Not so long ago, the odds looked dim for legal online gambling in the US. Online poker lobbyists were pushing their own interests, which often meant denouncing online gambling as exclusively luck-based and therefore not in the same league with online poker which is skill-based. The dark days of illegal online gambling on offshore sites and at shady online casinos may soon be over though. An interesting DoJ ruling, which came just before Christmas last year, opened the way to the potentially legalization of online gambling, possibly this year. The DoJ’s ruling concerned the 1961 Wire Act, which – together with the 2006 UIGEA – formed the legal basis of the online gambling and online poker prohibition of recent years. As the legal haze around the whole thing was far from translucent, specialists often speculated that both online poker and gambling were in fact still legal in the US under the existing framework. No legal authority ever troubled clarifying anything in regards to the online gambling/poker case. It appears though that the DoJ has finally had enough of the legal ambiguity and decided to make a few things clear for everyone. According to the above said December ruling, the 1961 Wire Act does not prohibit real money wagering through online channels across state lines. It only prohibits sports betting wagers, and that was indeed the target of the lawmakers who had drafted the Wire Act back in the days.
Nevada had already passed legislation aimed at regulating online gambling and poker and so did DC, and with New Jersey eyeing a similar move, this may all just be the tip of the iceberg.
The question now no longer seems to be whether or not online gambling will be legalized and regulated in 2012, but rather on what level this will happen. The DoJ ruling has virtually unshackled states in the matter: any state that wants to can now legalize and regulate online gambling. Federal lawmakers are currently well aware of the fact that they need to make a move soon if they intend to push through federal regulation, otherwise the states may just beat them to it and regulate things for themselves. Federal-level legalization and regulation would be the preferred way to go according to many, as it would offer better safeguards against illegal and problem gambling and it would tackle regulation issues much more efficiently.
The path that led to the above said DoJ ruling was an interesting one: the ruling came in response to a question the states of New York and Illinois addressed to the DoJ. The two states were seeking clarification in the matter of lottery tickets and the Wire Act’s applicability over the online trading of these tickets. The resulting response was obviously a blessing for the online poker and online gambling industries. The possibilities opened by the ruling are truly bewildering indeed. Sites legalized and regulated in the US will not only be able to accept players from other states, they will also be able to accept players from outside the US. The potential for growth for such operations will therefore be quite limitless.
Affiliates will pop up too and old affiliates will be revived. The entire industry will finally breathe a sigh of relief, like a poker prop does when the monthly rake rebate lands in his poker account. He’s a smart online poker player!