Is There Hope of Poker Prohibition Overturn?

November 12, 2009 |

The Poker Players Alliance and executives for the American Gaming Association have indicated they are optimistic that recent political changes in U.S. Congress could help them upend the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

The UIGEA was tacked on to the Safe Port Bill after most Senators had already cast their votes and left before Congress adjourned for mid-term elections. The UIGEA made it illegal for banks and financial institutions to process transactions for online gambling sites from U.S. customers, although did not make playing online poker illegal.

The AGA previously opposed online gambling, however their stance changed recently. Frank Fahrenkopf, the AGA’s President stated “Our policy changed back in April when we took a position that we thought the best way to go was to have an independent commission look at it.”

The AGA board of directors will meet December 6, said Fahrenkopf, to consider whether “to support legislation in the new Congress calling for an independent study of Internet gambling to see if it can be properly regulated, controlled, taxed and licensed here in the United States.”

Fahrenkopf added, “My guess is that they are going to say let’s go ahead and do it.”

During an interview with Reuters news service, Fahrenkopf also commented how the supposed goal of the UIGEA was to protect American citizens. Instead it caused many lawful and accountable operators to pull out of the U.S. opening the way for unregulated companies to fill the gap, as most US players were likely to continue gambling online.

President of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), Michael Bolcerek, said that results of the Congressional election have encouraged the PPA.

“Our members and other poker players went to the polls. They influenced the federal election,” he said. “In the next 12 months we’re confident that we’ll get a study commission bill. We think an exemption [for online poker] is in order, as well.”

Harshly criticizing the UIGEA, legal expert Professor I. Nelson Rose of the Whittier Law School says the bill is confusing and contradictory with all its exemptions.

“It’s a public embarrassment…it’s a mess,” said Rose. “Eventually I think they’ll get Congress to change the law to do for Internet poker exactly what they did for Internet horse racing. It’s an exemption but (based on) states’ rights.”

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