With the signing of the Safe Port Act today by George Bush in the USA, the law has come into effect for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act as well. As mentioned in our recent article, online gambling is banned, the act makes it illegal for financial institutions to fund internet and online gambling operations. It does not, however, make playing internet poker illegal yet, leaving this issue up to the individual states in the USA for now. One of the first casualties as a result of this legislation is that Bet and Win, a major UK sportsbook and also owner of PokerRoom has announced that they will be withdrawing from the US market.

This is sad news for the poker world, as PokerRoom is one of the most popular sites on the internet, behind Party Poker and PokerStars. Party Poker is also leaving the US market today due to the legislation, although PokerStars has announced that they will indeed be staying in the US market for now. PokerRoom was known for being one of the few sites that was mac compatible, although Party Poker and Full Tilt Poker have recently released native mac clients of their own as well.

Here is the announcement from Bet and Win regarding their decision:

On 30 September 2006 the US Senate passed the SAFE Port Act which also contains a section referred to as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The new act primarily affects online payment transactions for games of chance, which have been deemed unlawful under US American law, and aims to prevent these by threatening severe punishment, court sanctions and regulatory action. This statute adds a new subchapter to Chapter 53 of the United States Code stating that online games of chance are primarily financed through credit card payments and money transfers and that new enforcement tools have become necessary for the Internet. Not only sports bets, but also games of chance and lotteries, are affected by the bet or wager definition. The law makes payment transactions related to unlawful online games of chance virtually impossible, listing all payment options affected in detail as is customary for US legislation. In addition, § 5367 also contains a provision about the liability of any company or person involved in such transactions. This also applies to operations owned or controlled by someone who accepts unlawful bets and wagers.

Ongame, one of the companies in the Bet and WIN Group is also affected by the bill which was signed into law today by President George W. Bush.

Bet and Win regrets that the US has taken this step which will make it virtually impossible for listed, strictly regulated and transparent operators to offer real money entertainment to US customers. Bet and Win is doubtful whether US authorities will be able to achieve their stated goals – protection of minors and the prevention of gaming addiction – by introducing such legislation. Past experience with restrictive measures to prevent the abuse of alcohol has shown that such prohibition did not have the desired effect, merely driving consumers underground and contributing to the rapid growth of an entirely unregulated black market. The online gaming industry is unanimous in its view that the creation of forward-looking regulation can more effectively address issues such as consumer protection, the protection of minors, the prevention of gaming addiction, or the prevention of money laundering. Such a policy, if properly monitored by the authorities, would be much more effective than this general ban.

Following an in-depth analysis of the situation and extensive legal consultation, Bet and Win has decided to comply with the new legislation and will no longer accept any new US-resident customers for its real money gaming products, effective immediately. The company is working on technical arrangements that will prevent existing customers from accessing its real money games. Until further notice, Bet and Win will only be offering a play money line-up to the US market. The greatly increased risk of prosecution by the US authorities, the considerable pressure on banks and payment providers coupled with the requirements for publicly listed companies leave the company no other option.

Bet and Win customers not resident in the USA are not affected at all by these legislative changes in the United States, and can continue to enjoy the full range of Bet and Win products.

So, unfortunately, Poker Room is out from the list of sites that will take US customers, but there are still a number of poker sites that are accepting wagers. As usual, please verify with your local authorities before you play poker online that poker is legal in your area.

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