Poker Players Unable to Cash in Their Chips


A number of online poker players recently got a nasty surprise. When they went to cash checks that had been made out to them for reimbursement for their poker Website winnings, the checks were no good.

This is because the Department of Justice had seized more than $30 million in assets related to online poker. At issue here is whether or not the playing of poker online is illegal.

Former New York State Senator Alfonse D’Amato, who is currently chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, says that playing poker online is not illegal. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York agrees, but says that it is illegal, however, to collect cash for your winnings.

Previously, the government has used the Wire Act, which governs specific kinds of betting in the United States, to enforce online gambling. The Wire Act, however, is generally assumed to refer only to sport betting and not to other types of gaming. The government also relies on laws surrounding money laundering and some other statutes to crack down on gamblers who use the Internet.

Also applicable here, but not particularly stringent as a law, is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which Congress passed three years ago. The Justice Department has always stated that online gambling is illegal, although it has never really attempted to seize the assets gained by this form of gaming.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) has recently written a bill that aims to legalize online poker outright. D’Amato, whose group the Poker Players Alliance thinks that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is a bad law, agrees with Frank.

“To try to stop people playing poker on the Internet should be one of the last considerations of government,” he said. He thinks a law that legalizes poker, as well as regulating it as a potential source of tax revenue, is what’s called for.

Experts say that the poker sites will eventually find a different, and better way, of reimbursing their winners. Currently the assets are handled by such banks as Wells Fargo and Citibank, but poker sites could turn to different methods of payment which are not so easily accessible to the Department of Justice.


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