Stage Being Set: Harry Reid Plays Rush Poker

Pokerati punditry in the news

by , Dec 7, 2010 | 5:05 pm

Check it out, front page of today’s Las Vegas Sun … got a speaking role in the Harry Reid online poker bill debate, playing a professional know-it-all an expert commentator on casinos, politics, and poker. When yammering on to a “mainstream” journalist for some 45 minutes about a plausibly complex subject, you never quite know which few lines will resonate … but here’s how my part played out in full:

Proposed language wouldn’t exclude these offshore companies upfront, as Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s previous attempt at Internet gambling legalization would have done. Instead, any gambling operator can apply for a license in the Reid bill. And yet, proposed language would allow only operators of existing casinos or racetracks to obtain licenses in the two years after regulators issue the first Internet poker license.

This provision, one of the most controversial in the Reid bill, is a reasonable compromise, although it has upset poker players who view it as unfairly benefiting Nevada casino giants over their favored gambling websites, said Dan Michalski, founder and editor of, a Las Vegas-based poker blog.

Some lawmakers and their constituents view these foreign companies as lawbreakers. And U.S. casino companies probably wouldn’t support an equal playing field for Web casino operators, given that the U.S. companies have waited on the sidelines for more than a decade for the chance to make money online, Michalski said.

“This kind of puts (the online operators) in the penalty box for a while and says, ‘We might let you in but you’re certainly not going to be the first in line.’ I think that was to be expected.”

9 Comments to “Stage Being Set: Harry Reid Plays Rush Poker ”

  1. Ryan

    I think the focus of the quoted text is a little underserving.

    I appreciate your efforts here, however poker players don’t really care if it’s FTP or Stars that gets a fair shot at the market, or Harrah’s/MGM.

    Poker players are by far, hands down most concerned over this 15 month blackout. They want to know why there is a blackout, why it cannot be shortened, why there is NOTHING addressing the thousands of people that play online poker for a living income and what they can do during this blackout period.

    Who supports the 15 month blackout? Who does it really benefit? Can the casinos not get up in running in online poker within 6-10 months? These are the questions nobody appears to be answering, the questions the players truly care about, and rightfully so.

    If you have information on that, please do update or at least comment in here, thousands of players would like to know.

  2. Dan Michalski

    with all due respect ryan, underserving whom?

    the only person it had to serve was liz benston, the writer, who spoke with me about any and everything for quite a while and just happened to choose the above quote(s). the rest of the article, drawing from other sources expounds a bit on your issues.

    i clearly SUPPORT online poker and this possible legislation — and HOPE it “goes to press” in as best shape possible. but poker players know hope is seldom the best strategy. so the first question you have to ask is “would this be better than the status quo?” because too much bickering over *small* things that may be beyond some poker players understanding could sink the whole deal.

    now, to address the 15 month blackout … all I can do is speculate, because certainly much of what is in play here is beyond my ken … gee, who might want that? um, harrah’s, mgm, party gaming? yahoo? zynga? state of kentucky? slot machine manufacturers? various indian nations? shall i go on? these entities would probably prefer an infinity month blackout for Stars and Tilt, but they recognize that because the PPA has been so influential in getting this bill to the state it is now, an attempt to lock them out and shut them out for good would backfire … sink the whole deal. and ultimately, so long as all the above-mentioned entities see enough money in it for them, to want this measure to go through, they don’t wanna sink the deal either. hence, this is where there is *compromise.*

    as for people making their living playing online poker … you will have the option to

    a) wait it out
    b) file for unemployment (ha!)
    c) travel and/or move to play

    i can see why this could seem unfair. but the flipside of that would be someone saying, “hey, we told you all along it was illegal. you thought it wasn’t just because you didn’t get caught for participating in the unsanctioned transfer of money?” not saying that’s how it is, but you have to accept that others see it that way and will use the perception to their advantage.

    i feel confident the PPA HAS been looking out for players the best they can, and they recognize while not ideal for the interests they’re looking out for (Tilt, Stars … players) it is the best option. you gotta think Tilt and Stars have to agree … because if they didn’t, they would just keep operating as they are today.

    so maybe the online pros are gonna lose out? it’s an interesting position and one i will give more thought to. however, you have to remember that successful online pros are like the “really rich” in poker … that rare 2% minority that is balking at not getting the same tax benefits as the other 98% of americans. though i can’t confirm the numbers, i would suspect they are similar, with 98% of online players NOT making their living from the online game.

    sorry for rambling — you shoulda heard me on yesterday’s poker beat, lol! … but yeah, whether you see why or not, whatever blackout period happens, you can be assured it is not an arbitrary number that caustically ignores your plight nor your convenience. it’s a compromise number that allows this change to move.

    you tell me, what’s better EV for you? having to find a new job for a spell (or new home location) … or getting what you want here in the short term (no blackout period, or a shorter one) even though it means fewer and fewer players fueling your prize pools over time?

