Is Online Poker Illegal? (Paging Otto)

I’ve been out of the Party Poker scene for awhile and I’ve been thinking about getting back into it. I remember reading somewhere that they were thinking about making online gambling illegal so I tried to do my own research to figure out what the straight dope is.

Fast forward to now, and I still can’t make heads or tails of it. It seems like playing isn’t illegal, it sounds like it is only illegal if you electronically move funds across state lines for the purpose of betting.

So whats the deal, is it legal or not, and if it is legal how does one go about funding and cashing out my account.

So whats the deal?

Easiest way to fund- go purchase and activate a prepaid MC/Visa card, then use it to put the money onto the site of your choice.

When you want to cash out, have them send you a check. If you are really paranoid or really want to avoid IRS attention, cash the check at either the bank it is drawn on, if it happens to have a local branch, or pay the fee and do it at a check cashing store, and then deposit it into your account in smaller amounts(don’t show up with a check for 7500 from Party Poker and try to stick it directly into your bank account).

If you want to play at Party, they no longer accept US accounts, so you will need to say you are Canadian.
Whether or not online poker is legal or not is kind of a grey area, however the recently passed anti terrorism bill of earlier this year makes it illegal for companies to transfer funds to or from online poker or gambling sites. The “story” is that those darn terrists could be laundering or transferring money from over there to over here to fund more attacks, and WE CANNOT ALLOW THAT. In reality, the bricks and mortar casinos lobbied to have this clause added, and the terrorist story is the bs we are expected to swallow to explain why it is in there.

In the United States, the Wire Act of (IIRC) 1961 makes it illegal to use phone lines to place wagers. The highest US court to rule on the scope of the Wire Act, the (IIRC) 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the Act only applies to sports betting. The Justice Department continues to dispute this position and act as if all phone bets are illegal.

In 2006, the SAFE Port Act passed in the dead of night and was signed into law. Tacked onto that by Bill Frist was the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act. While this Act does not make online gambling illegal, it bars the transfer of funds from a US financial institution to any online gambling site except for fantasy sports leagues, betting on horse races and online state lotteries. In response, many online gambling sites stopped accepting US customers and various e-Wallet vendors, notably Neteller, stopped accepting money from US accounts.

Antigua took action against the US before the World Trade Organization, claiming that barring US customers from accessing gambling sites based in Antigua while allowing them to wager online in other respects violated treaty obligations. The WTO issued several rulings siding with Antigua, but since Antigua’s only remedy is imposing trade sanctions and since doing so would have no effect on the US and devastate Antigua, they have not done so. The US has ignored the WTO rulings entirely. There are reports that England, which recently took action to legalize and regulate online gambling, may enter the dispute, which observers feel will make the US take notice.

In April Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced legislation to repeal the UIGEA and implement regulation and taxation of online gambling. His bill, if enacted, would allow states and Indian reservations to make online gambling illegal for its citizens. Cuurently Washington state makes it a felony to gamble online and I believe one other state does as well.

Since I would never suggest that Dopers engage in possibly illegal conduct I won’t mention that ahem a friend in Wisconsin told me that he signed up at Full Tilt recently and was able to fund his account with his debit card.

Yes. Good idea. Let’s keep the thread responsive to the OP’s question about whether online gambling is illegal and not venture into what sorts of illegal stuff one can get away with or how to do it.

Gfactor, General Questions Moderator

Here are a few good articles:

Actually, Antigua filed a $3.4 billion claim against the United States on June 20th, with the EU, Japan and India also chiming in with claims. And there are other remedies open to Antigua, such as choosing to ignore American copyrights. That would give them the right to “legally” sell unauthorized American movies and software, at least in countries that recognized the WTO’s authority to allow it.

Thanks for the update. I’ve let my subscription to Cardplayer lapse so haven’t been following this as closely.

Here’s a link to the claim story.

Thanks for the replies everyone. I haven’t read through all of the articles, but I’m hoping one of them will explain whether or not I personally can get in trouble for sending money to online gambling sites or if it would be the bank that would have the legal issues. From what I can tell it would be the bank’s problem, but I’d like to confirm.

As far as the friend from WI I wonder it might just be the case of a lucky coincidence in finding a poker site that doesn’t care about violating US law coupled with a bank who doesn’t screen their transactions as thoroughly as it should. (Its probably one of those big Mad-Town banks too) :slight_smile:
I haven’t completely lost hope.

The friend from Wisconsin informs me that the line item on his credit union account for the poker deposit was very generic and bore no reference to Full Tilt, poker, or the internet. He speculates that Full Tilt uses some sort of holding company for the transfer from the US financial institution and then does some sort of internal transfer to fund the poker account.