Black Friday, the day on which the US federal government seized the domain names of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker and indicted their CEOs of money laundering, bank fraud, and illegal gambling, was just the beginning of Full Tilt Poker’s tale of woe. On September 20, federal prosecutors accused Full Tilt Poker of being a massive Ponzi scheme, which cheated players of millions of dollars.
These events have just intensified the struggle to legalize and regulate the US online poker industry. Those who are in support of legalizing online poker state that it will increase tax revenue and solve the financial problems of the nation, while those who oppose it warn of dire consequences. The Congressional Committee on Taxation says that over a decade, around $42 billion can be generated in tax revenue if the online poker industry is legalized, taxed, and regulated.
The people who shout the loudest for legalization of online poker in the US are the hapless victims of Full Tilt Poker. Bradley Cole, a player who had $5000 in his Full Tilt account, says, “It’s the only industry on earth that is clamoring for the US government to impose regulations.” Interestingly, online gambling is legal in Washington DC, with Columbia being the first US jurisdiction to legalize the industry. Poker industry experts believe that Barton’s bill of June has greater chances of being passed because it focuses on the issue of online poker.
The debate regarding whether poker is a game of skill or chance is now getting hotter than ever. Alfonse M. D’Amato, the chairman of the Poker Players’ Alliance, has effectively argued for poker as a game of skill, with his opinions being echoed by the online poker gaming community. For instance, Texas Republican Joe Barton says, “It’s not dice. It’s not just randomly watching where the roulette wheel stops. It’s people who can think and analyze probability and analyze their opponents.”
Moreover, poker is not just a game anymore to hundreds and thousands of people; it is a full time job, their only means of generating income. Brian Mogelefsky, a mortgage broker, became a full-time poker player when the housing market collapsed. Black Friday has been a shock to players like Brian Mogelefsky. Although a number of poker sites such as Bodog and others have thrown open their services to US players, players are afraid of signing up out of fear that there will be another federal crackdown.