  3. Ryan

    Sorry for the original tone of my message. I’ll cut to the chase though because my post intended to address the 15 month blackout.

    Why do the casinos and all those poker sites benefit from a 15 month blackout where NOBODY including them can offer licensed online poker?

    Your comments make sense to me, but not for the 15 month blackout, for the 2 year blackout.

    The way I’ve understood it, basically:

    1) Bill passes.

    2) After 30 days Stars, FTP and any other poker sites serving US players has to be gone from the market, then wait 15 months + 2 years to come back.

    3) After 15 months certain casino type businesses can offer licensed, regulated online poker.

    4) After another period of time, sites such as Party Poker can apply to be licensed as well.

    5) 2 years after the original 15 month blackout ended (#3) FTP and Stars can come back and apply for a license.

    My question is not who benefits from the time period between 3 and 5, but who benefits from 2 and 3? That’s 15 months that the casinos cannot offer online poker to customers and neither can any site that wants a piece of this bill.

    Therefore, who is the powerful person or group of people that is blocking the 15 month blackout period from being reduced?

    Why would it hurt the casinos and other major powers of this bill to decrease that wait period to 10 months? Stars and FTP would still have to wait another 2 years after anyways, so they don’t appear to be a variable in that.

    Sorry for the original “undeserving” comment, that I regret, my focus here is to find out the answer to the 15 month vs 6-10 month question and I got off topic from the start. That’s my error.


  4. sajeffe


    It could be so the government has adequate time to set up the regulatory system for online poker.

    Or, it could be to punish online players.


  5. F-Train

    15 months serves Caesars, MGM and the other casinos, of course. They probably aren’t ready to “flip the switch” on their poker sites tomorrow. They’ll need time to ramp things up.

    Could they get up and running in 6 months? Maybe. But why let Full Tilt and PokerStars back into the market so soon? From the perspective of the B&M casinos — the real authors of this bill — the longer it’s been since players played on FTP and Stars, the better chance the casinos will have of capturing that market share.

    But of course they can’t wait *too* long. That would damage their own bottom lines.

  6. Ryan

    Perhaps that’s the reasoning.

    However, wouldn’t MGM, Caesars, etc. have a tougher time capturing market share (or rather they wouldn’t have as large of a market to easily pluck) if they wait 15 months rather than 6 months.

    I don’t understand the part about letting Stars and FTP back into the market so soon. It’s 2 years after the 15 months that Stars and FTP have to wait now, right? So even if MGM opened in 6 months, it could still be 2 more years for Stars and FTP. Either way, these companies are set to get 2 years of low to no competition from outside sites, and the sooner they are established and online the sooner they can begin to take advantage of the market.

    What happens if you literally cannot play anywhere for those 15 months? You don’t think some players might quit or find a new way to fill the void online poker has left in their lives?

    My suspicion was that the government (or rather senators from certain states) wanted more time to set this up and was balking on lessening it, rather than the casino lobby. Harrah’s already has a partnership with Party or 888, no?

    But again, I don’t know so that’s why I ask.

  7. Ryan

    Sorry to add one last thing.

    But it is a little ridiculous that the players are primarily the ones that stand to lose over this 15 month blackout.

    I support the bill because of the potential devastating impact the contrary will have, but we really have to wait 15 months for the government and corporate interests to get their shit together?

    That’s a bit much. They’ve been talking and debating and posturing for years with online poker, they should figure it out and then regulate it, rather than block it out for a long period of time and then regulate it.

    Unlike the post a few moments ago, I don’t think it’s meant to “punish the players.” I don’t think most senators pay attention on any level to what the players want, only their own state and financial interest. It would be naive to think anything else.

  8. Ryan

    Looks like we have some clarity on the 15 month part.

    Here are two posts made by the PPA shedding some light onto my question: (Skall is a PPA board member for anybody that doesn’t know)

    So it looks like originally the casinos wanted it, but once they realized that the 15 month freeze doesn’t really serve them any advantage (the 2 year additional ban is really the “money point” for their interests) it was too late and opponents had already seized the 15 months as a sticking point if they have any chance of supporting this.

    Still some clarity needed on the specifics, but I think my question is now answered about as fully as many other questions and I’ll just have to be patient to get details (likely after congress leaves DC).

  9. Dan Michalski

    Thanks for keeping us posted, Ryan. It’s a tough issue to follow with so much noise out there.