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Online Poker Games Deal Illegal Hands
Imagine this: You visit a Web site, download a
program and register with the site. A few minutes later, you’re sitting
at a virtual poker table, happily playing Texas Hold ‘Em.
You’re playing with real money. You’ve paid for
virtual betting chips via an escrow service. And, if you’re lucky enough
to win, your account will be credited with money.
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s illegal,
according to the Department of Justice.
Thousands of gambling Web sites operate offshore,
conveniently beyond the grasp of U.S. regulation.
Online casinos have been around for about a
decade, and the recent rise in the popularity of poker has spurred their
growth. According to Keith Furlong, deputy director of Interactive
Gaming Council, an industry trade organization located in Canada, online
casinos will attract about $10 billion this year. Americans make up 60%
to 65% of their business, he says.
Some states have passed laws prohibiting online
gambling, but no federal laws specifically address it. Instead, the
federal government relies primarily on the Wire Wager Act to prosecute
online casino operators.
Under the act, business owners who accept bets
via a "wire communication facility" face fines and imprisonment. The act
was intended to curb the use of the telephone to accept bets.
Opponents are quick to note that the act was
written in 1961 long before the Internet. They question whether the
law applies to online gambling. And they insist that online gambling is
a gray area at best.
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