Although PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet have now left American shores, reports from the American Gaming Association say there are still over 1000 offshore online poker sites operating illegally in the United states. While these applications are bringing online poker to America (where many argue it is not, in fact, illegal), they are not government sanctioned or regulated. This opens the door to cyber criminals and identity thieves, as players have no-one to go to should they encounter problems banking their winnings from one of these websites. The American Gaming Association emphasised that, were proceeds from betting to be kept within the United States, many new jobs would be created, along with generating revenue at both state and federal level.
“People keep betting, but they are doing so with less responsible offshore companies” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, during a news conference at the National Press Club. “The millions of Americans who are playing poker online deserve to know they are playing safely with law-abiding operators.”
Brick and mortar casinos have also become more supportive of complete legalisation of online poker in recent years, particularly after seeing many numbers of offshore companies take advantage of the American market following the poker boom. The act passed by congress five years ago, which was designed to hamper online gambling, prohibited banks and credit card issuers from processing gambling payments. Current Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada is in favour of regulated online poker, but he faces hard opposition from a Republican-lead house. Casino executives are due to make their pitch to lawmakers and White House officials in the next few days. It has been estimated that regulated online poker would generate an annual turnover of around $2 billion. However, the centre of the pitch will be focused on consumer protection. “We’ve got people offshore who are defying U.S. law and we’ve got to shut them down” reiterated Fahrenkopf.
John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, stated that he has worked for years too try and get casino companies involved in the regulation debate, which has ignited following the events of Black Friday. “For years, our conversation with them was ‘wake up guys, this is an opportunity for you. This isn’t something to feel threatened by'” said Pappas. “I think over the years they’ve come to that conclusion and that’s why you’ve got the CEOs on Capitol Hill this week talking to lawmakers about passing a bill.”
Prosecutors have accused executives of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker of tricking American banks and financial institutions into processing payments for them. Rather than declare themselves as online poker sites, the prosecutors state, they would make it appear that the funds were going to merchants for items such as golf balls and jewellery.
The demand for online poker in the States is certainly huge. Let us hope that, this time, Congress comes to the correct decision.