The Toronto Sun newspaper has joined the chorus of criticism mounting against claims in the recent 60 Minutes television program that Internet gambling is illegal in the United States and Canada.
Toronto Sun writer Chris Tessaro takes the program to task in an editorial this week, commenting that the first thing that jumped out for him in the 60 Minutes program was "…a piece of mis-information by the 60 Minutes people. Now, I know that the show prides itself on its veracity, and I’m not sure how this one slipped past their fact checkers, but the piece stated several times that the online poker industry is ‘illegal’.
"This, in fact, is completely misleading," Tessaro points out. "Online poker is not now, nor has it ever been, illegal.
Since the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) was passed in the United States, it is deemed illegal to transfer funds from a financial institution in the U.S. to an internet gambling site.
"This hardly makes poker illegal. In fact, it only makes it illegal for banks to permit transfers of funds onto poker sites. If you can get your money online in some other way, then you’re more than welcome to legally play online poker in the U.S. Canada has no such provisions, so there is nothing illegal in our country to be concerned with at all."
The writer goes on to lament the lack of online poker regulation, commenting that "…this lack of regulation is the very thing that allowed the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet scandals to occur. With no one to answer to investigation or enquiry, there is virtually no accountability for misbehaviour, and it’s something that would be a benefit to players around the world."
Whilst the Kahnawake Gaming Commission would argue his point, and reiterate their recent claims that they did their regulatory job, the point that players largely benefit from the protection of regulation is well made.
Tessaro commented that the news piece also didn’t mention some of the key players in the scandals, and he names Absolute Poker’s former CEO Scott Toms, saying "….who many believe was behind the actual cheating. Perhaps this is due to an inability to garner enough hard evidence to mention his name, but that didn’t stop the show from (rightfully) throwing Ultimate Bet owner Russ Hamilton under the bus. Hamilton was involved in this fiasco right up to his not inconsiderable waist, and it was good to see the reporters drag him into the floodlights."
The article concludes with the observation that panel interviews with a number of poker personalities were axed from the show, and expresses the hope that these might at some stage come to light.
The writer ends with a question most of us have asked ourselves: "So, the question on everyone’s mind is a simple one: was the 60 Minutes segment good or bad for poker? The jury is still out, but the answer really seems to be … neither. The piece illuminated an ugly piece of poker news, but it really didn’t say too much about the industry as a whole. They did point out that, without regulation, there is nothing to stop this from happening again. Perhaps their piece will drive a movement towards safeguarding players with some simple regulation."
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