The rapid growth of the online poker
industry has proven to be a global phenomenon, with US poker
players comprising a large portion of the world market. The UK and many other countries, recognizing the popularity and inevitability of online poker, have moved forward with the licensing and regulation of remote gambling. The US, however, is still in the process of lobbying in congress to allow US States to join in the multi-billion dollar online gambling industry - an opportunity that the American economy would benefit from.
Many Americans are still confused, or simply misinformed, about how United States legislation affects US poker players. There is no federal law that prohibits US residents from logging-on at an online poker service, and wagering real money on internet poker games
- just as there is no law preventing US poker players from traveling to Las Vegas, or the nearest tribal casino, to participate in a poker game.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, aimed specifically at US financial institutions, caused many online poker sites to discontinue acceptance of funds from US poker players. However there are a number of reputable online poker sites that have continued to provide excellent, reliable service to residents of the United States.
The UIGEA and US Poker
At a time when the US government was making an aggressive attempt to prevent the funneling of United States funds to anti-American terrorist groups, the UIGEA was born as a provision of the Safe Port Act. Essentially, the UIGEA makes it illegal for American financial institutions - banks, credit card companies, etc. - to knowingly facilitate the transfer of money to internet gambling sites from US States in which that gambling activity is deemed illegal. The UIGEA also vaguely threatens legal action against the owner(s) of the internet gambling site.
The European Union - whose internet gambling sites immediately shut down their US operations in lieu of the UIGEA - has since determined that the UIGEA is in direct violation of World Trade Organization agreements between Europe and the US. Rather than file a formal complaint, the EU has encouraged the current US administration to negotiate a solution to the issue.
However, not all online poker sites closed their doors to US residents, and a number of organizations and politicians are working together in an effort to bring licensing and regulation to the US poker market; a move that would ideally bring a new source of revenue into the US.
Choosing a US Poker Site
US poker players will need to take care in selecting which online poker site to utilize due to the lack of regulation in the US. When publicly traded European remote gambling companies pulled out of the US poker market following UIGEA, a number of off-shore, privately owned online poker sites sprang up to fill the void. Not all of those US poker sites were legitimate operations.
Fortunately, there are a multitude of respected and proven options for US poker fans in the online gambling market, some of which were around long before the UIGEA. All of the US poker sites recommended by Poker.org have an established reputation, and are known to reliably expedite payouts within a reasonable amount of time.
Not everyone will agree which US poker sites are the best. It is advisable to choose a US poker site based on one's individual needs. For instance, some US poker sites provide a far more extensive tournament selection than their competitors, while other US poker sites have developed excellent loyalty programs. Each of the recommended US poker sites has their own strengths that make them ideal for players seeking those attributes.
When choosing an online US poker room to play at, one should take into account the deposit options that are available. Many sites offer the same options to their US players. Instant fund transfers are difficult to come by for US poker players while Americans await the repeal of the UIGEA, however, there are many alternatives available - some faster than others. Be sure to check for transaction fees that may be applied when choosing a deposit method.
The Future of US Poker
Residents of the United States can rest assured that it is not against any federal law to play poker online in the US. In addition, with the prevalence of online poker being played throughout the US - and the rest of the world - it is not difficult to take an optimistic view that the US will soon follow the lead of European countries that have begun the process of licensing and regulating online gambling ventures in the spirit of free trade.
US States in which gambling is already legalized are actively pursuing the establishment of an intrastate online gaming market. Additionally, more and more states are looking at the official legalization of US poker as a potential source of revenue after the near collapse of the American economy. Opening the online gaming market to US poker enthusiasts at a state level would effectively redirect the funds that US poker players are spending back into the local economy.
Another encouraging factor in the future of US poker is the determination of certain high profile, US friendly poker sites to continue accepting US poker players. Claiming that poker is a game of skill rather than chance, it has been asserted that the current regulations imposed by the UIGEA and the Wire Act of 1961 are not applicable to online poker. While science has taken on the task of determining the validity of that claim, there is still no denying the economic benefits if the United States emerged as a competitor in the global online gambling industry.
As a topic that is still in flux, with new developments reported almost daily, a regulated US poker market is clearly the goal of many Americans, as well as online gaming companies poised to move their operations into the US when opportunity finally knocks. With so much support and demand, it is only a matter of time before US poker regulations become a reality.