Quietly, and just before the Christmas holidays, president Obama’s Justice Department reversed years of legal decisions and authorized states to make the decision about whether or not to allow web-based, non-sports gambling within state borders[1]. As a result of that 13-page memo, what analysts are calling the “online poker gold rush” is likely on, just as it was before the president George W. Bush’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which tanked internet gambling companies like PartyPoker, which was dealing 32 online poker hands a second and handling $125 million in wagers a day in the United States before the legislation was enacted[2]. Not surprisingly, investors both at home and abroad are eager to get involved in that action, should it become legal once more.

Of course, there are myriad issues to resolve before it becomes crystal clear whether or not online gambling is in the U.S. to stay – at least in a big way. Legalizing online gambling is a great way to generate revenue for state governments in a way that does not require citizens to pay higher taxes, but critics argue that online gambling cannot effectively prevent minors from betting and, ultimately, will simply hurt the poorest members of society, the demographic which has also been shown to play the lottery in the highest volumes. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the “annual social costs” of gambling and related additions is “nearly $7 billion,” and those numbers are only going to rise, warn critics, if states legalize online betting. Many critics believe this is why the legal opinion received such little publicity and was not released until just before Christmas.

Are you planning on participating or investing in the “online poker gold rush?” Should states legalize online, non-sports gambling?

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[1] http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2011/1227/Obama-s-new-tax-on-the-poor-Internet-gambling-by-states

[2] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-online-poker-gold-rush-2011-12-28