Holder’s DOJ cites the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in this prosecution. The integrity of UIGEA is suspect because dirty politics played a key role in passing it. On Oct. 13, 2006, presidential hopeful and then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist slipped UIGEA through Congress by attaching it to a high priority port security bill, in a clear attempt to win political favor. The New York Times notes that the law is vague and fails to explicitly articulate that online poker is criminal activity.
Additionally, portions of this prosecution cite state gambling laws while the three defendant companies operate overseas where federal law governs international commerce. So, it’s not entirely surprising that foreign-based poker companies persisted in servicing the U.S. market.
Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment forbids Holder from snatching private property from American gaming entrepreneurs like Bitar and his Full Tilt founding partner, professional poker player Chris Ferguson.
The Fourth Amendment grants all Americans the right “to be secure in” their private property without the threat of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” And private property includes intellectual property, such as internet domain names and online businesses. Running an online gambling business is “virtual” and “risky” but these factors alone do not give the federal government the right to seize the business and arrest the owners.
Interestingly, some of the online poker players with the most money tied up in Full Tilt do not seem as frustrated with Full Tilt ownership as they are with the U.S. government—and they have moved to Europe, where online gambling is legal.
For example, one of America’s biggest online gambling superstars (with up to $6 million currently tied up in Full Tilt) is Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates. Cates moved to London after the DOJ’s crackdown and he recently told the UK edition of PokerPlayer magazine: “It was just the (online) poker that brought me here, no offence to the UK. It’s a lot easier living in the US. But until they regulate poker in the US I will stay in Europe.”
Holder could be answering Congress’ questions regarding Fast and Furious. Instead, Holder’s DOJ is denying America thousands of jobs from the $6 billion U.S. online poker industry.
What’s the big deal if some Americans prefer gambling online to betting around an antiquated poker table? It’s about time that the federal government stops stripping online gaming entrepreneurs like Bitar of their constitutional Fourth Amendment rights by referencing state laws that have no jurisdiction over overseas operations and by pretending that gambling online is a crime.
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