After Site Seizure is Online Blackjack Legal or Illegal?

That is a question that many online blackjack players are asking themselves. With three major US-facing online poker sites being seized by the FBI and Department of Justice this past Friday, many who play their favorite casino games online are concerned if they will be next.

Unfortunately, my little blackjack players, there is no way of knowing if an online casino is going to be targeted by the FBI and DoJ next. The online poker sites were taken down, I think, as a scare tactic. Conservatives are very against online gambling of any kind, and with DC becoming the first jurisdiction to pass a bill to regulate online poker, those conservatives are bound to be up in arms. Think it is a coincidence that it was online poker that DC passed their bill on and online poker only sites that were seized? I think not. This is the vulture-esque conservatives trying to scare Americans away from playing their favorite online casino games in their own homes.

That being said, is online blackjack legal or illegal?

Yes, back in 2006 the UIGEA was signed into law; and, yes, it went into effect last June. But the UIGEA is a way for the federal government to bar financial institutions from knowingly making transactions to and from online casinos. Naturally online gambling operators and players found a way around it. But the UIGEA is not a player-based ban. Nowhere in it does it say that US citizens cannot play blackjack online. So, on an individual to individual basis, no, online blackjack is not technically illegal.

But does that mean that where you play online blackjack could be targeted next? There is no way of knowing. And with the legal loop-de-loops that the New York branch of the FBI will doing to round up and prosecute the eleven people indicted with the three online poker sites, I think their attention will be occupied for the next little while. But to be on the safe side, be very mindful of how much money you are keeping in your player accounts; if a site is seized there is little chance that you will get your money back. Play smart.

Breaking Online Gambling News Worth Interrupting Myself Over!

I know. Yesterday I said I would be comparing mobile blackjack apps and a bit of online blackjack. But that was before the news broke that the New Jersey House Assembly passed a bill that would regulate online gambling, specifically online poker, in New Jersey.

Once Governor Chris Christie signs the bill into law New Jersey will be the first state in the United States to regulate online gambling.

So take that, UIGEA!

The bill passed in the House Assembly with 63 members voting yes and only 11 saying no; and only 41 were needed for the bill to pass. The bill now goes to Governor Christie’s desk. Christie has been mum on the subject but he did promise, if elected, he would work to revitalize the economy in New Jersey. Being a state of tourism that relies heavily on the tax revenue from the Atlantic City casinos, Christie has been targeting those casinos and gambling as one way to boost the state’s struggling economy.

The online gambling regulation bill is one of five bills aimed at boosting the state’s revenue through Atlantic City.

Originally the Atlantic City casinos were against having online gambling regulated within the state, fearing that it would hurt their business even more than it already is. But portions of the bill have been rewritten and the Atlantic City casinos’ frowns turned into smileys.

The online gambling regulation bill, written by state Senator Lesniak, would give the Atlantic City casinos the first opportunity to, in short, create online casino versions of themselves. This way these established brick and mortar casino businesses would hopefully not be hurt by online gambling; instead the idea is for them to increase their profits, which will in turn increase the tax revenue that goes to the state, which will in turn help boost the New Jersey economy and fund state programs.

All round, as long as it works as intended, online gambling in New Jersey could turn out to be a very smart move on state lawmakers’ parts. Granted, it will take a bit of time to lay down the specific terms of their online gambling regulation and get the entire thing moving, but this is a very promising start to 2011.

And I will also hope this gives lawmakers on the federal level a swift kick in the shorts when it comes to online gambling regulation for the entire country.

Truth About Online Blackjack, Legality and UIGEA

Whether the United States should legalize and regulate online gambling or not is a part of the lame duck session happening on Capitol Hill. Both Representative Barney Frank and Senator Harry Reid are putting forth bills that would repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This could potentially see online blackjack open up and be completely legal to play.

But online blackjack was never illegal for US citizens in the first place. UIGEA was to be enforced on the level of financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, who were not to allow transactions between US players and online casinos.

UIGEA, over all, was put in place for two main reasons: 1. To save us from ourselves, and 2. To protect US citizens from foreign companies.

While I cannot get on board with the first reason, I can understand the second. And it is a good reason.

When we play online blackjack in online casinos we are not protected by our own government—and, no, I am not talking about the “I know what is for your own good” kind of protection. I am talking about protection of you and your money. If an online casino takes your money or refuses to pay you, there is nothing you can really do about it. Sure, you can turn them in to the gaming control of the country they are licensed in, but it does not mean for one second that you are guaranteed to have your money back.

US lawmakers did see and understand this. So it was not entirely “We know what is good for you” behind their creation of UIGEA.

