Newsweek’s feature on online poker had the potential to bring new attention to the issue of Internet gambling. After all, most people aren’t too knowledgeable on the subject, and while it matters to those who play or write about the industry, it’s not a major issue to most Americans.
So many poker players, fans, and industry insiders hoped that Newsweek would produce a positive picture of the game, or at least leave readers with a finely balanced view.
But almost everyone in favour of regulating online poker was disappointed by what Newsweek ultimately published. The article by Leah McGrath Goodman was introduced on the cover with a photo of a young boy holding a tablet with the image of a royal flush, and the picture didn’t get much better once readers took in the piece itself.
In the piece, Goodman begins by introducing readers to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, as well as the 2011 reinterpretation of the Wire Act that opened the door to states determining whether they wanted to regulate online poker on an individual basis.
Negative Viewpoints Highlighted
But after laying out that background, the story took a decidedly negative tone towards online poker. George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley called the breadth of the impact of the reinterpretation from the Office of Legal Counsel “very concerning,” while Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was heavily quoted about his worries about the potential spread of Internet poker.
Reaction to the story from the poker community was overwhelmingly negative
“Many parents already can see how easy it is for a kid to get addicted to a video game that does not involve money,” Chaffetz was quoted as saying for the Newsweek story. “You put them on the Internet and they are gambling with money, now you have a real problem.”
The article continued by referring to social play money games as “slots for tots,” and outlining the risk to younger adults who are heavy users of social media and mobile devices. There are sections that outline contributions from the gaming industry to politicians including President Barack Obama, as well as information on Black Friday and the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker settlements that followed.
PPA, Others Take Issue with Content
Reaction to the story from the poker community was overwhelmingly negative. John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, told PocketFives.com that the story had so many issues that he wasn’t sure where to begin.
“It is full of inaccuracies and twists of truth that it would take days to sift through them all,” Pappas said. “There has been a robust and ongoing debate on this issue and to only present one side is a failure in journalism.”
Others pointed out various factual errors with the piece, both large and small. For instance, Goodman wrote that the Wire Act reinterpretation only left a ban on online sports betting, which is accurate, but says that this includes betting on horse racing, an activity that remains available online in many states.
The article has also been criticized for implicitly tying the new DoJ interpretation with social casino games, which were never illegal under any version of the Wire Act.
For her part, Goodman has defended the piece, saying that she exhaustively researched many of the issues involved in the debate over online poker.
“My and Newsweek’s goal, as always, was to focus on the facts, regardless of the views of both pro- and anti-online gaming interests,” Goodman tweeted in response to criticism of the article.
“Some have suggested the piece was politically motivated, or perhaps even biased against online gambling in the U.S.,” she wrote in response to a letter to the editor. “This is not the case.”