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New law deters online gamblers

November 2, 2006

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 has been passed in order to make it illegal for any site to accept monetary transfers from U.S. financial institutions, including banks and sites dedicated to such transfers, like Paypal.

Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Black Jack, and sports betting are just a few of the games that draw thousands of Americans daily to Internet sites like Paradise Poker, Party Poker and Sportsbook. But now this easily accessible form of entertainment for gamblers and sports enthusiasts has lost its main selling point -- simplicity.

“I think that it’s a good thing,” Kirk Thieking, a UW-River Falls junior, said. “I’ve played, and it’s just something that most true players that are live players think is a joke. I’ve never been impressed with Internet poker. I don’t trust it and I think that it is just a re-creation of what poker should be.”

Even though not every poker player believes the new law will have a negative effect on the game, some of the Web sites are taking extra precautions to ensure they continue gaining members. Online gamblers may be inconvenienced, but sites have yet to be shut down.

The opposite has happened in some instances, like with Full Tilt, a site dedicated to creating the “best online poker experience ever.” The site has gained members by offering promotions to entice more people to gamble online with the site.

Full Tilt’s most recent promotion matches the amount deposited into the account by the member. If someone puts $100 into their Full Tilt account, they receive $100 for free to use on the Web site -- up to $600 in deposits.

“I love playing poker, but I only play in person,” UWRF junior Kennedy Cullen said. “I’m not that big on [playing] online. I feel that bluffing and being there is such a big aspect that playing online isn’t real enough for me.”

The prevalence of online gambling and sports betting has been steadily increasing in recent years despite attempts from the government to slow it down or stop it altogether.

In 1999 the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act made it “unlawful for any person engaged in a gambling business to knowingly use the Internet to place, receive, or otherwise make a bet or wager; or to send, receive, or invite information assisting in the placing of a bet,” according to the U.S. House of Representatives Web site.

The 1999 act applied only to U.S. Internet servers and Web sites, forcing people interested in online gambling to look elsewhere for entertainment.

The past and current laws, including the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, are unclear about what regulations the U.S. government can place on sites like NETELLER, Fire Pay and myCitadel, which are all used as a source of transferring money from consumer to Web site, much like the American Web site, Paypal, which is commonly used for Ebay.

According to cardplayer.com, an online forum dedicated to everything related to live and Internet card playing, even if the United States finds a way to regulate the financial transactions with foreign institutions, “online poker is here to stay and the federal government simply cannot ban it.”

“I think the new gambling laws aren’t necessary,” Diana Rogers, a senior who enjoys playing live poker, said. “If a person wants to gamble their money away online, that’s their responsibility – not the government’s job to regulate.”

Almost all gambling Web sites, including the ones already listed, have owners and management residing in foreign locations, since it is illegal to solicit gambling online in the United States. Full Tilt is an Australian Web site, Party Poker belongs to the government of Gibraltar and Paradise Poker is based out of London, with affiliates like Sportingbet.com based in Australia.

In the event that overseas sites become unusable, e-checks and money orders are also considered practical alternatives.

A Web site, pokerplayersalliance.com, was recently created in order to fight the war on poker, 

“The PPA is committed to protecting the game of poker in the face of federal legislation that just passed to ban ‘our game.’ We renew our effort to obtain separate treatment for poker on the federal level when Congress returns from the elections, and before the financial enforcement provisions are complete,” Michael Bolcerek, president of Poker Players Alliance, said.

For now, gambling online is not completely illegal, but the most recent law greatly increases the difficulty of participation.

“I think that this will be fought by the people running these [gambling] sites,” Thieking said. “This is something that is a goldmine for the people running it. They will just have to pull a few strings to get it reopened in a few years.”