New Film Runner Runner Highlights Need for Online Gambling Regulation

While many fans of poker – both online and off – have long been looking forward to the upcoming release of the Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake vehicle Runner Runner, it turns out that the film might have more to offer than just entertainment value.

According to a press release put out in advance of the film’s premiere on October 4th, Runner Runner serves to highlight a very real problem in the United States, that being that a lack of regulated online gaming.

This has meant that U.S.-based players looking to access real-money online poker games and other forms of Internet wagering are oftentimes forced to do so via channels that are not-so-reputable, namely unregulated offshore gaming companies.

Plot borrows from real-life online poker scandals

In Runner Runner, Justin Timberlake portrays a college student (perhaps a bit of a stretch given that in real life the actor is 32 years old) and online poker player who seeks out Affleck, the operator of the online poker site that Timberlake believes cheated him. Though the story is a fictional one, there is no denying that in this case, art does imitate life, as the plot line draws upon many online poker scandals that have broken in recent years.

As it turns out, movie buffs and JT fanatics aren’t the only ones who can’t wait for the film to come out; powerful gambling industry lobbying group the American Gaming Association (AGA) is also looking forward to its public release, as the group plans to piggyback off the movie to raise public awareness of what they see as an urgent need for federal action on the issue of online gambling regulation.

AGA data suggests massive unregulated market

According to the AGA’s CEO and president, Geoff Freeman, the worldwide online betting industry generated $33 billion in spending last year, with U.S. players comprising about $2.6 billion toward that total. Being that most Americans at this time have limited access to legal, safe online betting options, the AGA sees that figure as being incredibly significant.

Runner Runner is a fictional account of a lawless online poker world ruled by shady and unethical characters that sadly is not far from reality for millions of Americans who simply want to enjoy one of our favorite pastimes in a safe online environment,” said Freeman.

“Americans account for nearly 10 percent of the global online gaming marketplace at a time when the business is illegal in all but three American states.  It is past time for policymakers to put necessary safeguards in place,” Freeman went on. “The alternative to the approach AGA recommends is a state-by-state patchwork of regulations across a borderless Internet where the black market will continue to thrive in states that choose not to pass legislation.”

Patchwork approach is more likely than federal regulation, most believe

Though some progress has been made at the state level toward the regulation of online wagering – it is now legal in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey – most gambling industry experts believe that there is little chance that lawmakers will choose to act on the issue anytime soon.

With an increasingly divided Congress scrapping about everything from health care to foreign policy issues, the gridlock that is now the norm in Washington D.C. will make it very difficult for such legislation to succeed. Moreover, there is little GOP support for online gambling regulation, and even powerful supporters of Internet-based wagering like Nevada Senator Harry Reid doubt that developments are forthcoming. Reid has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t think the issue will come up again until 2014, if then.

Meanwhile, it has been quite a long time since a movie dealing with the topic of poker has come out of Hollywood. So, even for those fans of online poker who are unable to actually play the game, at least they have the film to look forward to.

Whether or not the AGA succeeds at using the movie’s release to spur interest in its goal of regulated online gambling in the United States is quite another story, and one we will certainly be following.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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