American online poker players who want to play poker for real money online have for years found that they run into trouble when looking for sites that will allow American players. When the federal government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, also referred to as the UIGEA, a lot of the poker rooms indefinitely suspended the U.S. player accounts. Of course, all laws have loopholes, and just because this new law made it more challenging for the sites to accept money from U.S. players, it did not exactly make it against the law for them to accept American players.
So what exactly does the ruling say? According to many interpretations of the law, the ruling makes it illegal for banks to transfer money to, or accept transfers from, online poker rooms. As a response, the poker sites figured out ways to send money to, and receive money from, online poker players in the states by using alternative payment methods Online gambling sites.
The debate is heated among poker players because they claim that the ruling should exclude poker, as the poker sites offer a game of skill, not a game of chance – which means that they are not gambling sites. They also say that because players bet against each other and don’t pay the house directly when they lose, that this also differentiates them. This interpretation of the UIGEA means that some networks can still offer their services to players in the U.S. without breaking any regulations. They should also be able to receive payments from players’ bank accounts without any restrictions.
Dozen of lawsuits are currently filed in the US, all of them trying to get the UIGEA to more clearly define the laws.
UIGEA did succeed in fueling an expensive (in legal fees) backlash from many online poker rooms and U.S. players. There was a reduction in the number of poker sites that allowed American players, but sites that still accepted US player were able to flourish, and the players who left the rooms that refused their money, simply moved to new sites. There are a ton of websites that will give details on where Americans can still play poker online, it only requires a small amount of research.
Representative Barney Frank has already begun the process to change the current laws. Rep. Frank had a bill passed in his House Financial Services Committee that would overturn the UIGEA and lay the framework for a regulated Internet gambling industry in the US.