Federal online poker?

Glacial. This is perhaps the best way to describe the progress towards regularising online gambling within the United States. Since the passage of UIGEA back in 2006 the online gaming market in this country has been forced underground, drawing some similarities with the Volstead Act and prohibition. Over the years we have seen and heard many commentators and law makers indications that things will change in this area, but so far to no avail.

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Whose law is it anyway?

Further to the indictments unsealed against Calvin Ayre and three other Bodog employees, Calvin has announced a top-notch legal team that will be putting forward his defence strategy.

In what may be perceived as a one-fingered salute to the Department of Justice, Calvin has selected six attorneys including Barry Slotnick. For those of you who do not know Barry Slotnick, he is the New York based attorney who successfully defended a number of alleged Mafia members, including John Gotti and Joe Columbo.

What is of greater interest here is that the claimed proof of Bodog taking bets from US based players has been presented where government agents (acting in an almost agent provocateur manner) have placed real money wagers via the website back in January of 2012. The legality of this situation has been argued in a variety of fora over recent years, yet it still something pertinent to the global iGaming business today.

Simply by way of example, let us stop for a moment and imagine the furore that would erupt in the United States should an American tavern owner have an Interpol Red Notice issued against them, at the request of a dry nation, because one of the citizens of said dry nation had purchased and enjoyed a cold beer at a bar in New York. Do you believe for even one moment that the owner of the bar would be arrested by the local authorities? Of course not. The US government would flatly refuse to hand over the person or persons listed in such a warrant. And why? Because drinking a beer in New York is not a crime. It may be that an individual’s personal beliefs dictate that they may not consume alcohol and it may be against the law to drink beer in some parts of the world. But in New York city in 2012 it is still not a crime for an adult (even tourists) to consume alcohol.

So now we hit the central part of the issue. We have US players going abroad (on a virtual trip over the Internet) to play poker in foreign nations, such as Antigua. They return from their brief virtual vacation and carry on with life. Now the US law enforcement goes after the foreign business owner in the foreign sovereign nation for something that is perfectly legal in said sovereign nation.

In 2007 the World Trade Organization ruled that the United States was in violation of their obligations by not granting full access to online gaming companies. Perhaps it is time for the United States government to play by the rules they expect everyone else to adhere to.


UIGEA after 2012?

Next year brings the United States of America Presidential elections and the maniacal scramble for the Whitehouse is already heating up. In 2008 there was much talk about the possibility of Barack Obama repealing UIGEA, once it had been reported that he was a keen poker player – then again, George W. Bush was known as a skilled poker player whilst he was attending Harvard Business School. Sadly for many poker players in the United States, Obama did not take any action on UIGEA and the act is still in force.

There may, however, be a glint of light at the end of this very dark tunnel. One of the challengers to the throne is Congressman Ron Paul, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination. Paul is a libertarian and has consistently been against UIGEA saying, in 2008:

I think the whole idea of the UIGEA is to intrude upon that using government regulations. Of course, I also defend the right of individuals to spend their money as they choose. I personally don’t engage in gambling, but I recognize that some people enjoy and like it and can handle it, and they ought to have the right to do it.

The best odds on Dr. Paul winning the Presidential Election next year currently are showing around the 10/1 region. Certainly the favourite (as is often the case) is the incumbent President. There’s always what might be called the “home advantage” for any sitting president, since they already “look presidential”. This in itself inspires awe in some voters and is often enough to tilt the balance in favour.

Leading the challengers is Mitt Romney, with odds as short as 2/3. Interestingly enough, were Mitt Romney to win, as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints he would mark a distinct break from the more traditional Protestant based Christian religions that Presidents have generally nailed their colours to. At least, since Abraham Lincoln.

There is another potential hurdle here too. The Mormon website states:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opposed to gambling, including lotteries sponsored by governments. Church leaders have encouraged Church members to join with others in opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of any form of gambling.

It would appear, therefore, that Mitt Romney might be less than happy to entertain the idea of legalised online poker and therefore perhaps the best hope for poker players in the United States lies with Ron Paul becoming the 45th President of the United States of America. At 77 years of age, this would be quite an achievement. Yet, who would have predicted just 10 years ago that Barack Obama would be in the Whitehouse?