Last week, Raymond Bitar, the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, was arrested at JFK Airport.
He was charged with gambling, bank fraud and money laundering offenses in connection with the operation of an Internet gambling Ponzi scheme. This recent arrest has brought up questions in the poker community and in the media about the legal issues surrounding this hot button issue. 100% legal online poker in the United States isn’t an IF situation; it’s a when situation. Poker is a game of skill, that’s a fact. In the long term all good players will win, and all bad players will lose. In the short term, it’s gambling. But even in the basic, short term sense, even gambling isn’t illegal. Just walk down the strip in Vegas and you’ll see gambling is alive, well, and legal.
With good reason, the United States government, and any other government, should hold no moral high ground as to how their citizens can spend hard earned money. People treat gambling as fun, whether they are playing poker, slots, table games, or anything else for that matter. Players know they probably aren’t going to win, but they play because it’s entertainment. By making all gambling illegal you may as well just outlaw movies next. You’re essentially telling your citizens what they can and cannot spend their entertainment budgets on.
It’s all about money
Online poker isn’t “illegal” because it’s gambling. Online poker is illegal because online sites are making millions of dollars and the Uncle Sam isn’t seeing a penny. Online sites are seen as rogue, off-shore entities that print money without giving a red cent to the United States Government. It hasn’t stopped many American players, who turn to sites like this to find rooms that still accept US players.
Add to this the fact that established brick and mortar casinos, which have been paying more than their fair share of taxes, are shut out of the online market. These billion dollar casinos employ lobbyists to push their agenda, which is live, in-casino gambling. They feel they benefit from no online gaming and, if there is going to be any online gaming, they feel they should be the ones to offer it. They feel they’ve paid their share, and it should be their sites making millions, and not some “rogue off shore entity”. Casino.org recently released this infographic, which details exactly how much money the US is losing by not regulating the industry.
It’s these two reasons why online poker has been made illegal and, as soon as they find a way to set these American owned sites up with the tax money being paid to the United States Government, poker will be legal again.
The trend is slowly moving that way. Nevada has already passed state legislation that allows online gaming and there are four other states pending. It’s going to take time, but it will happen.