After what is now known as “Black Friday” many US poker players found out that they were running short on their online poker income. Black Friday witnessed the shutdown of the three most trusted and popular online poker platforms by the US government.
The Department of Justice seized three domain names, froze 77 accounts around the world and charged the founders of those three poker sites with several accusations. The charges center on bank fraud and are based on the laws of the UIGEA – Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which states that although online gambling is not prohibited, credit-processing companies are banned from processing payments from unlawful online gambling activities. However, the original bill does not clarify the meaning of the word “unlawful” here since poker is allowed in the US but online poker is not.
Several online poker companies continued to operate in the United States even after this law was passed and the Department of Justice has used this as an opportunity to turn the prosecutions on those companies into lucrative deals wherein most poker companies end up paying huge amounts as a fine or a settlement for their operations. Some examples include the non-prosecution agreement signed for the UK-based SportingBet by the US government.
SportingBet is an online betting platform, and they paid up $33 million in this settlement. PartyGaming.com paid $300 million to the authorities in such a settlement in 2008, and the Department of Justice is seeking $3 billion from the three poker companies who have been accused recently. Wachovia, which was found to be laundering in drug money, paid $105 million to the US government, which when compared questions the intentions of the US government, who claim to be saving their American citizens from themselves.
The problem here is that there is no clear cut case which states that there has been a crime committed and there is a victim, since the meaning of “unlawful” is still being debated. Americans should have the right to choose whether they want to play games for fun or for money. Despite the events that took place on Black Friday, the US government is going to allow players to cash out their accounts. These players have been treated like criminals for having played a game voluntarily. The President has been site on this issue and although questions have been posted on his wall at Facebook, none have been answered. The UIGEA has to be revised if the administration claims to be looking out for the people.