As we all clamor to the virtual poker rooms to lose our money to 9 5 suited, special interest groups clamor to the doors of congress men and women demanding that online gambling in the states be made illegal. Currently, the Department of Justice would tell you that it is covered by the Wire Act and is in fact illegal, regardless of the location of the company with which you are placing your bets. However, the issue is still unclear, and some movement by Congress suggests clarifying the situation. That means all of us are possibly facing a prohibition on our favorite pastime.
Many other countries around the globe have taken a different stance, and instead are choosing to regulate online gambling. Regulating the industry by requiring licenses and requiring companies to be responsible and public about their software and specific algorithms would surely be the best bet in the long run. Ultimately, this was the decision chosen in the case of alcohol in the first quarter of the 20th century. This prohibition may eventually have an identical result, but no one would like to deal with the 'dark years' just to get to an ending that could come to fruition without prohibition.
In fact, the World Trade Organization is generally unhappy about the United States' strong stance against online gambling. It is, after all, trade, as it is a service provided to consumers. It also is a very lucrative industry that attains most of its money from the U.S. Prohibiting American consumers from participating would be even worse than prohibiting the companies from taking a rake.
The argument is that, although a consumer is gambling through an offshore company, a virtual casino is created on the user's terminal, and is therefore gambling in the user's home state; therefore, it is covered by that state's laws, and in this country in general, gambling is illegal.
Chances are that even if a law prohibiting online gambling is passed, The Blues will not break down your door and haul you off to Alcatraz. Due to the incredible number of users, that is an impractical possibility to say the least. More than likely Internet Service Providers will be forced to restrict access to certain named sites. In other words, you will not even be able to access known gambling sites, no matter how much you want. However, in the past the middlemen have been targeted. If any of you have wondered why you can not use your Visa or MasterCard to directly open an account at an online casino, it is because they were all but forced to make a policy against using their credit to open an account at those types of sites. PayPal made a very similar policy due to similar pressure.
Traditional casinos, by the way, are not one of the groups against online gambling. In fact, online gambling likely helps many casinos, as 'real life' gambling is still more attractive than online play. The more players who are attracted to gambling through the online venues, the more that will likely eventually make their way to a brick and mortar casino. That would be why the poker room is always full at your local casino, and there are usually 5-10 young guys wearing baseball caps and sunglasses while playing at the 2/4 and 3/6 tables.
The U.S. would do well to start some sort of organization that regulates online gambling. The organization should grant licenses after approving software, algorithms, and the like. The organization should make it safe for the consumer to invest money in a site with confidence that they will lose their kid's college fund in complete fairness, rather than by being cheated by a squirrelly algorithm in some obscure piece of coding.
So contact your local congress man or woman if you play Internet poker! Contacting your representative is not just for grumpy old folk and hippies (no offense to anyone, my parents are both), it's for anyone who wishes their representative to do just that represent them!
Good luck and good odds I will see you in the slammer.