But finally it looks like US lawmakers are beginning to get on board with licensing and regulating online gambling in and for the US. But I do not think it is because lawmakers are getting that they cannot tell us what is for our own good. I think it is because they see how poorly written UIGEA was, that US players are going to find a way to play anyway, and because they see just how much money they can put in their coffers from such things as online blackjack, slots and poker.

Now if Reid has his way there will be about 15 months in which we cannot play anywhere and only brick and mortar casinos that have been in operation for more than five years will be allowed to apply for licenses. Honestly, Frank’s bill is much more liberating for US online gambling interests.

For the remainder of the lame duck session I am going to keep my fingers crossed in hopes of being protected when playing online blackjack—and in less than 15 months too.

Online Blackjack for Florida

Now that blackjack tables have been straightened out between the state and the Seminoles, the state of Florida is now turning its attention to online gambling and the possibility of regulating it. This would mean that online blackjack would be available to those in Florida.

There are two aspects of this online gambling regulation that fit together. One, there are one million residents in Florida who gambling online be they online blackjack players or online poker players or a fan of some other online casino game.

Two, despite the Seminole compact and the $1 billion in revenue it will generate, Florida is still around $2 billion short of its budget after considering the compact revenue.

So what can Florida do with its one million residents who gamble online and its budget shortfall?

They can regulate online gambling, thus allowing revenue to be generated from the online gambling.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) allows for each individual state to choose whether or not to regulate online gambling within their borders. This compliments the enforcement of UIGEA by the financial institutions. See, US citizens are not banned from gambling online, but financial institutions are banned from knowingly processing transactions between citizens and online casinos.

But if a state were to regulate online gambling, residents of that state would be able to gamble online legally, and financial institutions would not be prohibited from processing those transactions going to online casinos licensed by the regulating state.

In short, if Florida were to regulate online gambling, those of you who are in Florida and play blackjack online would be able to do so. So you would get your online blackjack and Florida would get its revenue.

How much revenue? It is estimated that Florida could make $200 million in the first year and $100 million in subsequent years. While it will not entirely cover the budget shortfall, the revenue would certainly help Florida’s state funded programs.

The race is on between Florida, California and New Jersey to see who will be the first of the fifty to regulate online gambling, and make online blackjack available.

Online Blackjack Players Not Happy with Government

We owe it all to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Ace (UIGEA). When we used to log on to our favorite online casinos there was never a problem. Now our cards are being declined and we are being deprived of a form of entertainment that we enjoy. All because the U.S. government knows what is best for online blackjack players.

This is the prohibition of online gambling.

This is not just about what UIGEA has done to online blackjack players—it also effects online poker players, online slots players and anyone else who does some online gambling for entertainment.

UIGEA was squeaked in under the skirts of a port security bill rather than been discussed and voted on separately like it should have been. So that is the first strike against it. Then this poorly planned law to protect our morals from ourselves puts the burden of enforcement on financial institutions without any clear way of dealing with gambling transactions.

Not to mention overseas online casinos can probably find a way around it, making their transactions to and from players not obvious or linked to the online casinos. And European online casinos are very not happy resulting in the European Commission saying that UIGEA is working against our European Union trade agreements.

Players are frustrated at not being able to choose how they spend their time and money. They are also frustrated with Democrats who say they are working to overturn UIGEA, but cannot see those Democrats making any actual effort—other than Barney Frank, who is still sitting on his bill.

Players are also of the mind that some lawmakers are intentionally keeping UIGEA in place to protect their own interests in land-based casinos.

“If casino gambling was illegal in the U.S., then I would find it acceptable to make internet gambling illegal. But many of these lawmakers, especially Harry Reid, are just keeping prohibition in place to protect the interests of the land-based casinos in their states, and that’s where I have a problem,” player Ralph Butaro said.

Other than lawmakers who appear to be protecting interests, a good many people want UIGEA repealed—financial institutions, professional gamblers and even some of our own land-based casinos, not to mention the aforementioned European Commission.

Voters will make themselves heard in the upcoming mi-term elections, aiming their votes at lawmakers who will be aggressive in repealing UIGEA.

My thought, online blackjack players, is look to history. What happened when the government banned alcohol in the 1920s? History shows that the first Prohibition was not a success. I do not foresee this one being a rousing success either. Americans will find away like they did in the 1920s.

Blackjack and Online Gambling Could be Effected by Florida Elections

Yesterday Florida hosted their primary elections for the upcoming November general election. Up for grabs in the general election will be a seat in the Senate and the governor’s chair. And the winners of both could have a big impact on the future of blackjack in the state of Florida and on online gambling for the nation.

Naturally the Republican and Democrat split can be also put like this: anti-gambling and pro-gambling.

