have a few pros on there. It will be called GetLuckyPoker.com and we will be using bitcoins… Hopefully, it will be up before the beginning of January and it’s going to be exciting.”
On the surface, these all sound like great opportunities for American online poker players who don’t reside in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey, where regulated iGaming is already available. But on a deeper level, the lack of state or federal regulation raises some questions, especially where crypto-currencies are involved. Who’s to say these online gambling websites can be trusted?
I’m certainly not saying they are (or will be) rogue operations, but we’ve seen enough problems with US players joining offshore sites that aren’t regulated in the United States. Prior to Black Friday, Full Tilt Poker was regulated offshore, and we all remember the ‘Ponzi Scheme’ debacle that came of that. What about Lock Poker and Everleaf Gaming, or the super-user scandal at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet (once regulated by Kahnawake, for the record)?
In the end, it all points to one thing. Online gamblers are going to keep playing at whatever site they think they can trust. Thus the US government needs to pass legislation to regulate these environments, or there’s simply no guaranteed way to keep players safe.