This might just be what online poker needs, a push from an organization that has had enough. The Remote Gambling Organization (RGA) has filed a complaint with the European Union (EU) against the US “for discrimination based on violations of World Trade Organizations (WTO) rules.” They claim that it is unlawful and unfair for the US to press criminal charges against foreign online gaming sites while allowing US online gaming operators to run legally. The main focus in the US online industry is horse betting, which is continued to be legal while playing online poker is considered a felony in some states.
Since this formal complaint has been filed, the EU will now have to investigate how the US is handling this alleged discrimination. If it is found by the EU that the US is in fact discriminating foreign companies, they will then most likely have to begin meeting with the US to try and end it. Should this be unsuccessful, the EU will have the power to pursue help from the WTO; which could essentially remove the US ban all together.
Let’s face it, the US is guilty here. Why on earth they think it is okay for millions of people to participate in legal US based online lotteries and horse betting and placing legal threats for others who want to play a hand of poker is beyond me. Without even getting into the luck/skill debate about poker (which almost any professional player can prove) it is still wrong for the US to be able to essentially say “it’s okay for you to bet on this, but not that.” And if you add in the fact that they are unfairly removing potential customers for these oversea companies has to ring some bells to the EU and WTO.
The RGA has some big oversea poker and gambling sites to back it up, including PartyGaming, 888, PKR, William Hill, PlayTech, VCPoker, CryptoLogic, and Ladbrokes just to name some. All of these companies do not accept US players and clearly want to change that. This could be one of the best movements to date for legalizing online poker, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little skeptical about it actually doing anything.
The reason I say this is because there have been many efforts since the UGIEA was passed in 2006, and online poker is still illegal. Also, according to the US the EU won’t even be able to obtain WTO help if they require because the US removed gambling from their WTO agreement. Because the gambling industries are no longer in their WTO rule, the EU might be out of luck looking for WTO involvement. I hope the US is just being over confident in this issue though, because what they are doing is simply unfair.
I do believe that there will be a day again when online poker will be like it use to and US residents will not have to be restricted from playing at some sites. However, I am sure the process will be long and hard. Hopefully more complaints like this will get the movement going even faster. The people in the US want to be able to play poker if they want; especially if it is legal for them to bet on seabiscuit!