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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

The United States Crimes Against Citizens and Online Poker

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Everyone knows that poker is a game of people played with cards. You have options all the way through the play of a hand that can change a winner to a loser and vice-versa. After looking at your cards (unless you are in the blind or forced to open the bet) you have the option to fold without putting up a wager. If you choose to proceed, as the hand progresses you have the option to fold, check, call a bet, or raise. In pit casino games you must place your bet and then wait for the outcome, in poker games you can exercise your options without placing a wager first.

To the unschooled, poker is stirred right into the mix of gambling with no thought directed at what games constitute actual gambling. Placing your wager and waiting for the outcome is GAMBLING. It's a great way to 'get broke!' Just ask Phil Ivey and a few others that loved to hit the craps table when they had a bad night at Bellagio's poker tables.

If you are not familiar with how the game of poker is played, what it takes to keep real money games running, and why people enjoy playing it, then please do not judge or condemn the great game and call it 'gambling' until you have done some thorough research - only then will you be able to make a judgment call on how pit casino games really have nothing in common with poker games other than chips and a dealer.

Now that you've taken your poker refresher course, read on and weep about the United States crimes against its own citizens using online poker as a front.

In 2006 the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA - and the first Black Friday in poker, the second one being April 15th, 2011) was signed to regulate online gambling. For lack of having the time to write an entire book on the subject of the failed and absurd UIGEA, let's move past it and assume that you are aware of the entire, ongoing debacle. If you aren’t, go directly to Google and start reading.

The first crime committed by the US government against the citizens was long before the October 13th, 2006, UIGEA signing. Online poker started in August of 1997 at PlanetPoker with free money games that evolved into real money games and from there, other online poker sites began to crop up. That equates to online poker being played by US players on off shore servers for nine years before any obvious action was taken.


The US should have openly researched the online poker market and shouldered their way into the foundation of online poker for the income it would generate for the US and for the safety of their citizens in a secure playing environment. But as it turns out, citizens of the US can be protected from themselves and their morality legislated by the government but it appears that there is no remorse for letting us play online poker for nine years BEFORE deciding it was time to show us how much they cared about our personal well being and freedoms by allowing Bill Frist to tack the UIGEA onto a Port Security Act.

What do a Port Security Act and online poker have in common? Nothing! But after the events of 9/11 anything attached to security was sure to have priority. Frist should be arrested for creating a massive can of worms that still has never been sorted through, regulated, or enforced and has cost literally tens of thousands of dollars in slipshod enforcement by expecting banks to shoulder the cost of upgrading and changing their banking regulations and software to stop money transfers. Banks are not law enforcement agencies but apparently the US government still hasn't recognized this.

The next crime committed by the US government was in dealing with Antigua and Barbuda and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US Government appears to hold itself above the law, even ignoring decisions made by the WTO. While this may appear to be a minor part of the big picture, US citizens are susceptible to the effects of any world organization dealing with the US. Antigua is dependent on US trade for goods which has a definite effect on the economy and livelihood of US citizens, Antigua threatened to refuse to enforce US copyrights and trademarks as a means of making their point.

The crimes continued.

Neteller was forced to suspend banking privileges to US citizens with $94 million in assets frozen while Neteller founders pled guilty and worked out a repayment plan with the United States Attorney's Office. Neteller avoided criminal prosecution by paying $136 million in fines and opening company books to "forensic accountants.' One question that comes to mind; were the forensic accountants able to establish that all of the money held in accounts for US citizens was all gambling funds? Highly doubtful but it didn't stop all of the accounts from being frozen and closed.

Firepay agreed to pay $19.2 million for supposedly violating federal laws and entered a guilty plea. Firepay is no longer in business. But again, the US government was on a vendetta to seek out and punish any banking system that might offer money transfers to online poker players.

Studies were done by independent companies that showed what the US Government would be able to claim if they legalized, regulated, and licensed online gambling. A study done by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2009 showed the US could accumulate more than $50 billion over the next 10 years. Maybe that's a small drop in the bucket of needed funds for US coffers but every little billion or so helps ease the stress.

PartyPoker withdrew from the US market but they were still prosecuted until they agreed to pay a fine of $105 million for providing illegal services to US customers and PartyPoker founder Anurag Dikshit made his own deal with the US Government by pleading guilty and paying a fine of $300 Million. Many have questioned if his name is spelled correctly.

The US Government showed their concern for US Citizens by allowing other major online poker sites (that managed a variety of new ways to make deposits and cash outs available) to continue providing services to US customers until almost two years from the date PartyPoker settled their dispute.

Black Friday came again on April 15th, 2011, when the three major online poker sites – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Pokerwere indicted. Online poker site dot-com names were seized, millions of dollars in player’s funds were frozen (and mostly still are) with little resolution. Papers have been filed, charges have been made, and resolution still lies somewhere underneath several miles of paperwork.

Tens of thousands of online poker players lost their jobs on April 15th, 2011, and their bankroll all in one felled swoop. Many reporting mediums and filming crews lost their jobs. The far reaching effect of the indictments on the Average Joe and Jill Citizen still is unknown, or the number of people it affected.

Yes, fellow citizens, we are protected! We are protected from being able to access our own money on Neteller and Firepay and our funds on online poker sites.

PokerStars repaid US players’ funds in a very timely manner. Full Tilt Poker players’ funds are still in a holding pattern while Groupe Bernard Tapie and the US Government work on a deal. The CEREUS Network (Absolute Poker and UB) is rumored to be paying back their players’ funds for “under 25 cents on the dollar” in a report from PocketFives.

Our President has mentioned the word ‘poker’ publicly one time since being in office according to one report and the biggest crime of all is still ahead.

Suddenly news reports are flying in like the old ticker tapes reporting sporting events, politicians have now begun to recognize the fact that gambling can bring in income for city, county, and state governments. That’s a given – what took them so long?

The downside to it is that unless the US government steps in with legislation that controls and opens up the market to a world player base, individual states will be strangling their own economy and setting a ‘no win’ precedent for their residents.

Even an inexperienced player can sit at a poker table and know that if no one new comes into the game or none of the seated players buy back in, the rake will bust the players and the game. Do you believe that a player base of 5,000 allowed to play within a single state’s borders can sustain the game and put money in the state’s coffers over the long haul? It’s not possible.

Will it be another nine years before the US government even begins to put two and two together and figure out the reach of devastation that individual states controlling gaming within their borders will do to its residents? If it is, perhaps all of the politicians will then be suddenly out of work and all of their funds will be frozen for an indeterminate amount of time.

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