My last blog was written on April 14, 2011. Little did I know the next day would change the lives of poker players world wide. April 15, 2011 started off as an ordinary day, but by 10:00 a.m. I had discovered what everyone the world over would discover during the next 24 hours.
Claiming violations of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, among other claims, the U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York seized the domains of Full Tilt Poker, Pokerstars and Absolute Poker. Travelling to any of those sites got you a screen filled with the Department of Justice warning that the site had been seized.
Over the next 72 hours, the sites all began negotiating with the Department of Justice in an effort to provide gaming to others around the world, and as part of getting their domains back, each site ultimately precluded players located in the United States from playing on their sites.
A little background is needed here. In 2006, Congress passed the SAFE Port act. This act was designed to provide security at ports of entry. Who wouldn’t want such protection? Any congressman voting against such protection would be vilified. Well, this was the chance the anti-gambling establishment was looking for. Attached to the SAFE Ports act was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). What does internet gambling have to do with United States ports of entry you might ask? Absolutely nothing, I would answer, but by attaching the UIGEA to this important legislation, the UIGEA was assured passage.
Now the act itself doesn’t prohibit internet poker. It merely prohibits banks doing business in the United States from processing payments to or from gaming sites. To continue conducting business with U.S. players, the sites set up payment processors. If you received a check from Full Tilt Poker it would bear the name “ABC Corporation” or something of the sort. The banks were none the wiser, the players kept playing and everyone was happy. Everyone, that is, except Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who found an opportunity to make a name for himself.
With the snap of his fingers. Holder changed the poker landscape for years to come.
The government of the United States, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” is really a government of itself, for itself. The current government does not care one iota whether the people of the United States want to play poker. The government, at best, is a self indulgent group of people, that feels it needs to act as parent and protector for every one of the citizens it is supposed to listen to.
Currently 29 of 50 states allow poker in a legal, regulated setting. A few more permit home games. More than 50% of the states in this union allow poker in some form, but the U.S. government has made it virtually impossible for players to pursue this past time from the comfort of their home. How is it that more than 50% of the states permit poker in some form, but the federal government prohibits the ability to play?
I guess I don’t understand how a government founded on the principles of freedom has the ability to prohibit me from pursuing an endeavor I enjoy, that really harms no one. I guess the response would be that gambling leads to addiction, and gambling addiction is harmful. Of course smoking addiction can be deadly, but the U.S. government hasn’t prohibited smoking.
I guess I don’t understand how a group of people can pass laws based upon morality while our leaders are, time and time again, caught with their pants down in some scandal or another.
I guess what I really don’t understand is how a man can walk into a pharmacy in the middle of the day and execute four people with a handgun he owns legally, but I can’t deposit $5.00 online and play a poker tournament after a hard day at work. My government cannot protect me from any lunatic with a legal gun that decides to go off the deep end, but deems it necessary to protect me from myself.
The United States used to be a model for nations around the world to follow. It used to be a beacon for people seeking freedom, but somewhere we got turned around, our priorities were twisted and instead the United States has become a punch line.
I will see you on the felt…unfortunately though, for the time being, that felt won’t be virtual.