A number of potentially important, and in one case scandalous, developments have been taking place in the fight to legalize online poker in the United States. Law makers and industry groups are slowly massing behind the idea that a legalized regulated online poker industry is the best option for America as a whole.
One of the groups taking the fight against the UIGEA to the courts is the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), who are combating the U.S. Department of Justice over claims that the bill should be void for vagueness. The case is currently in the appeals court, and iMEGA is confident that they have the upper hand in the debate. However, evidence that has come to light since the case began is being suppressed and blocked by the DoJ.
When the UIGEA came into effect, it was criticized for giving an exemption to horse race betting and lotteries conducted over the internet. However, reports have surfaced that lotteries in North Dakota and New Hampshire are having their credit card transactions blocked by the banks due to confusion over the definition of “illegal online gambling.” iMEGA claims that this evidence is directly relevant to the case, as it shows a clear indication of the ineptitude of the UIGEA. Banks are forced to police the laws themselves and are forced to be overly cautious for fear of breaking the law. Justice attorney Nicholas Bagley wrote to iMEGA claiming that these instances were “inappropriate absent unusual circumstances,” and should not be brought into the case.
Head of iMEGA, Joe Brennan Jr., responded angrily stating that “the Justice Department doesn’t think that there is anything ‘unusual’ about credit card companies blocking purchases that are clearly allowed by the very law they’re trying to defend? The New Hampshire lottery is losing a quarter of its sales even though they’re supposed to be protected by this law.” It is expected that iMEGA will submit a request directly the court to have the evidence included.
One surprise source for positive poker news this week was the staunchly anti-gambling state of Utah. All forms of gambling are outlawed in the state and no distinction is made for poker’s skill factor. However, the State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has made it plain that he would support any moves to legalize a regulated online poker industry. Recent statistics have shown that the number of people playing poker in the United States has increased since the UIGEA came into effect in 2006, and Shurtleff thinks that “you’ve got unscrupulous people rigging the system. People are getting ripped off.” He believes that “[Online poker] is going to happen anyway, let’s put some regulation in place.”
Finally, former WSOP Championship winner Greg Raymer has been speaking in Washington D.C. on behalf of the Poker Player’s Alliance. He addressed the 36th-annual Conservative Political Action Conference on the subject of legal online poker, claiming that any good conservative would be in favor of protecting the freedoms of Americans. He accused those that would block the legalization of online poker as bad conservatives and referred to the politicians responsible for instigating the UIGEA as “idiots.”