Some Early Failed Attempts To Ban Online Poker. The U.S. Attempts To Ban Online Poker, and Fails.
When online poker and online gambling first started really catching on, in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, the American government was really eager to look to try to shut down these offshore poker and gambling sites from offering play to U.S. residents, but things didn’t quite go as well as they planned.
The First Attempts To Ban Online Poker
It really was no big secret that there was not any federal law prohibiting anyone from playing at online poker sites, and Congress did try to get a law passed making this illegal, back in 1999, with the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999.
Even if this was passed though, there’s no real way to catch Americans placing bets online, and the companies who are assisting this would be outside the reach of U.S. law, so this law would really only serve to bolster the propaganda machine.
The bill ended up being defeated though, and all these years later, there still is no federal law against online poker, and even the UIGEA only makes it a crime for financial institutions to process transactions related to gambling that is against the law, and doesn’t make gambling itself illegal. There still isn’t a federal law that does that.
This forced the government back to trying to convince people that the Wire Act made online poker illegal, in spite of it being solely addressed to sports betting. Since then, they have admitted that, but still try to make you believe online poker is illegal under federal law, although they don’t mention any law anymore, because there aren’t any that apply.
The U.S. Takes on Antigua, and Loses
The U.S. government then turned to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help them. They filed a claim against the small island nation of Antigua, which had legalized online gambling and where a lot of the online poker industry was based.
They claimed that the Antigua government had violated trade agreements by allowing companies there to offer online poker and gambling to U.S. residents. They expected that the WTO would rule in their favor, perhaps believing that poker was illegal in the U.S. under federal law, even though there really wasn’t such a comprehensive law in effect.
The WTO, instead, ruled in favor of Antigua, and moreover, claimed that the U.S. was the one breaking the treaty by trying to interfere with Antigua’s right to make their own laws. They ruled that Antigua’s online gaming business had a lawful right to pursue players in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The United States appealed the decision, and not only lost, but the WTO ordered that the U.S. was the one that needs to change their laws, and make it legal for offshore gambling sites to offer play to their residents. The U.S. was later charged for being out of compliance with these orders, and as a final slap in the face, they were also ordered to pay compensation to Antigua.
This is all in sharp contrast to the rhetoric that U.S. officials have put out over the years, but they do not have any legal right to interfere with non U.S. based poker sites, in spite of what they may believe.