October 16, 2006

Internet Gambling

Looks like I may have found a job just in time, because Paradise Poker might be history for U.S. players. In the past few years there has been some bubbling on Capitol Hill about online gambling, but major legislation and enforcement have not been swiftly implemented. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Now a major crackdown is taking effect on enforcing online-gaming laws.

The 1960's "Wire Act" was outlawed wagers placed over the telephone. It was meant to reduce illegal bookmaking operations which were and remain integral to organized crime. Now more legislation is coming through, precedented by the Wire Act, to criminalize placing wagers on the internet.

I just received a notification from FirePay, an online fund transferring company, that they will no longer service transfer of funds to/from online gambling accounts. This is a node of interest for my personal interaction with internet gambling and the laws about it in the U.S..

Previously I, and millions of others, interacted with gambling sites with almost complete autonomy, unaware and certainly unbothered by any legislature/enforcement thereof. I didn't really care whether or not transferring funds from my U.S. based FirePay account to off-shore poker servers was technically legal because all the businesses I was dealing with (my bank, FirePay, and Paradise Poker) were all legitimate corporations.

Now it seems as if the enforcement foot has come down, or is coming down anyway. The "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act" is upon us.

Major credit card companies ceased accepting direct transfer of funds from online gambling accounts a couple of years ago (although most, from what I can tell, continued allowing purchases of chips at these sites). Now the powers that be have started breaking down any other form of fund transfers to these sites (Bush's name has been directly associated with all of this, including a reference as such in the email I got from FirePay).

It appears as if this new legislation is going to have a major impact on internet gambling within the United States.

P.S. (1/08/2007) - I've been reading up a bit on this topic. It seems that the passing of this law was spearheaded by conservatives in political asperation. Obviously the poker community is outraged, especailly because internet poker is not specified in the bill. Actually, the language regarding what exactly constitutes "Unlawful Internet Gambling" is non-existent. So, despite the fact that U.S. based financial institutions and the majority of offshore poker sites are declining business to U.S. internet gamblers, the law is open for interpretation and the poker community is rallying to do some battle. Good luck.