• Obama “Open to Solutions” Regarding Online Poker


    May 20, 2012

    In a letter to petitioners, the Obama administration affirms the right of States to govern online gambling but also admits its “open to solutions” to protect consumers.

    After almost eight months, petitioners calling on the Obama administration to license and regulate online poker have finally received a response.

    An email was sent out late Friday to the nearly 10,000 people that signed the online petition back in September of last year. The White House is committed to responding to all petitions that receive more than 5000 signatures.

    Authored by Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, the response did little to appease the concerns of the poker community as the White House did not promise to take any new actions to advance the legislation and regulation of online poker.

    A large part of the four-paragraph response was taken up with unnecessary repetition of why players want licensing and regulation of online poker.

    However, among the rhetoric were three points of interest.

    First, Deese made it clear that the White House and the US Department of Justice are on the same page—betting on sporting events and contests is a violation of federal law, but not other forms of gambling.

    “Online gambling on sporting events or contests violates federal law” he writes, but “the legality of other forms of online gambling is dependent upon the law of the states where the bettor or gambling business is located.”

    Which leads to the second point which is made quite clear: That online gambling is a matter of state law.

    “It is left to each state to determine whether it wishes to permit such activity between its residents and an online poker business authorized by that state to accept such wagers,” the letter continues.

    Some see this response as a clear indication that any chance of legislation on the federal level is dead. But Deese’s third point indicates that the Obama administration has not finalized its position on the matter and the door was left open for the approval of Federal legislation focusing on consumer protections should such a bill reach the President’s desk.

    “The Administration will continue to examine this issue and is open to solutions that would help guard against the use of online gambling sites as tools for conducting illegal activities or preying on unsuspecting individuals to the extent that online gambling is permitted.”

    Looked at in its entirety, the response to the petition does little to change the view of the US legal landscape surrounding online poker beyond confirming what was already included in the Christmas Letter clarifying the Wire Act. Those parties that prefer a state-by-state approach will continue to advance their interests and those that prefer Federal legislation will continue to hold out hope that a lame duck compromise will materialize.

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