Obama Administration Passes the Buck Regarding Online Poker

May 19, 2012
Obama Administration Passes the Buck Regarding Online Poker

Back in September, the Poker Player’s Alliance began a petition as part of the “We the People” promotion on WhiteHouse.gov.  The purpose of the petition, and others that were filed like it, was for citizens to raise their concerns to government and if enough people signed the petitions, they would receive a response by the Obama administration.

On Friday, a response was given for the petition by the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese.  His email is as follows:

“Thank you for taking the time to participate in the “We the People” petition process. We launched this online tool as a way of hearing directly from you, and are pleased to see that it has been effective in soliciting your feedback. We understand your interest in the petition to support the legalization of online poker, and appreciate the opportunity to share President Obama’s concerns about this issue.

The Administration understands that many Americans engage in paid online poker games for entertainment purposes. Online gambling on sporting events or contests violates federal law. The legality of other forms of online gambling is dependent upon the law of the states where the bettor or gambling business is located. It is left to each state to determine whether it wishes to permit such activity between its residents and an online poker business authorized by that state to accept such wagers, but online gambling that is not authorized by state law may also violate federal statutes.

The rapid and anonymous nature of the internet distinguishes online games from onsite games, such as those in casinos, and creates distinct challenges. For example, there are many means of technologically circumventing restrictions on online gambling that can allow individuals from countries where gambling is illegal — or even minors — to play using real currency. Online games also have greater potential for fraud because gambling websites are much cheaper and easier to establish than on-site locations, and like telemarketing scams, can appear and disappear overnight. Finally, online gambling can be used in money laundering schemes because of the volume, speed, anonymity, and international reach made possible by internet transactions. The Administration will continue to examine this issue and is open to solutions that would help guard against the use of online gambling sites as tools for conducting illegal activities or preying on unsuspecting individuals to the extent that online gambling is permitted.

Thank you once again for signing the online petition. We appreciate hearing your opinions and look forward to hearing from you again soon.”

While the administration claims to be open to solutions, this statement effectively passes the buck to state governments in regards to online poker legalization.  At present, online poker is only legal in Nevada with California, Delaware, New Jersey, and Illinois all considering the issue.

The Poker Player’s Alliance put their expected spin on the email with PPA Executive Director John Pappas stating that “Today’s petition response is promising in the respect that each of the issues raised by the White House can be and will be addressed by U.S. regulation of the industry.  The best response is for Congress to put a bill on the president’s desk that protects consumers, restores personal freedom and raises much needed revenue.”

Regardless of the spin put on it by the PPA, this appears to be nothing more than a form letter that essentially states the position that has been held since the DOJ memo in December on the Wire Act.  Online poker is a state issue and the government views online poker as a vehicle for potential criminal activity.  It will now be interesting to see whether Congress will use this email statement as a tool to back out of any online poker bills floating around Congress.

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