The state of North Dakota is as remote a location as any of the continental 48 states, both in locale, and in thought. Other then the residents of this state, or their border states, I'm guessing no one ever really gives North Dakota much thought. In our world, that is about to change.
North Dakota House Bill 1509 is something you need to know about. This bill, passed by the ND House of Representatives in mid February will go before the ND Senate on March 15th, and could very well change things here in the US with respect to online poker. HB 1509 is a bill that would make it legal in North Dakota to operate an Internet poker site, and also make it legal for individual players to play Internet poker. Last time I checked, North Dakota is in the US, and therefore that would mean that online poker would be legal in the US at least arguably so.
Current WSOP champ Greg Raymer (who is also an attorney) is going to Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota (be honest how many of you knew that?) next week to speak on the ND Senate floor, and try to lobby for the passing of HB 1509. Cardplayer czar Barry Shulman, and his wife Allyn Jaffrey Shulman (also an attorney) have been central figures in HB 1509, and consulted significantly on its authoring.
I have a copy of the bill, and essentially, it would license Internet poker sites, and tax the money that flows through the sites. In addition, it would charge each user a one-time fee (possibly annual) for playing at each site. Before you lament the increased rakes, and costs to the user, consider all of the benefits, and how much EASIER playing online poker would be here in the US. Deposit any number of ways, quick withdrawals, and no more fearing the Federal government is going to pull an RIAA on us (the RIAA is a body formed by the music companies that wound up suing people who downloaded music off sites like Napster).
Oh, and you think the online poker craze is booming now?? If online poker became legal in the US, the sky would be the limit. It is pretty impressive that you can go to Party Poker now at a peak time, and see 60,000 players playing .How does 200,000 players sound? In addition, many of the players who play on the free side only would come over to the real money side, and play now free of guilt, or any ethical reservations. There is still a very large element of this country that is politically conservative, and I believe online poker is far from penetrated to the true mainstream of our fine nation.
So, what does HB 1509 really mean? If it passes, I think it would, if nothing else get the Federal Government to make a decision on this issue. With so much money on the table, I don't see the Feds just laying down, and saying "OK, North Dakota, you take all the money".
In my opinion, I think getting a decision, and removing the specter of Federal intervention is a healthy thing for our business. In the short term, regulation may result in slightly higher rakes, and maybe an additional charge here or there for the player. But, in the long run, I believe bringing this business on shore, and into the minds (and hearts) of mainstream America will be a good thing.
Before HB 1509, the biggest impact anyone from North Dakota had on my life was Phil Jackson coaching the Lakers to several world titles. Now, indeed Senator Schobinger (the sponsor of the bill in the ND senate) may be my new ND hero. Sorry Phil.