Proposed Revisions to the Wire Act Threaten Online Poker in the US Proposed Revisions to the Wire Act Threaten Online Poker in the US
Key Takeaways
  • The CSIG has published a bill which re-writes the Wire Act to make internet gambling a federal offence.
  • Sheldon Adelson has said he will spend whatever it takes in his campaign to ban internet gambling.
  • His life achievements and wealth make him a formidable opponent and the AGA has already hired extra staff to initiate a more proactive campaign to support internet gambling in the USA.

A draft of a bill to counteract the US Department of Justices’ opinion on the Wire Act and prohibit online poker has been leaked. The proposed bill received widespread attention when online gaming insider Marco Valerio posted it on his blog over the weekend.

Many suspect that Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) are behind the effort as Adelson has publically stated the he will “spend whatever it takes” to stop internet gambling. Enacting the “Internet Gambling Control Act” would go along way towards achieving that goal.

As of yet, there is no vociferous congressional constituency supporting the bill, but given the ramifications of such a bill passing, it must be taken seriously.

The critical elements of the Wire Act re-write are:

(f) For the purposes of this Act:

(1) the term “wire communication” includes the Internet, and any activity which involves the use, at least in part, of the Internet.

(2) the term “any sporting event or contest” includes games in part or predominantly subject to chance, including games in which players compete against each other, and not against any person, entity, or fellow player hosting the game, the outcome of which, over any significant interval, is predominantly determined by the skill of the players, and the purchase of a chance or opportunity to win a lottery or other prize (which opportunity to win is predominantly subject to chance).

Should lobbying efforts garner sufficient support, the proposed legislation would put an end to state legalization of online poker.

One of the latest campaigns to move public opinion away from regulating online gaming comes from the CSIG and includes a picture on Facebook that shows a young boy apparently playing online poker. The text reads: “If we have learned anything about the Internet, it is that kids will find ways to outsmart their parents. Gaming experts say that Internet gambling is in part intended to draw the younger generation into gambling.”

Adelson is 80, he is the Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp, Bloomberg lists him as 11th richest man in the world. He is not a man accustomed to failure, so factions within the online poker industry will need to cooperate, if it is to head off a very real threat.

The battle for the freedom to gamble or play poker online in the USA will not be won or lost in Congress; it will be first and foremost a battle for the hearts and minds of the voters.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) President Geoff Freeman said that the industry is often its “own worst enemy.” He has shifted the organization’s strategy to be more proactive and to initiate pro-gaming campaigns. After hiring five extra lobbying staff, he said: “We need to do a better of job of explaining how regulated gaming can be a positive influence on a community.”

2014 may well see a battle royal commence, with online poker providing the critical battleground.