• From the Editor

    What a Summer for America’s Game!

    Finally, Some Great News From the Courts

    After more than a year of sour notes, this summer provided some sweet music to the poker community. For starters, the World Series continued to hold its own in a down economy, and American players – who now are playing more “live” poker than ever before – dominated the annual bracelet-fest. Then PokerStars stepped up big time and agreed to buy the tarnished and shuttered Full Tilt Poker, and reimburse FTP players whose online bankrolls disappeared in the wake of the Black Friday crackdown. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars here, and if Stars makes this happen the poker world will owe them an eternal debt of gratitude. They will deserve to be at the front of the line if and when online poker is licensed and regulated in the U.S.

    An even bigger shocker was the historic decision by a federal judge that poker was distinct from “gambling” games because it is a game of skill. This was a long-awaited first and something this magazine, the PPA, and the whole poker community have been fighting for for years. Many thought the day would never come, but Judge Jack Weinstein of the United States District Court ruled poker a game of skill. “The definition of ‘gambling’ does not include games, such as poker, which are predominated by skill,” he declared.

    While the decision may ultimately mean that the feds will keep their hands off poker, there is still the UIGEA to contend with, which prohibits transactions with “gambling” sites. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out now that poker is no longer considered “gambling.” And there still are state laws to contend with, so the battle is not over yet.

    Said gaming attorney Mitch Stein, a Partner with Sullivan & Worcester: “For online poker companies, this is a small step in the right direction, but don’t count your chips yet – you still have to comply with the gaming laws in each state where your website is available. Also, there are other federal anti-gambling laws that may define gambling differently. Finally, this decision is subject to appeal and possible reversal by the Second Circuit.”

    Still, it is a great victory and proof that we are making progress.

    Now add in the Justice Department’s recent declaration that the 1961 Wire Act does not apply to poker, and poker enemy Jon Kyl’s recent softening toward the game (see August Editor’s Letter), and the music is sweet indeed. (The Wire Act, you will recall, was the Bush Administration’s justification for declaring online gaming sites “illegal.”)

    It is eye-opening how things seem to be falling into place for U.S. poker now that the online poker landscape has been stripped bare, but that is a subject for the future. Obama has been a big disappointment when it comes to poker, but recent events have all the earmarks of a behind-the-scenes master plan, either by the president, the brick-and-mortar gambling lobby, or both. Right now the only cloud on the horizon, in my mind, is that Mitt Romney might win in November. Not only is he from a party with a radical evangelical wing that most definitely views poker as gambling and gambling as the devil’s work, but he is also a Mormon. Mormons are severely strict about gambling, and they make no exception for poker. Utah is the most rabidly anti-gambling state in the Union. It doesn’t even have bingo – or a state lottery. So it is my feeling that the chances of Romney ever signing a bill licensing and regulating online poker are slim to none.

    There is a lot of food for thought here. But for now, sit back for a moment and enjoy the music, before we get back to work.
    Ole Schemion Wins Final Partouche Poker Tour

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