By now most people interested in it have seen the segment on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, pertaining to the poker cheating scandal at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet . Poker supporters who watched it with anticipation didn’t have to wait long for something to get upset over.
Within the first few minutes of the segment, Steve Kroft said, “We should tell you that this $18 billion industry is illegal in the U.S.” He didn’t stop there though. He repeated again several times that online poker is illegal in the United States. The sad part is that the producers of the show actually got legal opinions to the contrary, yet still made the bold statement that online poker is against the law.
Professor I. Nelson Rose is considered one of the foremost experts in the area of gaming law. He states that he was contacted by the producers of the show prior to it airing and was asked his opinion on the legality of online poker. Professor Rose did an interview with Poker News Daily in which he says, “I thought I made it clear to them. You can’t say for sure that online poker is illegal. There are too many variables. The show gave the false impression that it’s a crime to play poker (in the U.S.) when in fact in probably half the states, you’re not committing any crime at all.” He adds that there are several states that do have specific laws against online gambling. In Washington for example, it’s a class-C felony to play poker online. For comparison, rape and child molestation are also class-C felonies in that state.
The Poker Players Alliance has issued a statement on the airing of the show as well. They will continue to support the push to legalize and regulate online poker. “The recent cheating scandals underscore the need for U.S. licensing and regulation of online poker to help protect consumers.” They also make the point that “Regulation of Internet poker does not equal an expansion of gambling in this country. Like it or not, the phenomenon of Internet poker cannot be wished away. The American market has spoken. There is strong demand for Internet poker and no reasonable government can or should stand in the way of adults competing in games of skill on the Internet.” They go on to state that regulation could be worth billions of dollars in revenue for the government in the form of taxes and licensing fees. This would seem to be an opportune method of increasing revenue during a much needed time.
Congress is set to go back to work in January after the inauguration of President-elect Obama. There is still optimism that the new administration and Congress will reverse some of the recent anti-poker legislation. Stay tuned, we may yet see regulation of licensed online poker rooms in the United States in the not so distant future.