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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Some Poker Sites not Changing Course due to New Legislation

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In the wake of news from Party Poker, Boss Media and CryptoLogic that US customers would no longer be allowed to make wagers on their sites, cries of "the sky is falling!" are still echoing through the online poker community. While several companies released statements explaining why they would cease US activities, several other key players in the online poker industry have come out saying clearly that they would continue to allow US players, or urging a "wait and see" approach to the new legislation.

Among those stating outright that they would continue to serve US customers as they had in the past are Absolute Poker, UltimateBet, and World Poker Exchange. In an email from Absolute Poker customer support, that site has decided that "Absolute Poker games are still available and that you can continue to enjoy the site as you always have. The new law does not change the legality of playing online games nor will make us close any US customer accounts. The law does not impact people who play games from their computers. Instead, the law focuses on the payment processing of unlawful Internet gaming and we can assure you that our operations are 100% legal."

UltimateBet takes a similar approach when their customer service personnel respond to inquiries, stating "UltimateBet is not going away as a result of this legislation." UB continues, espousing an opinion that poker is not covered by the new legislation in any case. "Our strong belief is that poker is a game of skill and therefore is not encompassed by this law."

World Poker Exchange (A division of World Sports Exchange "WSEX") responded to the new law by citing an ongoing World Trade Organization dispute between the United States and the country of Antigua, where WSEX is based. "We have absolutely no plans whatsoever of dropping any players. In short, it will be business as usual. and all its sister companies are legal and licensed businesses regulated by the Gaming Commission of Antigua and Barbuda. We are wholly located in Antigua and do no business or run any part of our operation on US soil.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has recognized the right of Antiguan companies to be in this business and has instructed the United States to stop trying to block US residents from playing at Antiguan operations."

These three companies all have stood up saying that they will continue to allow US residents to play on their sites, all citing distinctly different reasons for their decisions. Full Tilt Poker, on the other hand, has issued a release with a reassuring "wait and see" demeanor.

Full Tilt Poker's official blog
stated "in the short term, we assure you that your online experience at Full Tilt Poker will not change. You will still be able to deposit and withdraw money from the site using the same methods and payment processors you have always used, and your money will remain completely safe and secure. We cannot predict how the online poker experience may change in the future, but we do not expect any immediate impact from the legislation, as the banking industry has 270 days to implement new rules after the bill is signed."

The release continues to say that "it is also important to note that, once signed, the new legislation will not criminalize individuals for playing poker online. Instead, the bill will eventually attempt to prevent the transfer of funds to online gaming. As poker is a game of skill rather than pure chance, we hope that it will not be affected by this new bill."

Full Tilt pledges to work alongside "organizations like the Poker Players Alliance to lobby for an exemption for online poker." Team Full Tilt members Howard Lederer and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson were among a contingent of high-profile poker pros who met with members of Congress and their staffers earlier this year to raise awareness of poker as a game of skill and to lobby against this legislation with the Poker Players Alliance.

Other sites that are open to US players are: Doyle's Room, Tony G. Poker, PokerStars, and Mansion. It is important to keep in mind that nowhere in the legislation is it illegal to play poker from a computer. This legislation makes it illegal to operate a gambling website, and aims to make it difficult or impossible to deposit or withdraw funds to gambling sites, but it does not criminalize the players or bettors. The role of affiliates who are paid based on rake generate by their signups is a murkier legal area, and may be more cause for concern for individuals.

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