There are two lingering thoughts on the minds of online poker players right now. The first is, "Will I be able to win my seat into the 2006 WSOP main event?" and the second is, "Will playing online poker be illegal?"
On May 25, 2006, the House Judiciary Committee passed HR 4777 (Internet Gambling Prohibition Act) and HR 4411 (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) sponsored HR4411 and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) has been spearheading HR 4777 over the past few months. During the committee hearings, Goodlatte mentioned, "I oppose gambling because I think it causes many, many problems in our society." Both bills are headed to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for debate, then possibly voted upon. Both bills aim to strengthen the Wire Act of 1961, since many online gaming sites and customers have been testing the elasticity of that law over the last few decades. Leach's bill would make it illegal for credit card companies to allow their customers to fund their accounts at online gaming sites which covers poker, sports books, horse racing, and casino sites. Goodlatte's bill would take legislation a step further and force credit card companies and other financial institutions to report any of these transactions to the government.
The more disturbing part of Goodlatte's bill is that they would also force your internet service provider (ISP) to deny their customers access to off-shore gaming sites. In the worst case scenario, if the Goodlatte bill becomes a law, you will not be able to access your favorite online poker site from your computer and not be able to fund it through your credit card. If your bank notices a wire transfer to or from an illegal off-shore gaming site, they would be required by law to submit your name and account information to the government.
Billions of dollars are generated every year overseas as online gaming companies operate in countries such as Costa Rica or Aruba. The majority of online gamblers are Americans and their money is flowing into foreign banks. Those nations and their financial institutions reap the benefits of our cash flow, while our nation receives zero percent of the income and tax revenue generated. In addition, thousands of online gaming industry jobs are being filled by overseas workers. Legalizing online poker would generate tax revenue and allow online gaming sites to set up a base of operations in America, thereby creating jobs.
Poker is played by over 70 million Americans and a majority of them play online. I'm the type of individual that doesn't like the government or Big Brother poking his nose into my personal life. If hard-working Americans want to come home after a long day of work to play poker online for a few hours a night, then they should be allowed to do so. In my opinion, the government needs to take time to conduct a thorough study on poker and internet gambling before they can come to their own conclusions, just like the American Gaming Association (AGA) suggested. Two of the largest casino corporations, MGM and Harrah's, decided to apply pressure to Congress through the AGA and asked for a formal study of online gambling. If this happens, it would slow down the legislative process. After some basic research, I'm positive that the politicians in Washington will understand that poker is a game of skill, and not chance. The government should legalize poker, then set up an organization to regulate the multi-billion dollar industry. Legalization would allow the government to levy taxes on both the online sites, the financial institutions that are involved, and the individual players.
Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) recently told Bloomberg News, "It doesn't look like you can ban it. If it is being done offshore, why not bring it to the U.S., where it can be regulated?"