Over a decade ago, US poker players and other game lovers were concerned that attempts at establishing state laws legalizing online poker and online gambling in general would never succeed. However, people continued to play poker in casinos and established clubs that offered betting games, and they also took time to venture online whenever they had access to poker sites. Sometimes poker players just took advantage of the fact that many state laws were silent on the legal position of online poker in their state.
Soon, however, the hopes of poker lovers were to be crashed by the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) which was clear indication that the US was bent on criminalizing online gambling. Luckily, for gambling enthusiasts, the law as it was became untenable. The US had already gotten used to having casinos and other brick and mortar clubs that offered gambling facilities, and therefore UIGEA could not have been seen in any other light but as a crackdown on internet gambling. After intense and unchecked ridiculing of that law, America let go and today, poker and other gambling activities are, for most part, regulated by individual state laws.
Why the Department of Justice (DOJ) thought UIGEA would work
The team that drafted the bill that developed into UIGEA had banked on the strength and spirit of the 1961 Interstate Wire Act, otherwise referred to as the Federal Wire Act. Their premise was that UIGEA would not be introducing anything new as the 1961 law already criminalized remote gambling. Of course, online gambling fell under remote gambling. That assumption was proven wrong in 2011 when the country put bare the fact that the Wire Act only banned betting in races and other sports and not online poker or other betting games.
That clarification of the federal government’s legal position gave a sigh of relief to the gaming fraternity that had already found a great gaming environment in online poker and online gambling in general. This was the juncture at which the role of handling gambling was left to individual states. Each state was to enact its own state laws regarding online poker and gambling as a whole.
States that have led in legalizing online gambling
Delaware was the pioneer in making online gambling legal, and it even extended the scope of legality to include gambling activity from other US states. In fact, the state laws in Delaware were so liberal that the only betting activities they locked out were lotteries and also keno. From Delaware, US residents could play baccarat; blackjack; bingo; wheel of fortune; craps; online poker; roulette; and related games and their variants.
Next in line was Nevada. This state that is famed for its gambling culture, particularly in its city of Las Vegas, took a bold step of legalizing online poker while at the same time taking caution not to legalize online gambling in its entirety. Of course, over the years, the state of Nevada, through its control board, has licensed a wide range of other online gambling activities.
As for the state of New Jersey, the state laws on online gambling may have remained confusing over the years, but the fact that the Department of Justice went ahead this year and licensed PokerStars to include New Jersey in its online gambling tournaments means there is potential growth of online poker and other online games in New Jersey and the rest of the US. In fact, the best part is the unfolding trend of states legalizing online gambling and not restricting it to the state residents alone. Permitting intra-state online activity is indication that the US online gambling scene is soon going to become very vibrant.