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Justice Department Ruling Could Mean Big Changes For Online Poker Players
In a very surprising move, the US Department of Justice has clarified its stance on internet gambling. The legal opinion was issued on Friday before Christmas, but the original decision was made back in September. The ruling came in response to a request by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl for the Department of Justice to clarify its position. Two other states, Illinois and New York, also requested clarification regarding the Wire Act of 1961, one of the major laws used by the Department of Justice in pursuit of online gaming and poker regulation.
The opinion reverses the Justice Departments previous stance that all forms of gambling online are illegal, but stops short of stating that the Justice Department is looking to set regulations for a national online gaming system. The Department of Justice says the new policy “differs from the department’s previous interpretation of the Wire Act, (but) it reflects the department’s position in Congressional testimony at the time the Wire Act was passed in 1961.” The new decision by the Department of Justice says that the Wire Act only focuses on sports betting and not casino or poker offerings.
Several states may take advantage of this decision to introduce new lottery games within their borders. The new position does bring the possibility of individual states or a group of states banding together to allow online poker to make a comeback in the United States.
There is the chance that several states could band together to make an online poker offering more attractive. Much like multi-state lotteries like PowerBall and Mega Millions and some interstate horse racing, a multi-state online poker offering would offer the traffic needed to drive big revenues.
Which states are situated to take advantage of the new ruling? Nevada recently passed legislation that would allow for companies to offer an intrastate online poker offering for its citizens. Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board announced that six companies have applied for licenses, but were holding off until the federal government announced a stance. The District of Columbia has long delayed plans to offer online poker to its residents. The latest decision by the Department of Justice could pave the way for that plan to actually come to fruition. Other states, such as Iowa, New Jersey, California and Florida, have also considered online poker regulation for its citizens, but previous bills have either been rejected or have been tabled due to the federal government’s opposition to internet gaming.
Proponents of legalized online gambling say the business could provide new sources of revenue for states. But others, including large casino interests, prefer a country wide system limited to online poker, say that the free-flowing nature of the Internet is ill-suited for state gambling plans, which would attempt to limit online gambling to within a given state's borders.