Recently, in 2006, the United States enacted legislation, known as the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), which essentially made it unlawful for any American Poker player to fund an online Poker site with money to be used in Poker gambling. There are many reasons as to why this detrimental law should be reversed, and why the U.S. government should consider regulating Online Poker. Here are a few central ideas:
The UIGEA was literally tacked on as a last minute rider to a Ports bill, which was destined to pass. The UIGEA was added to ths bill, which was signed by President Bush, about 20 minutes prior to the Port bills Congress vote. The UIGEA was never discussed or debated in Congress, and was voted on from its original draft, which has many, many holes in it.
The UIGEA unfairly puts the onus on its implementation on the U.S. Banking system. It makes banks responsible and culpable for identifying and stopping checks and internet bank transfers that are gambling-related. Specifically, the UIGEA does not clearly delineate what a gambling transaction is and isn’t. The banking system is currently ill-equipped with the necessary man-power to implement such a vague law, and has been blunt in stating that it would take many years to implement a correct system that could identify offending transactions, without inadvertently halting benign transactions. Further, the UIGEA is requiring the banking system to implement this law on its own time (i.e., for no payment), and assume the culpability of its actions. Given the recent turmoil in the U.S. banking system, it makes absolutely no sense for the banking industry to be spending its time devising a plan to implement a law that is full of crevices, especially when there are infinitely more pressing needs that the banking system must reckon with these days.
Now, for the hypocrisy argument – the U.S. government says that house of pokies is illegal, when accounts are funded for the purposes of gambling, but it is totally legal and permissible to play state lotteries, wager for online horse-racing, and bet on fantasy sports online. Why on earth are lotteries deemed to be legal (when, in fact, they are totally left to chance), when a game of skill (Poker) is deemed to be illegal and immoral, as stated by the proponents of the UIGEA. It just makes no sense. Anyone who plays Poker knows that there is an inherent chance element associated with the game, but it is largely a game of skill (akin to Chess).
We are currently running the biggest government deficit in American history, courtesy the Bush Administration, and the National Debt will have increased from 5 BB to 9.5 BB under George Bush’s watch (that over a 90 % increase). Regulation of online Poker could bring a significant windfall to the U.S. government, that would certainly have a positive impact on lowering the budget deficit and slowing down the ballooning National debt. There are many who have suggested how to implement taxing online Poker, and we could surely learn from our friends in the U.K., who are already doing this.
There are many (this author included) who believe that the reason the U.S. government is not regulating internet-based Poker, is the strong Las Vegas casino lobbyists (who believe online Poker is hurting their business), and those that believe that Las Vegas is planning their strategy of going online at some point as well. The lawmakers who engineered UIGEA believe that elimination of non-US-based online Poker, will help pave the way for land-based casinos to enter this market, and will help eradicate any international competition that might otherwise exist.
Other proponents of the UIGEA argue that online Poker encourages underage gambling, which destroys the fabric of American society. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the sophistication of technology currently exists that would enable online Poker websites to prohibit the patronage of underage customers.
Finally, how is it that the American government can tell its U.S. citizens how they can spend their own money ? There is a serious Freedom of Speech issue at stake here. Further, the internet shows no geographical boundaries, and by prohibiting citizens from playing on an online Poker site that is physically located in another country, this demonstrates that the U.S. government feels no remorse in telling its constituency what websites it can and cannot frequent. If the U.S. government is not going to allow online Poker sites from being accesses, then maybe, just maybe, we should eliminate any websites that cater to alcohol, tobacco, sex, credit cards, etc., etc., etc. Why stop at online Poker ?
In summary, there are many, many reasons to repeal the UIGEA, and permit online Poker to be played. Hopefully, the next governmental regime will see the light, and reverse the stupidity and short-sightedness imposed by the current administration.