Ever since April 15th aka “Black Friday” poker players and various organizations and movements supporting freedom of playing poker online have been urging the government to come up with legislation that would allow US citizens to play internet poker legally. Almost all such initiatives agree that the online poker business should be licensed and regulated and should bring much needed income to the state's budget.
Last week former FBI Director Louis Freeh joined forces with a former Pennsylvania Governor and a former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to become members on the Advisory Board of FairPlayUSA – an organization founded by some of the major casino companies seeking to protect online poker players' right to enjoy their favorite pastime as well as online gambling providers' right to legally provide their services. Featuring law enforcement officials, consumer protection experts and other citizens supporting the idea of licensed and regulated online gambling business, FairPlayUSA strives to create a more online-poker-friendly and safer environment for the American poker players as well as legitimate online poker providers.
“Current federal laws fail to provide U.S. law enforcement vital tools to address illegal internet gambling, enabling a ‘wild-west’ atmosphere,” said Former FBI Director Louis Freeh. “I am joining FairPlayUSA to improve this environment by clarifying these laws, better empowering law enforcement agencies to crack down on violators and using licensing and regulation to ensure safe and legal online poker.”
What both former FBI Director and ex-Governor agree upon is that criminalizing the activity doesn't work and that the government should find ways to bring in more taxes from online poker instead of just banning it. They say that despite the 2006 anti-poker legislation people continue playing online poker offshore and therefore the UIGEA does not justify itself.
“The fact is there are millions and millions of people playing the game today,” said the former Homeland Security Secretary at a media event in the U.S. Capitol. “Congress in 2006 decided to prohibit all Internet gambling. Was it well-intentioned? Yes. Has it been effective? ... The answer is unequivocally no”.
“Prohibition hasn't worked, criminalization doesn't make a lot of sense,” continued Mr. Ridge. “The alternative is to encourage Congress, with the right input from the law enforcement community, consumer protection advocates, child safety advocates, professional players, to develop a regulatory scheme to enable law enforcement to oversee lawful Internet poker.”
Mr. Freeh and Mr. Ridge have both underlined the fact that existing online gaming laws do not serve their purpose of protecting American citizens from illegal online gambling activities. They have also agreed that online poker legalization and federal regulation would be a much better solution to the problem both protecting consumers and giving authorities more tools in supervising the online gaming companies.
The FairPlayUSA coalition was founded by Caesars Entertainment Inc. and MGM Resorts International both of which have particular interest in online poker legalization. The companies which businesses are located in Las Vegas primarily seek to establish the online poker industry in the state of Nevada which, given its experience in the gambling business, is the first in line for the rights to federal regulatory “franchise.”
“States and tribes have rights that must be protected by authorizing them to decide for themselves whether to accept or prohibit online poker and make use of sophisticated technologies already in use in other industries to enforce those decisions,” stated former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.