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Is Online Poker Legal in the U.S.?

24 June 2005, By:
The question of the legality of online poker in the United States is a murky subject, with the United States Department of Justice strongly hinting that it is not and various legal experts strongly stating that it is. Who's right? Who's wrong? Are you breaking the law?

In letters sent to the US Virgin Islands and the states of Nevada and North Dakota, the Justice Department stated its belief that online gambling runs counter to the Wire Act and various statutes covering money laundering. "The federal statutes are applicable to unlawful Internet gambling businesses," wrote the Justice Department.

The U.S. Courts however, strongly disagree. In a ruling handed down by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the court wrote that the Wire Act was never intended to provide federal jurisdiction over all internet gambling. Rather, the statute was carefully worded to only cover sports gambling.

Allyn Jaffrey Shulman is an attorney and part owner of Card Player magazine. He is also CEO of Shulman believes the Justice Department's position is extremely weak. Since online casinos accepted their first bets in 1995, "there has not been one single judicial ruling that online poker playing violates any federal law whatsoever," said Shulman. His opinion is shared by legal experts on the matter. In fact, not one legal guru outside the Justice Department believes that the Wire Act--or any other current federal statute--makes online poker illegal.

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) has tried numerous times to get legislation passed prohibiting online gambling. Each attempt has failed, and the legal community strongly believes that these attempts to specifically prohibit online gambling means that existing law allows it.

Finally, there is the 'reserved powers' doctrine from the US Constitution. In a nutshell, this doctrine states that if it's not specifically prohibited, it's legal.

Shuffle up and deal, continue to play at US Texas Holdem poker sites, but don't forget to write your Senator!

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