Somebody misses online poker

Dear Editor,

The US Department of Justice showed their true colors last week, and the colors are not red, white and blue. The US Attorney General of the Southern District of NY indicted the owners of the three largest international online poker sites, the FBI seized their domain names and warrants were issued to freeze their assets in 76 bank accounts, both domestic and foreign. Apparently the DOJ believes this American pastime is a serious crime that justifies expenditure of extensive law enforcement resources.

The poker sites, which are licensed and strictly regulated in their home jurisdictions as well as many other countries in Europe, have practically been begging the U.S. to license regulate and tax them here in the U.S. Instead our government chose to attack these popular sites, deny the choice to play to US citizens and put at risk the financial health of thousands of US professional players. This is not the “American way”, but rather a harsh example of government forcing its own morays on the Internet and its own citizens.

There is no U.S. federal law that makes online poker illegal. But the DOJ, pursuing its own agenda, has stretched the law forbidding online sports betting to include poker. And all this to stop adult Americans from pursuing their preferred recreation in the privacy of their own homes. Is our Constitution and Bill of Rights no longer the law of the land? Has Democracy fallen to the pursuit of political agendas?

While we fight in foreign lands to protect freedom and the democratic way of life, we cannot turn a blind eye to the erosion of those principles in our own backyard. Millions of Americans play and enjoy online poker. It is not the place of our government to take away that freedom of choice. Yes, we need to protect the underaged, those that suffer from gaming addiction and all players from consumer fraud. But these can easily be done through licensing and regulation of the industry.

If I wanted to live in a country that tightly controls the choices I make, I could move to one of the many repressive foreign regimes. However, I’m a proud American that believes in freedom and democracy. Please don’t shame me by making a mockery of those principles.

Martin Shapiro
Florida State Director
Poker Players Alliance