If you aren’t an avid poker player, you may not have heard that the Department of Justice/FBI have recently take some very aggressive action against the game of poker as played through the internet. How aggressive? Well, just click on over to any one of FullTiltpoker, Pokerstars, or Absolutepoker and you’ll find the following notice.
It spells out the that these sites have been seized as part of a larger criminal legal action against these companies and the individuals who run them. They’re out for blood… and money of course.
Let’s start with a brief history of how this came to be. The internet was one of those advancements in technology that outstripped the law in place at the time. It may have been illegal for a casino to open shop under the rules of your state, but could citizens of a state be allowed to gamble on websites that were hosted in countries where these activities were legal?
The only law that really seemed to speak to this was an old 1950s law that said that people could not transmit wagers via phone or telegraph lines to keep people from calling Las Vegas to bet on this weekends game. Of course, the politicians soon remedied that. In 2006, Congress and the Bush Administration gave us the SAFE Port Act to increase harbor security and accountability. At the last minute, they added the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) to specifically say gambling on the internet was illegal and to outline stiff penalties to any financial institutions who processed checks from internet companies. It goes without saying, that this greatly enhanced our harbor security.
Clearly, the authors of the UIGEA decided that the easiest way to go after internet gambling operations was to attack their ability to pay their winnings to their clients. It makes sense from one point of view: if you can’t attack the website themselves because of jurisdiction, then attack the domestic link in the chain. From another point of view, it doesn’t make sense. Isn’t the whole problem with gambling that you’re going to lose? Why attack their ability to pay out winnings if losing was the issue?
At any rate, this bill changes the game of online poker. Suddenly people felt like they were criminals for playing. A lot of recreational players just left the game, which mean that the online games got a lot “tougher” as we poker players would term it. The biggest domestic poker site at the time, Party Poker, closed it’s doors in the US for fear of this law.
But the UIGEA did not deter everyone. A new poker site, Full Tile Poker, stepped into the void left by Party Poker to become the biggest domestic site. As time passed and it was business as usual, the poker sites started to get more bold in their acquisition of customers. You couldn’t watch ESPN 2 for more than an hour without seeing an add like this one.
Recently, 60 minutes ran a story about just how accepted the whole internet poker craze had become.
In this report, they even showed how all of these “illegal” companies and their executives routinely came to conventions in the United States, such as the World Series of Poker, to advertise.
The acceptance of these poker sites, and the fact that there were so many people playing online, was causing law makers to come under fire. The UIGEA caused a new political body to come into play, the Poker Player’s Alliance whose specific intention was to shape the legal environment for the game of poker. The PPA started making headway towards getting the UIGEA overturned. In 2009, Barney Frank stated that it was his intention to use the newly elected Democratic Congress to overturn the UIGEA, and he and Ron Paul introduced a bill to do just that.
This bill failed to become law, but the UIGEA continued to come under fire from Barney Frank and Ron Paul. They moved to stop the UIGEA from getting funded or enforced. There was a lot of talk coming out of Washington about legalizing online poker, and the poker community was increasingly confident that this was going to happen. So we were all a little surprised when the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation unveiled the prosecution of online poker on Friday April 15th.
So now everyone knows the history of what brings us to where we are today. This latest government action impacts me personally. As a professional poker player, I often play online for low states to help gain experience in games that I am looking to move into. I figure, the more I can play, the better I’m going to get. I’ve not got $50 locked in Full Tilt that I can’t get access to, not to mention the lost opportunity of getting to sharpen my skills. All in all, though, I’m still doing just fine because I play poker in the physical world.
Some of my other poker playing friends have it much worse. One has $6000 locked into a site that she’s trying to get back. For other players out there, internet poker was their whole livelihood. They are, essentially, out of a job.
Yesterday I saw a poker player tweet, “Who is John Galt?” which is the rallying cry in Atlas Shrugged. I like that, but not as much as someone said on Friday when I was telling them what happened. “Don’t tread on me,” he said.
And that’s really what it comes down to. American was founded on the concepts of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The liberty and property of the poker community are under attack. I feel it’s time we took action. I’m asking everyone who is reading this post to join the Poker Player’s Alliance and to take an active interest in bringing an end to the government’s attack on our liberty. It’s simply absurd that European and Canadian poker players are sending us notes of sympathy for what our government is doing to us. Weren’t we supposed to be the most free people on Earth?
It’s high time we started to take back our rights. Please stand with me.