The US is at it Again!

The US Department of Justice is at is at it again. After extorting $136 million from Neteller and another $10 million from Pay Pal they are now going after profits allegedly made in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006. (UIGEA)

Party Gaming and 888.com are now in the sights of US prosecutors even though their businesses are perfectly legitimate in their own country, not to mention the fact that both countries have withdrawn from the US market. The DOJ is under pressure from right wingers to show enforcement successes.

Although neither company is a player in the industry, bingo site owners are following recent developments with great interest. The US market is a large one for internet bingo and losing that market share would hurt site owners and operators substantially. Bingo players, by and large, do not see themselves as gamblers in the same sense as poker players.

According to an article by Helia Ebrahimi in the UK financial journal This Is Money the US seeks to extort $900 million dollars from Party Gaming and $120 million from 888.com. The demands from the DOJ would essentially put both companies out of business and cause investors to lose substantially. 888.com served approximately 20 million US players who hopefully vote and will remember this violation of their rights come election time.

It is hard for rational people to understand the US position. These companies are publicly traded on the London stock exchange, are ethical by any standards, and most importantly, are legal in their country of origin. While the US government arguably has the right to impose its own peculiar sense of morality on its own citizens it most certainly does not have those rights beyond its own borders. To do so is arrogance of the highest order.

The passage of UIGEA has had unintended consequences. While the online gaming sites in Europe are well regulated and legal, there are already reports of less than honest site operators and funds transfer services sprouting up in various places. They are targeting the US market which the UIGEA has opened to them.

The recent US opposition to gambling is hard to understand. Gambling has a long history in the United States dating back to its earliest days. Mark Twain was an avid poker player, Truman played poker at Potsdam, and games have been hosted in the White House for two centuries. The miners, cowboys, and ranchers who built the west were all avid gamblers so where did opposition to this great American tradition come from?