Ladbrokes Poker is one of the most respected gaming houses in England, if not all of Europe. They accept action on many of the main sporting events that cover the world, including football (what Americans foolishly call "soccer"), cricket, horse racing and the Super Bowl (America's "football"). They additionally have their own online poker site, Ladbrokespoker.com, where players from around the world can gather to play poker. Everyone, that is, except an American player.
While the site accepts transactions in many denominations, including United States Dollars, American players are prohibited from participating in the poker action at the site. There is the universal sign of "No Americans" (the dreaded red circle with a line through it over the American flag) on the poker arena. The question I had to ask was...why?
In an e-mail to their site I asked these questions. To grant Ladbrokes credit, they did not dodge my questions and answered promptly, offering some responses that made sense and one that was a little hard to believe.
The response to the money question was logical. In the e-mail, it was stated "historically, poker has been played with U. S. Dollars and Ladbrokes feels it is important to continue that tradition." Furthermore, "we do not accept some countries currency and some of our customers prefer to make their deposits in United States Dollars."
One questionable response came as far as the ban on American players. The statement continued "it is important to our European customers to know they are not playing against American players, who are generally regarded as playing at a very high standard." This is highly questionable when you look at many other online sites and see players from around the world competing equally. The cards do not care what country you are from; the ability to play poker is universal, especially in this day and age.
Where I had to agree with Ladbrokes Poker was on their continuation of the policy due to "American Gambling Laws". Ladbrokes is a part of the Hilton Group, the owners of the worldwide hotel chain that has many operations that fall within the United States. Those operations would be subject to seizure by the U. S. Government in the event they decided to pursue the Hilton Group in America for violating gambling regulations. Ladbrokes does not rule out the admission of American players eventually. "If the laws do change in the future, Ladbrokes will be happy to accept American customers to our site," they stated.
In November 2004, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of the nation of Antigua over the United States in a trade restriction disagreement over online gambling. The U. S. Government tried to use their argument that their laws took precedence (such as the Wire Act of 1961 and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act) over the international trade agreement that was signed by the government in 1995. Antigua argued that it was an unfair trade infringement as it was the primary source of income for the tiny island nation and the actions were in an international arena not subject to the laws of the United States. The case, even though settled in the WTO's eyes, is still being hotly debated today. In fact, in recent anti-terrorism legislation before the Congress of the United States, action against online gaming was thrown out of the bill while it was still in committee.
While many have questioned Ladbrokes decision, it is one made in their best interests and not from any anti-American position. It is time that the United States government recognizes that, in the worldwide community of today, some outdated acts need to be looked at. Online poker and gaming, as a whole, should be allowed by the United States, with proper actions to police it and ensure the safety of its citizens. With the current administration in charge, don't look for this action to commence anytime soon.