Online poker legal soon?

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There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for online poker players in the U.S.

With the United States being threatened by the European Union over WTO violations and a very strong showing by the Poker Players Alliance, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act may soon be history.

During a recent keynote address at Global Gaming Expo (G2E) former senator Alfonse D'Amato, currently the chairman of the PPA, said he expects legalization of online poker in the United States within the next 18 months.

Ironically, the reason the U.S. government seems to be changing its tune about online poker has less to do with the millions of U.S. citizens who want to see it legalized than with the $100 billion suit being filed by the European Union against the restrictions.

Antigua-Barbuda was the first country to seek action against the United States' online gambling ban, and was awarded a surprising win by the World Trade Organization. D'Amato mentioned the pending sanctions by the WTO could have a huge impact on online poker's future.

Earlier this week Commissioner of the European Union for Trade Peter Mandelson said the United States should let foreign companies into the online gaming market instead of merely trying to compensate the European firms for shutting them down.

"The U.S. has so far opted for compensation to make right what is wrong," Mandelson said in a Reuters story yesterday. "I don't think compensation does that job."

Mandelson is hopeful that the PPA will be successful; he mentioned that he will continue to make arguments on behalf of the European industry.

Avoiding trade sanctions wouldn't be the only reason for reversing the ban on Internet poker, however. The government would make billions of dollars in taxes if online poker was properly regulated. New technology has also made underage gambling easier to prevent.

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