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PPA applauds DOJ's stance on Wire Act

23 December 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide, today applauded the ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice that online poker does not violate the Wire Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1084. The DOJ memo was apparently in response to an inquiry from one or more state lotteries as to the application of the Wire Act to intrastate sales of lottery tickets on the Internet. The memo, written in response by Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, overruled the long-held position of the DOJ’s Criminal Division and found that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting.

“This is a much needed clarification of an antiquated and often confusing law. For years, legal scholars and even the courts have debated whether the Wire Act applies to non-sporting activity. Today’s announcement validates the fact that Internet poker does not violate this law,” said John Pappas, PPA’s executive director. “The PPA commends Assistant Attorney General Seitz for recognizing this. However, this ruling makes it even more important that Congress act now to clarify federal law, and to create a licensing and regulation regime for Internet poker, coupled with clear laws and strong enforcement against other forms of gambling deemed to be illegal.”

Until today, the highest court that has ruled on the Wire Act, the governing federal law, found that it only applied to sports betting. In in re: Mastercard (2002) the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a civil suit predicated on the idea that the Wire Act prohibited non-sports betting, and no other Circuit to date has found otherwise. Today’s announcement from DOJ accepts the Fifth Circuit’s position for the first time.

Pappas continued, “This will provide policy makers at both the state and federal level with the legal confidence to move forward with licensing and regulation of online poker and other non-sporting activity within their respective jurisdictions. However, it is our hope that our federal policy makers see this as an incentive to move quickly to enact federal licensing and regulation before various states produce a mix of individual state schemes that may not be the best model to serve consumers.”

Federal licensing and regulation, like H.R. 2366, the Online Poker Act of 2011, would create a U.S. regulated online poker framework, requiring all online poker sites to measure up to strict safety and consumer protection standards – requirements that do not exist today. More importantly, this bill will create an open and competitive market, giving players a choice of many sites on which to play against others from across the country and the world.

“PPA’s million-plus members have spoken loud and clear: they prefer clear, consistent federal legislation to a patchwork of state laws to license and regulate the game they love. Protection of the right to play and of the integrity of the game is of paramount importance to the poker community,” said PPA Chairman former Senator Alfonse D’Amato. “State by state licensing and regulation could result in a balkanized online poker world where players across the nation would be limited in their choices of where and against whom they could play. This could potentially reduce the number of total players, reducing revenues state lawmakers project from this activity. At the same time, it would deter entrepreneurs from entering the online poker market, as there would essentially be 50 different sets of laws and rules to which they would have to adhere.”

D’Amato continued, “We urge members of Congress to act quickly based on today’s announcement and pass legislation like H.R. 2366 to license and regulate online poker at the federal level.”

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