Often, the best presents are the most unexpected. And I just received a nice one thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice.
After years of denying that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act granted states the right license and regulate intrastate online casinos and poker rooms, the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel released an advisory memo admitting that the UIGEA does in fact give states that right.
When I saw this news, my jaw hit the floor. Internet poker just might be making a comeback here in the United States.
I'm a recreational poker player, and it's been more than eight months since I played online poker for real money. The events of April 15 of this year, which saw the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt
Poker and Absolute Poker indicted on charges of bank fraud, money laundering and illegal Internet gambling, soured me on the online game. Sure, even though I could still play on some of the smaller sites, I didn't want to risk even $20 knowing that the DOJ probably had those sites were in their crosshairs as well.
But with the release of this memo, the door has now been opened a crack
. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I believe it won't be long before the first state takes the leap.
To be clear, this memo doesn't mean that I'll be able to log on to PokerStars and start playing again tomorrow. In fact, I probably won't get to play on PokerStars ever again, provided I continue to live in the United States. The advisory memo only applies to intrastate gambling, meaning the operator has to be licensed by the state. And I have a feeling it's going to be hard for PokerStars, whose owner is still charged with money laundering, bank fraud and illegal Internet gambling, to obtain a license to operate Internet poker games in any state.
And Massachusetts, where I live, is in the midst of forming a gambling commission that will license up to three resort casinos and one slot parlor. It's unlikely there will be any movement on Internet poker in the Bay State for years. They're kinda busy right now.
And even if it was available tomorrow, player liquidity will be irrevocably damaged. Intrastate poker means that players can only be play against other players within the state. There will be no return to the glory days when you could find any game at any limit you wanted.
But this memo — and likely subsequent action by states such as New Jersey, Nevada, California, Iowa and Florida — will put some added pressure on efforts to regulate the industry at a federal level. I had pretty much given up on seeing any action on this as we headed into an election year in 2012. But now, all bets are off, and I can't wait to see what happens next.