Government Crackdown Reignites Debate Regarding Internet Poker - 8 News NOW

Government Crackdown Reignites Debate Regarding Internet Poker

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LAS VEGAS - "Mike" is an Internet poker player living in Las Vegas. He asked to keep his identity anonymous, because online gambling sites have been operating in a legal gray area.

Mike quit his job as an accountant and had good fortune wagering on the Internet.

"For the past six years now, it's been my primary source of income, playing online," he said. "I was able to purchase a second house that I would never have been able to purchase on a salary of an accountant."

As of "Black Friday", as the poker world calls it, all bets are off. The federal government on Friday shut down several major online poker sites, charging 11 executives with bank fraud, money laundering and violation of gambling laws.

Federal officials say the sites tried to trick their way around a ban that prevents banks from dealing with virtual gambling halls.

"It definitely came as a shock," Mike said. "I played on Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars."

Jan Jones - a vice president with Caesars Entertainment and former Las Vegas mayor - says the United States should get in the game.

"Where there's a will, people will find a way to play. You had prohibition, and people didn't quit drinking, and it will be no different with Internet poker," she said. "The U.S. has the biggest and best gaming companies in the world. We know how to do this. We know how to do it well, how to keep it safe. This will bring thousands of jobs to Nevada."

Caesars Entertainment supports a bill by U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada-D) to legalize Internet poker.

"I think, most importantly, we then won't have thousands of jobs and revenues going to foreign companies," Jones said.

For now, the chips are down for online poker players like Mike. "Short-term, I'll be going into the casino and maybe putting money onto the sites that haven't been shut down," he said.

As a result of the government shutdown, many online poker players can't access their money. Mike says he has thousands of dollars locked up. He says one of his fellow players has almost $100,000 locked up online.

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