It is no secret that the law as it pertains to online poker, or the lack thereof, is a complete and utter mess. The gray area of online poker legislation and that of regulation have been ongoing hot topics in the poker world for years, and since Black Friday those outside the poker world are also starting to take notice. The US Attorney General let himself be heard on the subject this Tuesday and, while he professed a certain amount of ignorance to the ins and outs of online poker, came down on the side of the DOJ, describing the cases against major poker rooms as “appropriate.”
Black Friday quickly became the preferred term for Friday, April 15th of this year, the day on which the FBI seized the domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB and Absolute Poker, issuing indictments which forced these online poker rooms to stop offering real money poker to US residents. The intervening weeks have seen the beginning of the return of players’ money from PokerStars, although accounts at Full Tilt, UB and Absolute Poker are yet to be refunded. With allegations of bank fraud and money laundering it is clear that the accused sites will not be recommencing real money play inside the US in the near future, if ever.
Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, got the blood of many poker players boiling when he said in the same sitting that he did not know if poker was a game of skill, and that he found the cases brought against the online poker rooms appropriate. “We have to enforce the law as it exists and there are laws on the books with regard to Internet gambling that we have to enforce,” he said. “The case that we brought for instance in the Southern District of New York involved pretty substantial amounts of money and big financial institutions and I think those cases are appropriate.”
While it’s a perfectly acceptable point for you to take that the law needed to be enforced, in this case due to the bank fraud involved, it is nevertheless disappointing to once again see poker lumped in with internet gambling without any real second thought. The fact that online poker is falsely held by many to be gambling is the reason that poker sites were forced to conduct business in the way they did. Regardless of their motivation, their actions as online poker sites may very well be exactly as problematic – and draw the same consequences – as if were they really were online casinos, as all outside parties seem to believe. No doubt this will be fought hard by both sides in court.
The old battle of poker being a game of skill versus a game of chance is an extremely frustrating one in that, unlike the current legal system with regards to online poker, it is completely black and white. Anybody who has anything to do with poker, whether in a professional capacity or not, can tell, justify and explain that poker is a skill game. Those who believe it to be a game of chance have no researched basis for this assumption, but are merely guided by uncorrected misconceptions, which they seem to cling to purely out of laziness and a lack of desire to actually look into the issue.
The one silver lining of this total mess is that while the Attorney General and many other key players have made their ignorance on the subject blindingly clear, they’re starting to get flak for it and will perhaps take the time to educate themselves on the subject. We are all hoping that this is the extra attention we need to finally have those in power bother to learn a little about poker. Again, poker being a game of skill isn’t a matter of opinion, or an argument with two sides. As arrogant as it sounds, it’s simply a matter of knowledge versus ignorance. Perhaps we can see some positive change in the near future and real steps towards online poker legislation and regulation.