What Impact Will the Online Gambling Bill Have on Live Tournament Poker?
After the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in October, there has been a flurry of thoughts, opinions and speculation as to what effect it would have on the tournament poker world. Would tournament numbers for World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker events (especially the Championship Event) suffer because of the withdrawal of several online poker rooms and the continued insistence of some of these rooms to continue to allow American players? I decided that, rather than speculate, to go directly to the entities involved and get their side of the story.
For the World Poker Tour, they have decided that, rather than making a blanket assessment, they will rely on their member casinos to set the agenda. In an e-mail with a spokesperson for the WPT, it was stated that, since the casinos own the tournaments, they "hold the right to accept or reject these players" that qualify through online rooms. Since it comes down to each individual casino to make the call, so to speak, the various players and online rooms have to find out from those casinos whether the third party registrations will be accepted.
I was able to speak directly to the man in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the World Series of Poker, Director of Operations Gary Thompson, regarding the World Series and Harrah's stance on the subject. "We are doing business as usual and the legislation will have no effect on our registration policies," he stated in a phone call with this writer. "We haven't accepted third party entries into any of our tournaments, either the main World Series or the Circuit events, since 2005." Mr. Thompson was also adamant on stating that, while the effects of the UIGEA are still unknown, the World Series will continue to grow, as witnessed by the significant increases in the 2006-07 Circuit events with the reduction in buy ins for their Championship Events from $10000 to $5000.
While the major poker tours continue to draw record numbers, what may be affected is the player base that has blasted into the stratosphere since the inception of online poker. Many newcomers to the game, especially younger players, women and foreign players, have been able to amass a vast amount of experience online and have been able to parlay that into a great deal of success on the live tournament world. If prevented from playing online (through financial restriction or outright ban), will the same numbers continue to be generated, bringing us new blood to the game?
The tournament poker world has been shuddering at the thought of what the impact of the legislation would be on high profile events on the WPT and the WSOP. Those in charge who I have spoken to don't feel that there will be a sizeable impact from the legislation on participation in high profile tournament events or the activities of either the WPT or the WSOP. But, it will be months, or maybe longer before we can gauge the true impact of this legislation on the live tournament poker world.
If the people that run the events are correct, and the impact is minimal, this bodes well for the continued growth of the game of poker and, rather than the recession of the game from the bright lights it currently occupies, still indicates that there are still great days ahead for the game in the live tournament poker world.