Regulating the Game
Like the brightest star in Hollywood or the most charismatic
politician in D.C., online poker is popular. In fact, it
may even be more popular and have a wider fan base than
Elvis. But just like anything or anyone famous, it has its
own share of troubles too. In online poker’s case,
it’s legal issues.
Some of these issues have come and gone, some are ongoing,
and some loom over online poker like a thick smoke…
vague but threatening.
Is Online Poker Legal?
The most severe among online poker issues is the law. Not
all players are affected by this online poker issue though.
For US online poker players however, it is not clear whether
online poker is legal or not. Nobody has ever been charged
for playing online poker. But there is no national legal
framework for the licensing necessary to validate the operation
of online poker rooms in the US.
According to the US federal government, internet gaming
and online poker in particular, violate three federal anti-gambling
laws, which include the 1961 Wire Act. In some states, there
are also specific laws against any kind of online gambling.
Online poker is technically illegal but everyone does it
in spite of the unspoken risk.
However, the US legal scenario for online poker isn't that
positive. In 2002, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding
Prohibition Act (HR 556) was approved by the US House of
Representatives. It makes the use of credit card, electronically
transferred funds and other methods for playing online poker
illegal. Now online poker players use a Canadian-based company
called NETeller. Although it takes up to 72 hours before
money is accessible through this account, transfer of money
from NETeller to online poker rooms is instantaneous and
But the fact that online poker is a game of skill more
than chance makes it vastly different from other betting
games. Online poker fans greatly hope that the online poker,
being considered as a sport by many, will influence legislators
in making the game legal.
Online poker is legal for most people in Europe and several
countries around the Caribbean, though. What's more, if
an online poker room's gambling license is issued from Europe,
winnings are completely tax-free for the European player.
What If There's No Cash-out?
An online poker scandal occurred in 2000 involving Poker
Spot, which was the very first online poker room to offer
tournaments. Unfortunately, the owner claimed that his company
was unable to collect players' deposits from the credit
card processing firm. This is why, e-cash, NETeller in particular,
is very convenient for both online poker players and operators.
Another possible risk that comes to the minds of online
poker players is not getting their holdings if an online
poker room goes bankrupt. The possibility of the big online
poker rooms going bankrupt is remote considering that online
poker is highly popular all over the world. But it’s
still wise for online poker players to choose credible online
poker rooms such as VC Poker, Doyle's Room and Golden Palace.
An Online Poker Player's Dilemma
Rigging is another issue plaguing some online poker players.
They fear that some online poker rooms cheat by using accomplices,
robots, and creating too much action just to gain more rake
revenue. But according to online poker operators, these
are just false rumors. If discrepancies occur, players won't
stay long in a particular online poker room. Major online
poker networks such as Tribeca Tables use only the latest
in online poker technology such as Certified Randomization
and Card Distribution. Successful online poker rooms won't
risk their credibility just to earn a few extra dollars
a day. You actually don't need a legal counsel for this
An Online Poker Operator's Dilemma
The US provides a huge fan base for online poker. It is
ironic that a lot of major tournaments are held there such
as the WSOP, but advertising to US based media was stopped
by the Justice Department in 2002. Prior to this, the significant
growth of online poker was due to advertising in the US
television, radio, and print media as well as search engines
and e-zines. Because of this, online poker sites use their
“dot.net” counterparts as a forefront of advertising.
Most media outlets are accepting ad placements from these
dot.nets sites, as dot.net connotes education rather than
What's Next For Online Poker?
For online poker operators, the battle is far from over.
Still they're happy. And why not? Most online players are
having too much fun to care about the legalities. They're
occupying online poker rooms in droves. Right now, online
poker is much too popular to bow down and surrender to legal
issues. But the current state of online poker legal issues
suggests that attention needs to be paid to this changing
landscape. Until the laws are seen as friendly, major investment
in online poker activity will continue to be forced offshore.
But imagine the boom that would occur if legality were achieved
for online poker in the US.