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Jason Somerville defended online poker on CNBC’s Tuesday Power Lunch program, sporting a black PokerStars polo shirt. The executive director of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, James B. Butler, was his opponent in a sparring discussion partner in an enthusiastic debate.

In the outset of the interview, Butler claimed that:

“There is a three-to-one loss for states and governments that use gambling as an economic resource”.

“It occurs through the social and economic cost of increase in crime, unemployment, welfare, homelessness, and bankruptcies, just to name a few”.

The fact that most EU countries already legalized is a fact that Butler didn’t acknowledge. When it comes to this issue, the United States is still trailing. On the other hand, the PokerStars pro argued:

“Online poker exists in a regulated environment in a majority of other countries around the world. And it’s great to see states like New Jersey take a forward thinking approach on this, taxing and regulating. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already playing online poker. But they’re playing on unsafe, unregulated sites where they don’t know the games are square and they don’t know their money is safe”.

Playing on unregulated sites can be very dangers, Somerville explained. At one time, he lost tens of thousands of dollar on an unregulated poker site. The money simply just wasn’t there when waking up in the morning.

Responsibility of Government

Of course, the money lost on unregulated sites is something the popular poker Twitch streamer can’t do anyhing about. Since technically these business are not legal in the United States, the government won’t be able to protect him.

Does this mean that there is a responsibility to allow for regulated online poker sites that lays within the state governments? This would at least mean that players and US citizens won’t be scammed out of money since they’re already playing online.

Somerville reacted:

“I think it’s the government’s responsibility to tax and regulate. I had no choice, you know what I mean, like…”

The co-host, Tyler Mathisen, interrupted:

“You had a choice not to do it”.

Somerville fired back:

“Sure, but the sites offer, you know, and they come off as reputable but, actually, they’re not. I mean, sites like PokerStars which is now the most licensed and regulated site in the world, they are pushing for these regulations so that we can make sure that there is no underage play, that there is no problem gamblers playing, you know we want to track those”.

He added:

“The unregulated sites…they don’t care if someone is losing their house or they’re playing underage. They’re just there to make money. So I think the government’s perspective should be we want to tax and regulate.”

Butler doesn’t agree with the Poker pro

As you may have expected, Butler didn’t exactly agree with Somerville when he jumped in to give his two cents.

He argued:

“It’s really interesting that we say we need to respond to protect people who are engaged, by their own acknowledgement, in an illegal site. There are other ways to protect gamblers from these illegal sites. The federal government closed down sites in 2011. The state of Washington closed down sites”.

He was asked:

“Where do you draw the line telling people what they should do with their own money”?

Butler answered:

“Well, maybe we should begin by at least not charging people for that choice. We need to say that there are some people that are not able to control themselves. It is the role of the government to provide some sort of safety to those, and not provide a virtual poker parlor.”

Since Somerville has recidency in the United States, as well as in Canada, he’s still able to play online using sites as PokerStars. We’re not sure why he has to go to Canada, as PokerStars is already up and running, legally, in New Jersey.

Somerville did argue why poker isn’t treated as fairly as sports betting and horse racing, which are other popular gambling industries.

On major cable television programs, this verbal beating on the poker industry was this month’s second time. Last week The Dan Le Batard show on ESPNU interviewed Jason Mercier. Prior to the interview, Le Batard insulted poker players and even questioned whether the 2016 WSOP Player of the Year was struggling with a gambling problem.