When UIGEA was written and rammed into law without proper debate back in 2006, very few people seemed to know then or even now that this law expressly provides for exemption of intrastate online gambling. However, many US states are still in the process of deciding on public policies with regards to gambling (online or off) within their own borders. The Wire Act that UIGEA is tagged onto, does still conceivably stand in the way of most online gambling operators, so, the Feds take this as an undeniable expression of Congressional intent. This is why the DoJ is showing their hand with regards to the fact that their contention is; playing online poker is just plain illegal!
For years websites such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt operated within the US and offered for-money online poker play. It was their contention that they had taken legal advice and that their facilitation of these games did not violate any laws. The DoJ did not agree, closed down these online operators as well as a handful of other sites, have indicted principle owners, members and banking facilitators with some rather heinous crimes. Now U.S. Justice Department prosecutors in Manhattan have filed a massively detailed defense regarding why they view online poker as being just plain illegal!
John Campos, the former VC of a Utah bank, and Chad Elie, who are co-indicted, ran a payment processing business for online poker sites. Having stood up to the DoJ, and it is due to them that the government is being forced for the first time to litigate vs. online poker. Elie’s and Campos’ argument is that they were doing nothing illegal, as poker is a game of skill and not gambling. They were also forced to point out, that according to federal prosecutors legal papers, they refer to “Willie Nelson’s classic poker song – knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em”; that in fact, this country song was sung by Kenny Rogers (major embarrassment). Preet Barhara (U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) better hope his prosecutors know their UIGEA facts, better than they know their country music facts.
Written by Neha A