Following the great 2003 Moneymaker upset to the World Series of Poker, online poker US sites have garnered a lot more attention, and not all of it has been welcomed. Although it has certainly stirred up a lot more interest in online poker sites for US players in the general population, the national media attention also stirred up lawmakers, bringing into question the legality of online poker play for US citizens. Many countries have already made online poker legal and have installed regulations for play, including the United Kingdom. The United States, however, has lagged behind in allowing on-line play, resulting in the proliferation of free play sites for US players.
Quickly seeing the benefits of the online poker boom and hoping the capitalize on it, the state of North Dakota’s House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker card room operators located in the state in February 2005. The bill would have required online poker operations to locate all branches of operations physically in the state to qualify for legal status. 918kiss The owner of Paradise Poker and CEO of Sporting bet, Nigel Payne, pledged to relocate operations if the bill passed into state law.
After hearing of the bill, however, the U.S. Department of Justice sent notice to North Dakota’s Attorney General warning that online gaming “may” be illegal meaning that the pending legislation “might” be in violation of the federal Wire Act, passed into law in 1961, well before the internet. Shortly afterwards the bill was defeated by the North Dakota Senate. Since then the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Wire Act doesn’t apply to types of online gambling other than sports betting, which was the original purpose of the law anyway. Despite the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the application of the Wire Act to online gambling.
Later legislation has further closed off the US market. Passed into law in October 2006 by President Bush, the Safe Port Act includes a provision known as UIGEA or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which states that it is unlawful to use the internet for placing, receiving or knowingly transmitting a bet or a wager if the bet is unlawful in the state it is initiated, received or otherwise made.
This has made sure that online poker sites are unable to do business with Americans by prohibiting any American Financial Institutions from doing business with them. The time is ripe for new legislation to legalize and regulate poker in the US. Groups such as the Poker Players Alliance have made it their mission to protect and advocate for the right of US poker players. Several attempts have been made already to overturn the UIGEA and perhaps soon with some fresh legislation online rooms will be able to welcome US poker players online again.