Many people in and around the online gambling space are pondering how the recent US Department of Justice allegations and arrest of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker associated individuals will impact the new US online gambling legislation being drafted and debated in congress.
You have to step back a bit and consider how close Senator Kyle and Senator Reid came to tacking on an online gambling amendment to an existing bill in the fall of 2010 and the debate that transpired preceding the drafting of a proposed online gambling bill to understand the timing of this move.
One of the hotly debated issues during the deliberations was the inclusion of existing online poker sites that where taking US wagers in the legislation. This would have allowed the PokerStars of the world to turn their large trove of existing US gamblers into legitimate online gamblers when the legislation was enacted. Many of the existing US casino operators have no online gaming players and no expertise in running online gambling operations. Obviously, Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Pokers have players and expertise providing for a good partnership.
This lead the normally conservative casino operators to change their lobbying position relative to the acceptance of apparent violators of UIGEA to reenter the US market under US casino brands. Some of the US casino brands lobbied hard for this and brought attention to the fact that for years companies like PokerStars had being taking US wagers despite UIGEA.
This added attention was a blessing and a curse for companies like PokerStars because people started to ask questions about UIGEA and why it was not being enforced. Rumor has it that the Justice Department did not go after these companies because the law was essentially unenforceable and the Justice Department was concerned that if they did try to prosecute and lost a case then everyone would realize that there was really no US online gambling law.
I have no idea if this is true or not. However, apparently, people in a position of power started to ask questions and challenged the Justice Department to either enforce the law or admit that it was unenforceable.
It appears that the Justice Department has decided to go forward taking on Pokerstars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker in a court of law to determine once and for all if the UIGEA is viable.
Is this a good or bad thing for the current gambling legislation being debated in congress?
Oddly one could argue that the Justice Department move could improve the likelihood of a new bill being enacted that would open up online gambling in the US providing all operators and systems providers licenced to do so have no prior history of taking US wagers after UIGEA was enacted. In fact, this may be the real reason for the Justice Department 's swift move to identify which operators could and could not run online gambling operations in the US.
Of course, one could make the argument that all bets are off for new legislation in the short run. The dust may have to settle for a bit before anyone ventures forward. If this is the case Zynga once again becomes the big winner. They are making a fortune selling virtual poker chips in their poker room. No there is no cash out so no legal issue for them.
Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Kevin writes extensively about online games and their impact and integration into iGaming and E-commerce environments. Kevin is a frequent speaker at online game events and conferences in Asia, Europe and the US. Kevin and his Gameinlane team are currently working with online gambling, social gaming and e-commerce companies integrating social gaming with online gaming operations and integrate game mechanics into e-commerce applications.