Anyone who knows anything about online poker knows that PokerStars is the leader in the global market. Statistics show the operator attracts more than 14,000 players at any given time. Aside from the fact that it offers an arguably superior software platform and other features, the ability to draw so much action is attributed to the fact that PokerStars is available in so many regions where internet gaming is largely (and legally) accepted.

Just imagine for a moment if PokerStars were available in America. Not just the state’s where online poker has been authorized (Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey), but all 50 states. Prior to Black Friday, that was the case, and PokerStars was averaging closer to 90,000 players at that time. And that was just PokerStars. Thousands of Americans were visiting other offshore poker sites as well.

Why does this matter? Because that information gives us a gauge to judge by when considering how many Americans could and would play online poker, if given the legal option and a compelling environment to do so. The number would easily soar towards, if not into, the 6-figure range.

Caesars Palace Las VegasBut right now, online poker operators in those three states are struggling to draw traffic to the virtual tables. Gary Loveman, former CEO and current Chairman of Caesars Entertainment (the parent of Caesars Interactive, which operates in Nevada and New Jersey), believes the ring-fenced nature of online poker in America has everything to do with it.

New Jersey has a few hundred players on board, while Nevada and Delaware share networks that attract less than 200 players. All told, there is an average of less than 1,000 online poker players visiting authorized poker sites in the US.

In a recent interview with Las Vegas National Public Radio station KNPR, Loveman shared his view of the internet poker market in America. He is certain that, once other states jump on board the regulatory band-wagon, the market will expand immensely. As for why the growth of current markets has stalled, Loveman offered his opinion on that matter as well.

“I think it stalled in part because we don’t have a sufficient population of people from other states playing to make the offering as compelling as it needs to be. This is one of the great frustrations of the years I’ve been in this industry,” explained Loveman. “That something that is so intellectually straightforward has been so difficult to execute. The idea that Americans cannot legally play poker online… strikes me as almost crazy.”

Loveman thinks the regulation of online poker in other states will eventually take off at a rapid rate, but not until something seemingly unrelated occurs—when the NFL decides sports betting should be permitted.

Historically, American professional and amateur sporting leagues have opposed sports betting, but Adam Silver of the NBA altered his stance late last year. “And once the NFL moves to the point where they in fact favor this,” said Loveman, “I think you will see a federal action that legalizes sports betting, somehow defined at the federal level and virtually every state will participate.”

With sports betting being a predominantly online activity these days, Loveman said, “Once that Rubicon has been crossed, I think poker will very naturally fall in because it has an awful lot of similarities to fantasy sports.”

While online poker players across the United States are bracing for the results of a House Committee Hearing to discuss a federal anti-online gambling measure known as RAWA, government officials in Washington DC are bracing for a potentially dreadful winter storm. The hearing on HR 707, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), was scheduled for the morning of Thursday, March 5. But due to a forecast that calls for 4-8 inches of snow dropping onto the nation’s capital, the RAWA hearing has been officially postponed.

House hearing to debate HR 707, RAWA, postponedThe House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations was supposed to gather at 9:30am tomorrow to debate the feasibility of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (aka RAWA). The bill, introduced by Rep. Chaffetz one month ago today and heavily petitioned by the billionaire backing of Las Vegas Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson, seeks to enforce a blanket ban of any and all forms of internet gambling in the United States.

Tuesday morning, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) was urging all of their members, and anyone else interested in preserving states’ right to regulate online poker, to take action. A link was supplied for anyone interested to instantly Tweet a pre-filled message to all members of the relative House Judiciary Committee.

“The opponents of your freedom to play online, led by casino magnate billionaire Sheldon Adelson, have stacked the deck for this hearing,” read a statement on the PPA website Tuesday. “They have loaded the witness panel with anti-poker zealots who have no real-world knowledge of how Internet poker works.”

But later that same night, it was confirmed by the PPA that the HR 707 hearing had officially been postponed due to the looming winter weather forecasted.

The postponement was later confirmed directly on the website of the House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

Since then, the PPA has changed the contents of its Fight HR 707 – Take Action wepbage, pending further refinement. “Due to the postponement we will be refining this Take Action page. Stay tuned and we will be directing you back here very soon with all new actions.”

A new date for the HR 707 hearing has not yet been set. A notice on the committee website simply states that “it will be rescheduled at a later date.”

