WARNING - DISCUSSION ON POKER AND GAMBLING, SOME READING MAY BE AT RISK OF A GAMBLING TRIGGER.
One thing we can agree on, is that neither side is going to agree on much. Before the WWE esque Royal Rumble ensues, My own mind ponders on what it will bring, and how it will affect the various forms of gambling. Online casinos are different to sports betting, sports betting is different to poker, and they cannot be dealt with by any blanket reform.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to spend two hours discussing the upcoming review with a group of old friends, these friends just happen to be poker players that i have not seen, or spoken too in over two years.
the sole topic of discussion, the upcoming gambling review. "Will we still be able to play high limit cash games, What about tournaments?"
In truth the world was not put to rights during this zoom call, It's not like a break through came out of it and we're about to save the world, but there was no name calling or shouting down of opinions, just a frank discussion about an important topic by people with a genuine interest in reducing gambling harm in the UK.
The game itself is such a complex issue when we talk about gambling harm, On the one side, it is a skill based game, enjoyed recreationally by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in the UK, but the propensity to be the master of your own destiny is a key outlook, and very often the downfall of a gambling addict, that lined up with the obsession of the game, when you are not at the card table you are analysing hands, you are studying GTO (game theory) and watching coaching videos online. My own addiction had me spending 60 hours a week in a cardroom in Manchester, and spending every hour i wasn't at the casino studying the game. .
During our discussion i had to bring up the elephant in the room, the fact that taking gambling addicts out of the high limits poker scene would automatically, and fundamentally make the game less profitable for professional players. Potentially a better way to think of professional poker players is that they are independent bookies, laying odds when they're good, and cashing out when they're bad. Money is made from any and all customers, but gambling addicts are the white whale of the poker world, and exploitation can come from all angles, players, free tournament tickets, the use of 'Rake back' a weekly re-imbursement given by the poker sites based on your game play that week, convenient that those who have spent thousands of pounds during the week are given £100 to play with at the end of the week when they've run out of money.
It is very important to say at this stage, there is nothing wrong with being a professional, semi professional, or recreational poker player. The game brings enjoyment to many people and i would adamantly be against anything that drastically affected the game for the many people who can, and do enjoy spending 8 hours playing a £20 tournament, or even a £10,000 main event.
With that said, Can we just tell people, the limit for a cash table is £50? or something similar? Is it right that the government dictate what the majority of people can, or cannot do with their finances?
This is the real tough question, how do you balance public health with freedom of choice, We are experiencing this with Coronavirus at the moment, there is an ever increasing opinion that the government has too much say into how we live our lives. This is the main concern of recreational gamblers and it is one we have to respect regardless of your views. There are very real concerns that this review will affect peoples ability to spend what they like on gambling.
The area of poker can be addressed more simply than we perhaps realise, with simple affordability checks. By limiting free use to "pulls a figure from thin air" £200 per website, with the ability to increase this based on your affordability i cannot see how this would be of a problem with anybody. In the case of people who can afford it, it is a small form and document send off much like the already in place proof of identity checks that we have all already completed. This will alert operators to those gambling with borrowed finances and loans or cannot gamble responsible at those levels with the finances they have, this is in fact already in place in some land based casinos. (GENTING, MCR PORTLAND STREET HAVE BEEN PARTICUARLY STAND OUT IN THIS AREA)
Affordability checks have the potential to be at the forefront of poker safety. Used correctly, we can protect people from harm, and we can protect the rights of those that gamble safely. A perfect balance to ensure the health of our nation is not compromised and the gambling industry can continue to thrive without the funds of the vulnerable where poker is concerned.
During this discussion it became ever more apparent that everybody's eyes had been opened to the concerns of the other side, the concern and respect for gambling addiction from semi professional poker players was admirable, When i went through my own addiction the term was 'Degen' (degenerate) was just about the worst thing you could call somebody at the table, marginally behind accusing somebody of cheating. From opening dialogue it makes me incredibly happy that times are changing.
The gambling act review is so very important. I cannot stress this enough. I would even go as far as to say, going forward, the gambling act review could be up there with with the most important political decisions of this governments tenure, That's if there is any money left in the pockets of the people after Brexit of course. *jab