Gambling chips.
Gambling chips. - 
Listen To The Story

"Runner Runner" stars Justin Timberlake as a grad student caught up in Ben Affleck’s nefarious online poker operation. How nefarious? At one point, Affleck shoves Timberlake into a pool of hungry crocodiles. 

The trade group the Gaming Association has launched a campaign around the movie to jumpstart something it’s been pushing for years: federal regulations for online poker.

The Association’s director, Geoff Freeman, says that even though online gambling is illegal in the U.S., it’s a $3 billion industry.

"It’s here," Freeman says. "The question is, are we going to regulate it and create the right framework for this, or are we going to allow the black market to thrive."

But Freeman’s true opponents aren’t handsome, crocodile-owning thugs, says Richard McGowan, a professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.  

The opponents are actually -- wait for it -- state governments. "If I’m a state governor or a state treasurer, I am not amused by the thought of federal regulation here," says McGowan.

Because in that case, the feds would collect taxes and fees, and the states would face more competition for their own gambling franchises -- lotteries.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Dan Weissmann at @danweissmann