The source of this confusion stems from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which was tacked on to a completely unrelated port safety act. Rather than delay the passing of what was viewed as a time sensitive act, the entire thing was passed. Currently there is legislation in the works to officially legalize and regulate online gambling in the US.
As it stands, poker can easily be distinguished from random chance type games like roulette and craps because of the skill based game play inherent to the game. Furthermore, no United States statute or regulation explicitly prohibits Internet gambling. The Wire Act is most often quoted as making online gambling a federal offense. The text reads: “Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” The first sentence basically sums it up. It is not referring to an individual player, but towards an individual in the business of betting and wagering.
It’s a stretch to consider playing a hand of poker a sporting event, so the Wire Act is largely irrelevant to online poker players. Recently the US Justice Department stated that the Wire Act covers not only sports wagering but also casino games. Then the Federal Appeals Court ruled directly that that interpretation is false. As it currently stands, the goal of the UIGEA is to prevent citizens from gambling online. However, it doesn’t actually make online gambling a criminal activity. To further complicate things, gambling regulation traditionally falls to individual states.
Hopefully new legislation will be passed soon officially legalizing and regulating gambling online. Until then, the best advice in a nutshell is to stay a player and only wager against other players.
So which is better, playing poker online or playing at a casino? While nothing can fully replace the casino experience, in this article we will look at some benefits online poker offers that traditional poker venues cannot.