Poker Players Alliance

Poker Players Alliance is Fighting for You

Aug 08, 2006  
2006 Randy Saylor  

The regulatory environment for poker players in the United States is murky at best. Many poker players never know what is legal. Of course, casino-run games are legal, but after that, there is little consistency in laws from state to state.

The state of Washington has passed draconian laws regarding even receiving gambling information via mail, telephone, or internet, let alone actually placing bets.

Some states say home games are legal if there is no entrance fee or rake, while others expressly forbid even a penny-ante kitchen table game. Free games awarding prizes are legal is some places. Charity games are legal in some places, if no money is paid to individuals for services.

To say that this atmosphere is confusing is an understatement. One of the bases of the United States Constitution is that states are individual entities allowed to set their own rules, within a certain framework. The problem with this relating to internet gambling is that a poker player may live in one state, bank with a company headquartered in another, use credit cards from another, and have an ISP based in another. So which state regulates this players ability to play poker online?

(Disclaimer: all statements regarding legality of certain actions are not legal opinions or advice.)

The legality of online poker on the federal level seems to be unlimited at this point. In the unlikely event of the passage of the Goodlatte bill (HR 4411), there may be some increased restrictions on ISPs and financial institutions. Enforcement actions will likely be directed towards operators rather than players.

The only federal statute that seems to impact online gambling is the 1961 Wire Act, and courts have ruled that this act applies only to wagers on sporting events. Appellate courts have upheld this opinion. Another point of confusion is the fact that the Wire Act addresses wagering information sent interstate by telephone and mail, with no mention of the internet (which Al Gore hadnt invented yet) or of overseas wagers.

State and municipal laws are a quagmire, often poorly written and unconstitutional.

The Poker Players Alliance has commissioned a study considering the impact of regulating and taxing internet gambling, rather than outlawing it. The consensus is that sponsoring regulating internet gambling could generate approximately $3.3 Billion of revenue.

There are many powerful lobbying groups that would fight such an attempt; for fear that their potential gamblers would turn away. The horse racing, lottery, and charitable gambling beneficiaries would certainly object. Sports leagues may fear that increased sports betting may influence the outcome of games.

Finally, the puritanical religious factions would condemn it, simply because it is gambling. No one seems to get the message to these people that prohibition does nothing to eliminate peoples desires to perform certain actions. The prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century did little to curb alcohol consumption. An internet gambling ban will do little to stop people from gambling.

The religious factions make up a large part of the voting base, though, and the politicians would be unwise to completely ignore their desires. Some pundits speculate that HR 4411 and similar legislation is intended to appease voters in an election cycle. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist believes the bill will not even go to a vote in the Senate.

Poker players and the like must be concerned that such legislation could gain momentum in the future, however, even if not put in place this year. The Poker Players Alliance is fighting for your right to play poker in casinos, homes, bars, and on the internet now, and for years to come.

The cost of joining the PPA is even refundable. You can pay with credit card or Neteller, and if you use your membership number as a bonus code when you reload at Party Poker, they will credit your account with a bonus equal to the membership fees. Note that new Party Poker players should not use this bonus; only reload deposits are eligible. Email Party Poker support for details, as this promotion is not always available.