What the UIGEA means for legal poker in the US

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) transformed online gambling in the mid 2000s, shutting down the American operations of many of the big online poker sites. However, online poker in America is still going strong, and several states have explicitly legalized online poker. The situation might seem confusing, so if you want to be clear about how the law stands and where you can enjoy a genuinely legal poker game online, read this guide and find out:

  • What is the UIGEA?
  • Why was it passed?
  • The UIGEA's impact on poker in America
  • How the UIGEA affects payment companies
  • How the UIGEA impacts players
  • Which poker carried on
  • What happened on Black Friday
  • What the aftermath of Black Friday was
  • How legal poker has returned to the US
  • If UIGEA still matters now
  • What the future holds

Introduction to the UIGEA of 2006

UIGEA is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.” It was added to the Safe Port Act.

What was the reason for UIGEA?

The US government was concerned that online gambling had become the Wild West, in desperate need of regulation, and thus decided something needed to be done to take control. What they came up with, however, was an act that confused many in its wording and continues to be debated to this day.

How did UIGEA impact real money poker in America?

By taking a stance and prohibiting gambling businesses from accepting wire payments, the UIGEA effectively crushed much of the US online poker industry instantly. Top operators like 888Poker and Party Poker decided to move out of the American market and many others followed suit.

UIGEA’s impact on American payment companies

It wasn’t just the US real money poker sites that were run off by the act. Many payment companies, including credit card operators, also decided they were better off having nothing to do with the online gambling industry in America. The lingering effect of those withdrawals continues to blight American online poker players in 2015.

The impact of UIGEA on American online poker players

The decision of many online poker companies to pull out of America led to a large number of regular players suddenly being on the lookout for an alternative. For those still wanting to play, there would always be options, both at American sites and those operating from overseas.

The American poker websites who continued regardless

Sensing their big opportunity, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars stared down the UIGEA and continued to offer real money online poker to American players. With so many poker players without a home, they cleaned up and appeared to believe they’d found a workable way around the law to operate without consequence.

Black Friday rocks the online poker world

Five years after UIGEA was passed, the Department of Justice served an indictment against PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus, alleging illegal money laundering and fraud charges. Huge numbers of American players were left in limbo, with their assets locked in at sites that had temporarily been shut down.

The aftermath of Black Friday

Settlements followed in the Black Friday case, but there remained a level of confusion as to the legality of online poker in America and what would come next.

The onus passes to US states to pass online gambling bills

Eight years on from UIGEA, the Federal government has now passed the online gambling issue on to America’s 50 states, suggesting they formulate their own bills to legalize it should they be so inclined. Thus far, Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada have already taken up the invitation. More are expected to follow.

Does UIGEA really matter anymore?

A lot of people will tell you it never really has mattered for America’s online poker players. We certainly can’t find evidence of an individual being prosecuted or charged for playing real money poker in America, and plenty of websites continued to accept American players after UIGEA was passed.

What does the future hold for online real money poker in America?

With three states having already legalized poker and sold licenses to American-based poker sites, legal online poker is back in America. Expect more states to join the party and a bold future ahead for the online legal poker industry.