Poker Pro Jason Somerville Appears on CNBC to Debate Online Poker Legalization

Appearing on the August 9th episode of CNBC program Power Lunch, poker pro and member of Team PokerStars Jason Somerville debated the merits of legalizing and regulating online poker.

Although the debate-style format saw Somerville exchange talking points with Reverend James Butler, Executive Director of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion (CCAGE), the newest voice of online poker’s thriving live stream community expanded the conversation past the Golden State and into full federal regulation.

The host of Power Lunch, CNBC anchor Tyler Mathisen, opened the six-minute discussion by asking Rev. Butler to outline his organization’s specific objections to California’s pending online poker legislation package:

“What do you see as the strongest argument against what California is thinking about doing? Is it the social cost, is it the public policy, what?”

Butler responded with a litany of unfounded observations, mentioning that “the studies” indicate a “3 to 1 loss” for jurisdictions which tax and regulate online poker. Pressed by Mathisen to clarify his arguments, Rev. Butler offered the following list of “losses” incurred in states like Nevada and New Jersey:

“[Consequences to legalized gambling occur] through the social and economic cost of increases in crime, unemployment, welfare, homelessness [and] bankruptcies … just to name a few.”

When the debate shifted to Somerville, the host began by pointing out that the United States occupies a distinct minority worldwide when it comes to banning online poker.

Somerville agreed with that sentiment, before observing that opponents of legalized and regulated online poker actually do their constituents a great disservice, as Americans still readily access unregulated sites which lack the internal safeguards offered by a legalized industry:

“Online poker exists in a regulated and safe environment in the majority of countries around the world.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already playing online poker, but they’re playing on unregulated, unsafe sites where they don’t know that the games are square and they don’t know if their money is safe.”

To prove his point, Somerville admitted that he’d won and lost five-figure amounts playing on unregulated sites himself, part and parcel of playing poker professionally in the post-Black Friday era.

As the forerunner of the Run It Up brand – which covers Somerville’s live streamed poker instruction on Twitch, along with a fledgling live tournament series, and associated apparel and merchandise – Somerville has emerged as an ambassador for online poker in recent years.

His intense live streaming schedule sees Somerville play online legally through in Nevada, or on PokerStars when abroad, while broadcasting every tournament and cash game hand over the course of several months to thousands of subscribers and viewers.

This direct access to fans, most of which represent the customer base which has been prohibited from enjoying their hobby or profession, has shaped Somerville’s passionate advocacy for online poker legalization – both in California and nationwide:

“I hear from these Americans who say, ‘Why can’t I play a $1 buy-in poker tournament from the comfort of my home while I’m able to bet on horse races, buy lottery tickets, play Daily Fantasy… why is poker not being treated the same way as those other industries that we’re taxing and regulating?'”