Monday, January 9, 2012
Despite the fact that a number of provinces have already adopted more progressive online gambling regulations, the practice remains federally illegal in Canada as well as the US. As lawmakers and advocacy groups carry on the seemingly endless legalisation battle, players are largely left to their own devices to deal with personal and financial losses incurred as part of the fallout from Black Friday and the F.B.I.’s April 2011 decision to bring the North American gambling industry to a screeching halt.
US lawmakers seem set on convincing the public that the Department of Justice’s moves to crack down on illegal Internet gambling were protective measures aimed at shielding North American consumers from an unregulated – and therefore dangerous – practice. The facts behind the lawsuits filed against popular online poker sites such as Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker, however, tell a very different story. Poker providers have been forced to fork over some $3 billion of their revenue to the government as reimbursement for “illegal gambling profits,” but millions of innocent poker fans have been told by the government officials working on the cases that they’ll just have to wait indefinitely for reimbursement of their frozen player accounts.
The fees imposed by the DOJ are hardly the end of gambling sites’ legal woes, however, and players have seen plenty of evidence to support the theory that Canadian and US governments are dead set on bleeding poker providers dry. In addition to wildly inconsistent financial penalties (Wachovia Bank’s alleged involvement in a drug smuggling ring, for example, cost the bank $160 million in government reimbursement fees seems inconsequential when compared to the standard $3 billion owed to the government by the providers in question), gaming advocacy groups have been forced to spend their dwindling funds on lobbying costs.
Though it is true that Canada’s provincially regulated gaming provides some players with a legal – and thus protected – way to enjoy online gambling, the rush to set up governmentally owned Internet casinos is leaving a sour taste in many gamblers’ mouths. It’s impossible to deny that federal, provincial and state budgets in the US and Canada are stretched incredibly thin at the moment, but monopolizing the online casino market through force can hardly be described as an intelligent or worthwhile course of action.