Let your State Rep know you Oppose HR 707

In the meantime, anyone who would like to let their representatives know how they feel about RAWA and has a few minutes to spare can Tweet or telephone all members of the House Committee, which presently includes 4 sponsors of RAWA. The complete list of committee members, along with their Twitter addresses and office telephone numbers, are supplied below.

State House Representative District Partisanship Twitter Acct Telephone #
California Karen Bass 37th Democrat @RepKarenBass 202-225-7084
California Rep. Judy Chu 27th Democrat @RepJudyChu 202-225-5464
Colorado Ken Buck 4th Republican @RepKenBuck 202-225-4676
Idaho Raúl Labrador 1st Republican @Raul_Labrador 202-225-6611
Illinois Luis Gutierrez 4th Democrat @Repgutierrez 202-225-8203
Louisiana Cedric Richmond 2nd Democrat @RepRichmond 202-225-6636
Michigan Mike Bishop 8th Republican @RepMikeBishop 202-225-4872
Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi AL Democrat @pedropierluisi 202-225-2615
Ohio Steve Chabot 1st Republican @RepSteveChabot 202-225-2216
South Carolina Trey Gowdy 4th Republican @TGowdySC 202-225-6030
Texas Louie Gohmert 1st Republican @replouiegohmert 202-225-3035
Texas Sheila Jackson Lee 18th Democrat @JacksonLeeTX18 202-225-3816
Texas Ted Poe 2nd Republican @JudgeTedPoe 202-225-6565
Utah Jason Chaffetz 3rd Republican @jsoninthehouse 202-225-7751
Virginia Randy Forbes 4th Republican @Randy_Forbes 202-225-6365
Virginia Bob Goodlatte 6th Republican @repgoodlatte 202-225-5431
Wisconsin James Sensenbrenner 5th Republican @JimPressOffice 202-225-5101

In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) went into effecting, prohibiting sports betting on a federal level in all but 4 US states. Like several high-ranking politicians before him, Senator John McCain is speaking out against PASPA, saying states should have the right to regulate sports betting. His argument is geared mostly towards the lack of taxation on a multi-billion dollar industry.

Senator John McCain supports state regulation of sports bettingAs McCain was eager to point out in an interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz and ABC’s Rick Klein, the hosts of ESPNRadio’s ‘Capital Games’, there are untold billions being spent on sports betting every year, and only an estimated 3% of those wagers are the legal variety. That means the other 97% are occurring underground, therefore failing to generate tax dollars for the government.

Contending that the regulation of sports betting should be up to individual states is a relevant argument. Other forms of gambling, such as casino games and poker, are regulated on a state by state basis. Why shouldn’t the same go for sports betting? But that argument has led to a dead end time and again. Pointing out all those zeroes at the end of a multi-billion dollar industry that the government is not generating taxation from, on the other hand, could have a lot more sway in the eyes of US administrators.

“We need a debate in Congress,” McCain told Katz and Klein. “We need to have a talk with the American people, and we need to probably have hearings in Congress on the whole issue so we can build consensus.”

At present, only four states are capable of offering sports betting, but only one of them—Nevada—provides a full-scale sports betting market. McCain was asked why Nevada should be the only state with a regulated sports betting industry, to which he responded, “I think you’ve got an excellent point, and that’s why it’s an excellent issue.”

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released its latest revenue report, indicating that the sports betting industry took in $3.9 billion in sports wagers in 2014. According to industry analysts, the actual amount wagered – legally and otherwise – is somewhere between $138.9 billion (per AGA’s 2013 estimate) and $400 billion annually.

“I think that there [are] places for sports gambling in states, where gambling is legal,” said McCain. By that, McCain asserts that states like New Jersey should have the opportunity to allow sports betting in casinos across Atlantic City, where gambling is a vast, legitimate business.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent two years lobbying for the right to legalize sports betting in Atlantic City casinos, to no avail. More recently, New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo introduced a bill to modify PASPA, called the Sports Gaming Opportunity Act of 2015, but after initially harvesting 4 cosponsors, three of them have withdrawn, leaving no realistic hope of gaining traction.

The largest problem supporters of state’s rights to regulate sports betting have to face is overcoming the opposition of PASPA’s original backers—the  amateur and professional sporting leagues that pushed for federal criminalization in the first place—the NCAA, MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. It was these organizations that filed the lawsuit that halted New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting last year.

On the plus side, one such organization could join Gov. Christie and Sen. McCain in their advocacy of sports betting. Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last November saying essentially the same thing McCain told ESPNRadio yesterday, addressing the need to “legalize and regulate sports betting”.

Silver determined that, “sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.”