Author: Anton Johan
You have to hand it to the American judicial system. It may have taken 160 years to finally recognise what every poker player has known for 160 years, that the game of poker is predominantly a game of skill (as
opposed to a game of chance like roulette or craps), but recognised this fact it finally has.
Last week New York federal judge Jack B Weinstein issued a 120-page ruling, in
which he declared that poker - which is as much an American institution as
McDonalds, Thanksgiving and sending things to Mars - requires more than a fair
amount of skill, and provides a very good living for those good at the game.
Up until now poker has been lumped alongside a host of other popular gambling
games that America's many puritans - many of which unfortunately are in
government - have deemed to be based predominantly on luck, and thus not fit to be legalised countrywide in brick and mortar venues or on the internet.
Internet Poker has been Around for 20 Years
Every since the internet gave birth to online gambling almost 20 years ago,
supporters of legalised online poker in the US have called on the government to
differentiate the popular card game from the many other forms of gambling which,
while arguably just as much fun, admittedly rely less on skill than the good
graces of Lady Luck.
But those calls have fallen on deaf ears. And the handful of US politicians who
have taken the legalisation and regulation of poker, and other online gambling
games, under their wings, have seen their respective bills and proposals fall by
the wayside, to the continued disappointment and frustration of online poker
As a result, US online poker fans have been forced to either trek to one of the
few US cities or Native American reservations where gambling is legal, like the
annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada (which in 2012 boasted a prize
pool in excess of $220 million), or play illegally at offshore online poker
Many Americans Play Offshore Online Poker
Unfortunately for US authorities, many have chosen the latter because offshore
internet poker rooms that accept players from America are plentiful, convenient
and offer the widest range of poker variants, games, tournaments, buy-ins and
limits. But the trick has always been to find ways to fund their online poker
Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was signed
into law in 2001 - which was designed to prevent Americans from using US banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions from processing online gambling-related payments - US online gamblers have found it increasingly hard
to gamble online.
The passing of UIGEA also scared many offshore gambling operators into barring
American players, because they did not want to also fall prey to the 'online
gambling witchhunt' conducted by the US Department of Justice, which has seen
many offshore online gambling operations shut down, and their senior executives
More US States Want Poker to be Legalised
However, where there is a will there is a way, and between the online gaming
sites that still welcome Americans, and players enterprising enough to fund
their accounts, illicit online poker and casino gambling is still very much
alive and well in the United States. Which is why a growing number of states
want it legalised and regulated.
They have realised that instead of letting millions if not billions of dollars
flow offshore, never to be seen again, through legalisation and thus taxation,
they would be able to reroute a hefty portion of that to their much depleted
coffers. Of course, this is easier said than done, considering how demonised
online gambling is in America.
For many Americans, (particularly those in state and federal government), the
notion of giving their fellow countrymen and women the freedom and right to
choose for themselves whether to gamble online or not, is an abhorrent one.
While any Tom, Dick and Madman has the right to own a gun or ten in America, to
play a little poker online or spin the reels of a slot game or two is regarded
by many as the Devil's work.
Credit Where Credit is Due
Still, credit where credit is due. Judge Weinstein may just have opened the way for the legalisation of land and online poker in America (although that will remain
to be seen), and who knows, perhaps even greased the wheels a little for more
gambling changes to come.
Incidentally, even though the UK hasn't got a rover on Mars, at least its citizens can play poker online here on Earth.
Posted by Anton Johan at 10:42 on 30 August 2012