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United States, The European Union and Internet Gambling

During the past few months we have seen a big change in the web gambling industry, with some countries leaning towards a ban, others making it legal.

Most people don't realize that everything started in the United Kingdom - they were the first big and powerful country to legalize online gambling, and start giving licenses to online gaming companies. Companies such as Party Gaming and 888 Holdings came out of the shades and became publicly trading companies.

With the United stats being the major target for online gambling, despite the gray situation surrounding web betting and wagering (since it was not necessary over a wire), many U.K. licensed companies started advertising for the U.S. market and made it their main supplier of players.

But the biggest mistake that one could have ever made was to take advertising for online casinos and poker rooms out of the internet and move it into the TV. It seemed kind of "OK" to do it on the Internet, but after you brought the gambling to the millions of television sets - it got some unwanted attention and awareness.

The American Way

So in September, in the last hours of the Senate's workday, a bill was attached to the unrelated Port Security Bill, and financial transactions to online betting and wagering websites became illegal. Many failed to notice that this amendment did not make online gambling illegal - you could still go online and play poker without any fear of prosecution - it just made the thousands of banks in the U.S. criminals. It was a very poor "regulation" which is doing nothing about anything, but it served its purpose - to give a few republican senators an extra tool for the upcoming elections, especially among their Christian voters. And to show how uninformed of this matter the sponsors of this bill are - the question of how would the banks weed out transactions intended to gambling websites, out of the millions of money transfers occurring every hour, has one and only answer - they simply can not do it. They could try and stop transactions to major third-party funding tools, such as Neteller, but the online casinos will come with more new ways to help you loose that dollar.

And lets not forget that this is a violation of our rights to choose when, where and how we spend our hard earn money. It's called freedom of choice.

The European Union Way

Well, things look better there, but not by much. Internet gambling legislation comes to show people that the Union is not united, and it will take a long time before it is.

United Kingdom was the first from the E.U. countries to legalize online gambling. The Italy joined, after a 2 year ban. Now Spain has followed suit and is making gambling on the web legal. However, Germany just tried to introduce a federal online gambling ban (read the story here). Three of the German states already have local laws prohibiting wagering on the internet. France is also introducing similar bills trying to make gambling on the Internet illegal in their country. And all this, despite the fact that the European Trade Commission is trying to spread the legalization of online gambling throughout the Union.

Internet Gambling

So where is Internet gambling heading to?

The recent legislation in the U.S. made a lot of online casinos shut their doors to American players. Almost 40% of the online casinos do not accept players from the United States. However, there are a few "risk takers" who realized that - they are not located in U.S. jurisdiction, and any anti gambling laws passed in the USA do not concern them, as they are being protected by the Free Trade Agreement, so they continued to welcome players from all over the world.

Other online gambling companies have taken the more cautious way, and stop accepting players from any U.S. state that has legal offline gambling. Although we are not sure why this decision was taken, we can speculate that they are trying to avoid stepping on someone's toes.

And then there was the new that Las Vegas Sands - an U.S. casino company, is opening an online casino, targeting U.K. players (read the story here). It's obvious that this move is nothing more than testing the waters for future online gambling market in the States.

There is only one way ahead - and that is - to legalize, regulate and tax online gambling companies, rather than try to ban them. On the fun side, let's just hope we don't see the Bush administration announce a "War on online gambling". But then again, who will win?



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