The topic of the USA struggle against on-line gambling industry disturbs the gambling community. There is the old Wire Act (1961) in force in the USA which prohibits to stake with the help of the phone, telegraph and other wire communication facilities outside the bounds of one’s own state. Gamblers consider that this ban does not apply to the Internet, whereas the official establishment has another opinion. American DOJ has forbidden advertising of casinos in search systems and on television, bank deposits in online casinos (not even forbade, rather than recommended very insistently, but it was a proposal which was not to be refused from). At the same time Antigua through the court of WTO reached a decision according to which the USA either has to forbid its citizens to play in any on-line casinos by law or push aside all obstacles with regard to gambling. Several years ago a try to adopt a prohibitive law failed in the parliament of the USA still at the level of the House of Representatives.
At the beginning of 2006 there was no considerable progress on the front of struggle with on-line gambling in the USA, but in the course of the current year there are a number of serious causes to talk about stronger measures against on-line casinos. It all began with a new bill on prohibition of gambling games in the Internet. The same senators Kyl, Leach and Goodlatte who joined them proposed another draft (known now as HR4777) on prohibition for the citizens of the USA of on-line gambling games (all the types of gambling, including stakes on sport, casinos, poker, except for horse racing stakes and fantasy sport). In accordance with this law banks are to fully block any opportunity for gamblers to make deposits in casinos, and gamblers themselves are under threat of a large fine or a sentence up to 10 years in prison. Despite the fact that numerous polls show that the majority of the population in the USA does not support the given law, it was adopted by the House of Representatives of the USA Congress by the majority of 3/4 of votes. It was planned that it would be considered by the Senate, after which it would be passed for signature of George Bush who, as it is known, does not feel any sympathy towards games of chance. Fortunately, there appeared some difficulties with the bill in the Senate; hearings were transferred to the autumn session. There appeared the information that the bill may not pass the Senate from the first, in this case there will be created a conciliation commission of the two Houses of the Congress that will at the minimum delay adoption of the law for a considerable term.
Successful passing of the bill in the lower House of the Congress was, evidently, promoted by a scandal around a quite famous lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He was accused of non-payment of taxes and fraud with the money of real casinos. It was his active position that in many aspects contributed to failure of the previous anti-on-line bill, but at the same time after the scandal a lot of legislators are trying to distance themselves from it supporting a new bill.
Struggle against gambling in the USA is carried out not only on the level of the country on the whole, as well as in individual states. The first signs appeared in the state of Washington (not to confuse with the capital of the USA, the city of Washington which was the first to pass its own anti-on-line legislation as an extension of Wire Act. From now on gambling through the Internet or other communication facilities (mobile phones, palms are meant here and etc) threaten the inhabitants of the state of Washington with a fine up to 10 000 dollars and (or) prison for a term up to five years. Also, any sites informing of on-line games are banned. The Law took effect on the 7th of June, 2006, though, there have been no cases of its application for two months.
One more blow was delivered by the USA DOJ. On the 20th of July David Carruthers was arrested, Chief Executive of one of the biggest on-line gambling companies BetonSports, at that it happened in the airport of Dallas where David was taken from the transit flight from England to Costa-Rica. He was presented a number of accusations, including racket and non-payment of taxes, he was refused to be let out on bail. This case also concerns several people, including one of the owners of the company Gary Kaplan. Interestingly, but David himself is a citizen of Great Britain, and the company is registered in Costa-Rica. By the way, the authorities of Costa-Rica have refused to cooperate with Americans with regard to this case, having explained that David and BetonSports have not broken the laws of their country. BetonSports itself ceased work till the 14th of August, and dismissed David Carruthers trying to distance itself from the scandal.
On the whole, the situation around BetonSports is rather controversial. However, this arrest has brought down the market of gambling shares which went down in price by 20-40% in the course of one day, though now the shares are repairing an omission. Apart from that, a large marketing conference was canceled in Las Vegas which had been planned by another big online bookmaker BoDog. All in all, it is not recommended for a manager of gambling sites to come to the USA. Just in case. Several gambling sites after the arrest of David refused access for the citizens of the USA. Thus, the accounts of Americans are closed in the poker network B2B, in the casino/bookmaker/poker Coral/Eurobet and Victor Chandler, though, all these are the companies oriented to Europe, and Americans’ share is not high among their clients.
A few prognoses at the end. Hopefully, the Senate will not approve the bill in its current form, and it will be sent for a long revision at the minimum. Though, Americans have to hurry up with their final decision, for they are affected by the decision of WTO, and Antigua has already repeatedly applied to the organization with a request to control the USA actions. If the prohibition is not introduced or a decision will be made to permit on-line games in the USA, the gambling community will certainly breathe with relief, but no particular changes will take place. It will be much more interesting if the law is passed for all that. For at present up to 50% of all the money on-line is presented by players from the USA. Certainly, not all the Americans will leave online casinos, but outflow of customers will painfully hit the majority of gambling companies. Surely, the situation will worsen on the market of poker where it is the USA that is the main supplier of “fish”.
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By Arthur Prudent
Arthur Prudent is the developer of www.bonus-map.com, web site covering gambling news, features reviews on Casinos, Poker rooms, bingos, Sports Betting bonuses promotions and more.
USA is worried about the online gambling popularity.