"Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again."(There it is, for those who were wondering. Hack-y references to pop culture disguised as literature. Prepare for a turd of a post.)
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter II
We're now 12 days on the wrong side of Black Friday. The initial shock of the DOJ indictments against the Poker Sites is gone, replaced for Americans by a gnawing emptiness that online poker used to fill and an uneasy dread of what the immediate future may bring.
On our last day in Lima last Monday, Shamus and I spent some time musing about the future of poker and our little writer's corner of it. Then as now the future was uncertain and bleak (at best), but we both more or less shrugged. We engaged in some gallows humor and assumed that we'd adapt somehow -- whether by transitioning within poker or turning our attentions elsewhere -- and get through it.
I've written before that one of the great cosmic ironies of the universe is that human beings are incredibly adaptable yet highly resistant to change. It's easier to live in the past, or to point fingers at what went wrong, than to try to adjust to an uncertain future. That blame game is now turning its attention to Caesars CEO Gary Loveman.
Loveman wrote an op-ed yesterday that put forth a clear, powerful message in favor of regulating online poker. Instead of celebrating that -- FINALLY! -- somebody is hitting the strongest talking points for online poker regulation, people are fixating on Caesars' pre-Black Friday efforts to kill intra-state regulations. Did that happen? Sure. Does it matter now? Not really. Why not?
Because like it or not, it's now Caesars' world. We're just living in it. (If I wanted to be super hack-y today, I'd figure out how to tuck in a [second] throw-away reference to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series. "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.")
Yes, Caesars acted in its own interests. Is that so surprising? To expect Caesars to have done anything else is, in a word, silly. State regulation with the Poker Sites still in the market was not in Caesars' interests. Where does everyone think the blackout period in the Reid Bill came from?
Most players seem to be making the error that Bill Rini recently accused me (mistakenly, I feel) of making: thinking online poker regulation should be about what's fair or what's good for the players. To be blunt, nobody gives a shit about the players. Corporations exist to make money. That is what they care about. Period. The successful ones (like Caesars) are very, very good at it. Caesars clearly calculated that it was more in its own interests to try to elbow Tilt and Stars out of the market before throwing its weight behind regulation. Now, having successfully done that, the next logical step is -- regulation!
Obviously nobody associated with the industry pre-Black Friday wanted the current state of affairs. There is a measurable loss associated with the departure of online poker from the U.S. Where before there was 12-table, 6-max grinding and Poker After Dark, now there is... whatever it is that's replaced those things. Call of Duty and late-night infomericals for SPANX, I guess.
Caesars, MGM and the other land-based casino interests now have the pole position. It's time to accept that fact and figure out what the road map to regulation is from here. Unless they performed some masterful post oak bluff, I sincerely doubt that Caesars and MGM contributed 650 Gs to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's 2010 re-election effort to have a multi-billion dollar industry shrivel up and die overnight. They've purchased influence and now they're going to try to use it.
Are there obstacles? Of course. The House leadership remains a big stumbling block. But the casino industry's been around the block more often than the PPA has. I would guess the casino industry actually have a semblance of a plan for where to go from here. Using talking points that the industry has been begging the PPA to use is a great first step.
The fear of the unknown is powerful. It's where denial comes from. It's tough to see the sky falling and the world undergoing cataclysmic upheaval when your head's in the sand (although you'd think the vibrations would give a clue).
Yet the unknown, the falling sky, and the cataclysm isn't just barreling down the pike; it's here. Now we need to decide what to do with the time we have given us. The winners are going to be the people who adapt to the new reality the fastest.