Is Online Poker Legal?

February 16, 2010 :: Posted by - admin :: Category - Poker News

Is Online Poker Legal?

Is online poker legal? This question is raised by many Americans who play online poker games. 2.5 million Americans play and bet $30 billion annually. Online poker has become a global pastime, generating $4.8 billion in revenues for gaming firms last year. But despite its popularity online poker in the U.S. has been bedeviled by questions of its legality.

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Many U.S. players who go online to play online poker games type this question in Google, “Is Online Poker Legal?” According to the U.S. Justice Department, playing online poker real money violates U.S. law. A 2006 law, set to go into full effect in June, expanded the Justice Department’s authority to shut down online gambling operations by going after the companies that process their financial transactions. While many companies have pulled out of the U.S., a few online poker sites, like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, have become rich by calling the government’s bluff and taking U.S. poker play.

Online Poker Legality

Online poker legality is a major concern for players who play online poker games. Online poker sites operate in the law’s shadows. The Bush Administration’s Justice Department took the position that facilitating for-money online poker violates U.S. law, making no distinction between sports betting – clearly illegal – and poker playing. These days the Justice Department still insists that “all forms of Internet gambling, including sports wagering, casino games and card games, are illegal.”

Online Poker Laws

The case law on online poker is mixed and online poker laws are rather unclear. The Wire Act was enacted in 1961 to suppress interstate gambling and bookmaking. It clearly makes online sports betting illegal. But for online poker the Wire Act’s wording is less clear.

One of the other online pokers laws the feds have used, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, requires a violation of an underlying state law – and many state laws say gambling is only illegal if the outcome rests largely on chance, as opposed to skill. Poker is, to some degree, a game of skill. “In poker the skill elements of the betting and folding usually determine the winner,” Lederer argued in an article published online.

In the end what the government usually cares about most is whether gambling is providing a mechanism for other criminal activity, like money laundering, underage gambling or cheating. If it isn’t, maybe there are bigger things for the police to worry about, other from online poker legality. For his part Doyle Brunson insists: “The poker industry as a whole is ready to have a fight.”

Source: Forbes

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