A 2006 law effectively blocks all types of Internet gambling by Americans, largely to prevent a rise in gambling addiction that online betting can easily lead to. Strong attempts to overturn the law have so far failed. Now a bill in Congress aims to open a crack in that wall. It would legalize only one type: online poker.
What’s the key argument for letting Americans bet on their favorite card game?
Poker is predominately a game of skill, proponents say, in which players compete with each other, not the house. Chance is only a distant factor – perhaps 12 percent over many hands, according to one study – at least for those considered skilled.
The bill’s advocates say players may get cards by a random deal, but the best of them are able to beat the inherent odds by using math, bluffing and reading their opponents, betting astutely, and knowing when to fold. They equate the game with Scrabble in that age-old debate over skill versus chance in many games.
The Justice Department, at least for now, isn’t buying it. In April, it indicted three giant poker websites in other countries under the 2006 law. (Poker itself is legal; it is the money side that isn’t.)
The bill is being put to Congress during a time when crackdowns happen on the Full Tilt Poker online operation – last week the US attorney in Manhattan, NYC, filed fraud charges against Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker, alleging that these companies have been in violation of a US law that bans companies from knowingly accepting payments from US customers and US banks that relate to illegal online gambling. Allegations are of massive fraud and money laundering for billions of US dollars. Following the allegations, five egambling licenses of Full Tilt Poker in Alderney (UK) were suspended. As a result, Full Tilt Poker's operations appear to have halted in Europe. Money owed to US players by Full Tilt Poker will allegedly be returned to these players following a acquisition of Full Tilt Poker's parent company Pocket Kings by a group of European investors. Europe-based Poker operators that had withdrawn earlier (2006) from the US, and had stopped accepting US-based players – such as Titan Poker and 888, are expected to pick up play from Full Tilt Poker.