Many conservatives believe the federal government should not be in the business of preventing adults from playing a game of poker at a time and place of their choosing. These include former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, George Will, Walter Williams, and Grover Norquist, all of whom have written in opposition to prohibitions on poker.
Conservatives believe “the government that governs best governs least.” Poker is a great American pastime that has been enjoyed by U.S. soldiers, presidents, world leaders, and everyday Americans. It is simply wrong that Americans are being told they are criminals for enjoying the great game of poker.
The new law unfairly discriminates against poker giving special protections to activities such as intrastate gaming, on-line lotteries, betting on horse racing, and fantasy sports for cash.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) requires banks and credit card companies to police the Internet and the financial system to stop Americans from participating in “unlawful Internet gambling” – a requirement the government could not even define. U.S. licensing and regulation removes this burden from America’s financial services industry. It’s time to stop treating banks and credit card companies like agencies of the federal government.
Ante Up for…Internet Freedom
Internet censorship and an unenforceable, unpopular prohibition provide no benefits to anyone. All censorship and prohibition can do is drive players underground or overseas while bringing the power of the federal government into America’s homes, where it doesn’t belong.
Many voters – free speech advocates, young voters, and conservatives in particular – are suspicious of arguments contending that Internet freedom is dangerous and banning certain online activities or confiscating virtual property.
U.S. licensing and regulation of online poker will allow American companies to participate in the world’s Internet gaming market, bringing needed business and jobs to America. All a prohibition can do is send U.S. jobs and money abroad.
Regulators, legislators and financial institutions are all warning that UIGEA is unenforceable. With banks now needing to rebuild themselves, it is difficult to imagine the banking system being used to police the Internet to stop a legitimate game of skill like poker.
The Legal Community Agrees:
Poker is a Game of Skill, Not Chance
Poker’s Recent Key Legal Victories
Colorado – in late January a Colorado jury found an organizer of a poker league, Kevin P. Raley, not guilty of unlawful gaming. Under Colorado law, gambling is defined as wagering on a game of chance. With help of expert testimony from the PPA, the jury found the poker league was playing a game of skill, not chance, and was not participating in unlawful gaming.
Pennsylvania – Earlier this year Judge Thomas James, Jr. ruled that poker is predominantly a game of skill. The Pennsylvania court took the next step and threw out 20 charges against the defendants, who held a poker game in their home.
Kentucky – a judge in Kentucky, with the support of the Commonwealth’s Democratic Governor, Steve Beshear, ordered the seizure of numerous Internet domain names related to Internet gaming. Of the over 141 websites ordered for seizure, not one was located in the state of Kentucky. This action would result in a precedent allowing any government to capture and shut down perfectly legal Internet sites that are based outside of their jurisdiction. The Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling to seize the domain names. However, the governor has appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
South Carolina – A South Carolina judge found that poker is indeed a game of skill, not chance, during a trial where defendants were charged with playing cards in a “house used as a place of gaming”. PPA argued that the Court should adopt the rulings of other courts that gambling refers to a game in which the outcome is determined predominantly by chance, not by skill. The judge agreed and kicked it to a higher court.
PPA’s Litigation Support Network has been involved in each of these cases. We provided expert witnesses, prepared arguments for trial, and filed amicus briefs with the courts.
The Problem with “Midnight Rulemaking”
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was included on a port security bill that was rushed through Congress before the 2006 election. In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the rule pertaining to this law was implemented in a way that many consider an unlawful power play.
The regulation deputizes banks and payment systems to block “unlawful Internet gambling” but does not define what that term means. Rather, the general counsel of every bank in the country must research what “unlawful Internet gambling” means in each state and on the federal level.
The Office of Management and Budget has estimated that the rule will cost more than $100 million for banks and payment systems to implement, and take more than one million man-hours.
The rule is not set to go into effect until December of this year. Congress is currently looking at whether this rule, and others like it, should be overturned.