Are online poker rooms Legal In The USA?
The popularity of poker and the ease of playing online have made online poker rooms some of the most populated of all USA online gambling sites. This has made players question the legalities of online poker in the United States more than anything else. Some assert that, due to the skill required to play online poker, it is not held under the same laws as standard games of chance. Poker fans, legislators, and even some of the major gambling companies in the States all assert that online poker is legal, even if the Department of Justice, the FBI, and many other legislators feel that it isn't. This has sparked the great debate over whether online poker is in a grey area, whether it is legal, or whether it is illegal.
It is generally implied that, in a free country under a democratic government, that which is not specifically illegal is actually legal. There is no federal law that states "online poker is legal," leading many to believe that online gambling is in fact legal. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act "prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law." The UIGEA has not been successful, as poker players all over the Nation had continued to play this most famous game and enjoy all of the advantages there in. With some players turning online poker into their living, it came as a great upset when some of the major, reputable online poker rooms had been forced out of the American market.
Online poker has been targeted by the United States more than any other form of online gaming. Bank accounts, Internet domains and assets have been seized, CEOs and operators have been indicted, and players have been left without money. Visiting one of the gambling sites that had been seized will show that these gambling sites had been seized under the Illegal Gambling Business Act of 1970, which prohibits "illegal gambling businesses," with "gambling" defined as including, but not being limited to, "pool-selling, book making, maintaining slot machines, roulette wheels or dice tables, and conducting lotteries, policy, bolita or numbers games, or selling chances therein." This does not expressly list poker, but the "not limited to" clause could force poker to be included. Either way, those who are for poker are still arguing that this is complete nonsense.
So what does this all mean for the player? It means that there is always an element of risk with online poker that does not include the actual risk involved in gambling. If you played through Full Tilt or PokerStars on April 15th, than you already know what this risk is - the risk of the government seizing the funds and assets controlled by these online poker rooms. No players were indicted or arrested, so it isn't like there was a great, irreplaceable lost, but there is still the inconvenience. Players will ultimately receive their money, so the risk can be worth it - especially if you're a good player. Just to repeat, however, there is no risk of getting in trouble with the federal government if you decide to play online poker.
On a state-by-state basis, there are some states that have specifically and expressly made online poker illegal. Washington state is the prime example of this. In Washington State, online poker is a Class C Felony, a felony which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, carrying with it a possible fine of $10,000 dollars per violation - which could include every hand played. Washington State is not alone in their decision, though no other state has received the same negative attention. In fact, even before the major online poker rooms were forced from operating in this state, they had pulled from the Washington market entirely.
In reality it is fairly safe to say that you have very little, if anything to worry about when it comes to the legal issues surrounding online gambling. The federal laws have become little more than an irksome complication that has been hovering like a dark cloud over the heads of most online poker players. It has not been turned into a criminal activity for the players, on a federal scale at least, so ultimately online poker rooms are technically legal - though this cannot be said for every single state in the Union.
One of the recent developments regarding the world of online poker, is it's connection with gambling. The question at hand, is actually whether or not gambling at a poker room is considered gambling, and not a skill. In fact, a judge in the state of New York recently ruled that poker is most closely related to a game of skill, rather than a game of chance. As you can imagine, all of the poker enthusiasts in the United States is hoping that this will one day be the catalysts which actually declassifies poker as a game of chance and under the umbrella of gambling. The move to a game of skill could have huge implications on the industry, and create the doorway for legal online poker sites operating in the U.S., by players in the United States, for players in the United States.
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