The Republican candidate for governor is Rick Scott, who is not in favor of expanding the casino offerings in Florida. This could mean that when the five year blackjack exclusivity in the Seminole compact expires, Scott might not allow for further negotiations, possibly pulling blackjack out from under the Seminoles. He could also pull back the extended hours and higher limit on poker that pari-mutuels now have.

On the other side is Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate. Overall, the Democrats have a more liberal view of gambling within Florida, seeing it as a source of income and an addition to the tourist industry, which has been down—it seems that Disney is monetarily out of reach for some families and that Harry Potter is not drawing as much tourism as expected.

And there is a third governor candidate—Charlie Crist is running in the Independent party. And after his battle with state lawmakers over the Seminole compact we all know what his stance on blackjack and casinos in that state is. Maybe next time he will be able to definitely send the money to Education.

Let’s not forget the Senate race. This comes down to Marco Rubio, Republican, and Kendrick Meek, Democrat. And this race could have an impact on the future of legalizing online gambling and regulating it.

Rubio is strongly against online gambling. However, Meek, being a Democrat could vote in favor of Rep. Barney Frank’s bill to repeal UIGEA and set up a structure of regulating online gambling in the U.S. If Frank has to table his bill until next year, the Florida Senate seat will have an impact on what is looking like a close race to approve Frank’s bill.

Those in favor of online gambling and Floridian blackjack players will be keeping an eye on the upcoming November Florida general election.

Legalizing Online Gambling: Struggle of the Politicians

What needs to be done for the good of this country’s revenue seems to be taking a backseat to the clash of Democrats and Republicans. It’s no longer about do we legalize online gambling for revenue, but about who’s in power.

And it’s a back and forth thing.

First a review. Representative Barney Frank has introduced two bills to the House. One is written to do away with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The other bill is to pave the way and lay the foundation for the U.S. to have a regulated internet gambling industry. And that would mean revenue for this country, which is badly needed.

On top of Frank’s bills is one introduced by Representative Jim McDermott. McDermott’s bill is designed to set up taxation of a U.S. regulated online gambling industry.

Now comes the political power struggle.

UIGEA was supposed to go into effect in December, however, lobbying created a six month delay. Frank’s hearing for his bills was supposed to happen before the rules take effect.

So the Republicans get UIGEA created and the Democrats delay it so that their Frank could come in and try to get his bills passed, which would wipe out UIGEA and get the U.S. geared up to have its own regulation. (Republicans-1, Democrats-1)

Next, Frank’s hearing is delayed and the implementation of UIGEA is in less than three weeks. So it’s now unlikely that Frank’s bills will get passed before UIGEA goes into effect. (Republicans-2, Democrats-1).

Now here’s where it gets a bit clever. Frank is going to wait to have his hearing on his bills and McDermott’s. Why wait though? Why not fight right up until June 1st?

Think about it, if UIGEA goes into effect there will be millions of Americans who won’t be able to play their blackjack, poker and slots. They will be quite unhappy to have a preferred form of entertainment taken away “for their own good.” And in November is an election…

You see where this is going.

The Democrats are hoping that if enough online gamblers are angry enough at what the Republicans have done that it will give the Democrats the edge. With a majority, the Democrats can push through Frank’s and McDermott’s bills, opening up a source of revenue for the U.S. And giving us back our access to our blackjack, poker and slots. (Potentially, Republicans-2, Democrats-3)

Bye Bye Visa and Mastercard

It finally seems that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UICEA) is upon U.S. players. In light of the upcoming implementation, Mastercard and Visa have both stop processing payments to and from online gambling sites.

So it seems that they are trying to stop us from playing blackjack online. But where there is a will to play there is a way to play. U.S. players will now have to turn to other payments options. And, yes, they do exist.

Other payment options include eChecks, eWalletexpress and Usemywallet. Electronic checks are also an option. They can be deposited directly with the online casino. Then you’ll be off to play blackjack online. And once you have your winnings, you can have the online casino issue you an electronic check. It’s kind of like having a bank account on the internet without it actually being a real U.S. bank that will try to block your financial interactions with an online casino. These electronic checks are usually free of charges,

But maybe U.S. blackjack players can hope. Online casinos got around this sort of thing once in the past. The last time Mastercard tried this, within two months online casinos had removed code that identified payments from them as being from an online gambling site.

But it seems that this time around online casinos are just going to turn their backs on Mastercard and Visa and not even bother. Rather they’ll just rely on other electronic forms of payment and keep on providing games.

But a certain amount of pity should be directed at Mastercard and Visa, blackjack fans. While we don’t like paying fees to them, they are missing out on a lot of money in fees. And well, that is how they make their money so that they can go on giving us credit. But then it’s one more aspect that UIGEA hurts.

Really I must say that U.S. citizens are actually pretty lucky. UIGEA was supposed to take effect in December of 2009. So we should really feel lucky that we have until June now.