Online poker returning soon?

by Sonny Bunch on August 2, 2012

There’s an interesting piece over at Grantland on the rise, fall, and potential rise again of Internet poker. Some of you may remember the poker boom of the 2000s, fueled by televised World Series of Poker events and a huge infusion of cash via online poker playing. All that went away April 15, 2011, on what became known as “Black Friday” when the Department of Justice shut down a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. with the click of a button.

The question is when online poker will return, not if. (There’s also a how: via brick-and-mortar-owned-and-operated sites or web-only ventures?) Grantland’s Jay Caspian King thinks things may be coming to an end soon:

PokerStars, one of the three companies shut down last April, will purchase its former competitor, Full Tilt, and pay the U.S. government $547 million to settle a civil lawsuit the government brought against Full Tilt. A portion of that money will be used to reimburse U.S.-based Full Tilt players who had their accounts frozen during the shutdown. PokerStars agreed to directly pay back another $184 million to non-U.S. customers to settle their outstanding balances.

The agreement signaled the imminent return of online poker in the United States after a lengthy hiatus that damaged the poker industry with dropping television ratings, waning interest, and a litany of lawsuits against sites like Full Tilt. Nobody thinks that PokerStars would have invested $731 million without some certainty that online poker would soon be legal in the United States.

We’ll see. I, for one, eagerly await the return of online poker. But I’m not holding my breath that those of us in the United States will be back on the virtual tables anytime soon: Internet poker’s fate lies in the hands of politicians who are more interested in doing favors for their wealthy backers than allowing Americans to enjoy a harmless game of cards on their laptops at home. If you want a perfect example of government interference ruining a perfectly good thing, look no further than Internet poker.

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