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New Bill Pits Poker Against Casino Games

By: R. Kingsley, Friday October 3rd 2008
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The Introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 has put the online gambling industry in a turmoil under which it is still reeling. The online gambling industry has three major components online poker, online casino games and online sports betting. The online poker industry is represented by the Poker Players alliance (PPA) and the online casino games industry by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (IMEGA). In the initial response to the UIGEA, the PPA and the IMEGA stood together and worked in concert. However of late the PPA seems to have taken an independent stand that poker is not gambling but a game of skill and hence not covered by the UIGEA.

This stand has resulted in a new bill introduced by Democrat Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey. The bill, S3616, is being backed to the hilt by the PPA, which was instrumental in drafting it. The bill describes poker as a game of skill. The implication is that as a game of skill it is not gambling and therefore cannot be governed by the UIGEA. For the other objections such as underage persons playing online poker and persons with excessive gaming habits the bill proposes "a licensing and regulatory framework for the United States to exercise appropriate control and oversight over Internet poker and other games of skill."

So where does S3616 leave online sports betting and internet casino games. The bill specifically states that sports betting cannot be considered as a game of skill and therefore gets no protection against the UIGEA that this bill is seeking to provide to online poker. The question is whether online casino games can be included in "other games of skill". Every betting game that involves the bettor making a decision other than whether or not to place the bet can be considered a game of skill because making that decision involves expertise. Bad decisions can lead to losses and good decision to winnings. Several online casino games fall under this classification. In blackjack players have to decide whether to hit or stand; in video poker players have to decide which cards to replace and in Caribbean Stud Poker players have to decide whether to fold or raise. Hence there is a case for calling them games of skill. But there are other games in which players do nothing after placing their wagers except wait for the outcome. Roulette, craps and slots are online casino games that fall in this category.

There has been no response from the IMEGA to S 3616 and online casino players are waiting to hear what their representatives have to say.

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