Online Poker News
October 18, 2006  
© 2006 Randy Saylor  

October 5: UIGE Act of 2006 may violate WTO treaties

Two long-time allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, may find themselves at odds over the recent US passage of legislation designed to curb internet gaming. The UK is one of 60 nations that have laws regulating (and taxing) online gaming originating within its borders. As co-members of the World Trade Organization, the two superpowers may find themselves at odds over the US attempt to ban online gaming.

The WTO has ruled that online gaming is a product that should be freely traded among member countries. Legal precedent has been set in cases involving Antigua, where online gaming got one of its earliest starts. Antigua was a charter member of the World Trade Organization at its 1995 founding, and their division of gaming licenses 30 companies.

The historical clash between the United States and Antigua dates back to the indictment of sportsbook operators for violation of the Wire Act of 1961, a US law that attempted to stop telephone transmission of gambling information. Antigua filed a complaint with the WTO in 2003 claiming that the US was in violation of the General Agreement of Trade in Services by attempting to restrict citizens’ access to services offered by Antigua companies.

The US government argued against the claim, stating that the government believes gambling is morally wrong. The WTO countered that gambling is allowed within the US, suggesting that ruling gambling outside the US to be illegal and immoral is hypocritical.

The US has essentially ignored the WTO ruling and legal moves by Antigua. The tiny size and economic importance of Antigua make this a not unreasonable position. Complaints made by the UK over trade violations, however, may carry a little more weight in Washington DC.

Interestingly, many of the regulations controlling Antigua’s gaming have American roots. Frank Catania, former director of gaming enforcement in New Jersey, wrote many of the regulations as a consultant for the Antiguan government.

October 6: Titan Poker fires US customers

Titan Poker joined the exodus away from US players in an attempt to avoid legal difficulties. Players are allowed to access their account through the client software, but not able to join any games.

October 7: Neteller commits to American customers

Neteller is the premier funding source for online poker players, and its unavailability to US customers would decimate online poker from the United States. Neteller has released an official statement that should temporarily calm fears that many of the American fish will be no longer playing online.

“It is currently unclear how NETeller, a European company, with no assets, presence, or employees in the US, would be affected by this bill. Once the regulations have been written, NETeller will have a clearer view of which companies are affected, how those companies will be expected to comply, and any possible resulting impact on NETeller and its US facing business. NETeller continues to operate its business as normal.
“Over 3 million customers in 160 countries trust NETeller to transfer over $7 billion each year. NETeller (UK) Limited is authorized and regulated in the United Kingdom by the Financial Services Authority and listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. To protect its customers’ money, all deposited, in transit, and uncleared funds are held in trust accounts.”


October 6: Mary Jones wins US Open Poker title

Mary Jones, a Las Vegas woman who won the 2006 World Series of Poker ladies-only tournament in July, has won the $500 no-limit holdem tournament held as part of the US Poker Championships at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Jones topped the field of 272, for a first prize of $47,192.

October 8: Sunday tournaments see attendance fluctuations

The four biggest Sunday tournaments in online poker were held as usual, but recent statements by the poker sites altered the typical attendance numbers dramatically. Full Tilt Poker and UltimateBet had made statements committing to US players. Poker Stars had yet to release a statement doing the same. At that point, they had only advised caution. Party Poker’s statement that they would abandon the US market upon the expected October 13 signing of the bill probably would keep players away.

In the end, Party Poker lost players in its biggest tournament. Full Tilt and UltimateBet saw increases, and Poker Stars’ count remained about the same.

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