No, this is not sarcasm, nor is it a right-wing screed. President Obama's Department of Justice is now illegally in possession of over $30 million belonging to almost 30,000 American poker players, myself included:
In an apparent crackdown on Internet gambling, federal authorities in New York have frozen or seized bank accounts worth $34 million belonging to 27,000 online poker players, according to representatives for the players and account holders.
In an operation that began last week, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York froze or issued seizure orders for bank accounts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona held at Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldwater Bank and Alliance Bank of Arizona.
Now before we go any further, let me make it perfectly clear that there is no federal law banning Americans from playing online poker for money. There are only two states, Washington and Kentucky, that have prohibited their residents from partaking.
The impetus for this illegal seizure of players' funds seems to be a newfangled legal interpretation of the law (specifically the Wire Act, which a court already ruled (.pdf warning) in 2002 only applied to sports betting) and the seizure was ordered without a warrant. Even more disturbing is the fact that federal laws that are used to ban internet gambling are illegal under our obligations to the World Trade Organization:
The U.S. ban on offshore Internet gambling payments is illegal, the World Trade Organization said yesterday, upholding a decision that allowed for sanctions.
The WTO said the United States ignored the previous ruling, which challenged the U.S. ban on payments to gambling Web sites while allowing bets on its own soil.
Luckily, there is a lobbying organization, the Poker Players Alliance, one million Americans strong, fighting the illegal actions of the Bush and, now, Obama administrations.
Here is PPA Chairman, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato speaking out against the Justice Department's actions (FOX Business, sorry, but that's what I have).
There is also a bill proposed by Congressman Barney Frank that will be taken up soon:
Today, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) unveiled legislation that would enable Americans to bet online and put an end to an inappropriate interference with their personal freedom.
H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 would establish a federal regulatory and enforcement framework under which Internet gambling operators could obtain licenses authorizing them to accept bets and wagers from individuals in the United States. The legislation comes in response to the enactment of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which restricted the use of the payments system for Americans who gamble online.
In addition, Chairman Frank announced today he is introducing separate legislation to delay the implementation of regulations pursuant to the 2006-passed UIGEA, which are set to go into effect December 1, 2009. The regulations were completed by the Bush Administration at the last minute, and the legislation will stop Federal regulators from enforcing the UIGEA until Congress has had a chance to decide national policy.
This is a very important issue to me because it's how I earn a living while going to school. President Obama has put me in a very precarious position, having illegally seized money that I, along with almost 30,000 others, have earned and need.
If you wish to speak out against this injustice, you can go to the White House website here http://www.whitehouse.gov/... and send a message along the lines of:
Dear President Obama,
It seems your White House has not taken the Government Briefing Book very seriously. The number one issue in Technology is Online Poker.
Politics and political support as we all know permeates from the bottom up. So it is with issues. Though many pressing issues face you and me, more often than not it is the little -- and, to most in Washington, insignificant -- issues that personally affect the individual that matters most.
This technology issue, online poker, is VERY important to many Americans -- Americans who supported you and the Democratic Party, both locally and nationally -- in the belief your administration would treat poker players at least equally to those who play other online games such as Spades, Hearts, Solitaire and dozens of other games who enjoy the right of privacy in their own homes to play online games of skill both for real money and for fun.
Last week, YOUR Department of Justice continued the Bush era assault on poker players' privacy by freezing the personal funds of an estimated TWENTY-FOUR THOUSAND (24,000) American Citizens in the estimated amount of THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS ($30,000,000) of your American Citizen supporters' money.
However, given the current action, if this belief was misplaced then support for Democratic candidates AND your administration will likely suffer.
I implore you to direct action be taken addressing this issue and treat me, a poker player with respect and equality.
Thank you for your consideration.