September 29th, 2006: The shot heard around the poker world. In what can only be described as a shocking series of events, the poker world has been taken by storm earlier this week, when the US House of Representatives and US Senate passed the Internet Gambling Act. Attached a amendment to the Port Security Bill (HR 4411), the Internet Gambling "rider" was spearheaded by Senator Frist, who is popular among the anti-gambling foundations and religious communities.
While the Act does not specifically outlaw or ban internet gambling, it does have enough language and force to stop all financial and business transactions between banks, credit cards and online poker operators, such as Party Poker. Punishment for refusing to block US customers is delivered by a lengthy five year stay in prison, along with possible extradition from foreign countries where online poker and gambling is illegal. Much of the enforceable aspects of the Internet Gambling Act are still unknown however, given the difficulties in both enforcing the bill and waiting for the US Attorney General to come up with a set of guidelines for how banks and financial institutions would carry out the enforcement.
Reaction From Players, Sites and Investors
In the meanwhile, publicly traded internet gaming companies from around the globe have seen their stock prices fall significantly as rattled investors seek to jump out of the perceived burning boat. Sites such as PartyGaming, owner of Party Poker and 888 Holdings, owners of Pacific Poker, have already made official statements notifying their US customers that their accounts would be closed and that new US customers would be blocked. With such large players making these statements, many smaller poker sites have joined in the chorus, with the supposed assumption that if the biggest industry players are scared, then they should be too.
The poker community has not been taking the news lightly, with arguable reasons not to. While the Internet Gambling Act has outlawed poker and other games of supposed chance, exempt items include: lotto, horse racing and fantasy games. So, the bill might not be a complete ban on gambling or poker, per se, but rather, a systematic effort to nip a growing industry not in the bulb, but from the roots up. While riders are usually the norm and unnoticed, there have been several editorial opinions denouncing the ban as both hypocritical and illogical.
For now, the future of the online poker industry and internet gambling in general seems to be in limbo. Rumors abound across internet poker forums and email, but the only hard facts is that many of the sites are closing shop to US customers. Though the European market is emerging, along with the asia market, with over 80% of poker players coming from the United States, it's hard to see the poker world simply rolling with the punch given to it by the US government without falling flat on it's face first. Certain majir sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker are still undecided on HR 4411 and it's implications, so their doors to US poker players are open, for now.
While updates to Tight Poker have been sparse over the last two months with all of our efforts focused on re-releasing the site with new design and languages, the importance of this matter cannot be ignored. We will do our best to keep you all updated with the developments in the industry as best we can.