On April 29th, 2009, it is a sad day for Minnesota online poker players. State officials have notified around eleven national and regional online service providers and told them block access to two hundred online gambling sites for all computers in Minnesota. Matt Werden, the Minnesota State Director for the Poker Players Alliance said that this is not just an underhanded tactic by government officials but it is a blatant misinterpretation of existing federal laws as well as state law, used in trying to censor the World Wide Web.
Werden said that poker is not allowed and it is not a criminal activity. The game of poker cannot be forcibly blocked by state authorities because it is a legal American past time. Werden added that PPA would fight this decision. The sudden move came from John Willems, the director of the state's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division said that they are putting online operators and Minnesota online players on notice. He added that State players with web escrow accounts should be fully aware that their access to their online accounts may in danger and their money in peril. Willems said that since there is not a law that allows online gambling, it is not allowed.
The UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) often pointed at as the law that severely affected the online poker, does not criminalized the game. Rather, it prohibits financial institutions like banks and online payment processors to transfer money to online casino sites and vice versa. However, Willems is utilizing a pre-Internet federal law from 1961-US Code, Title 18, Section 1084 to back his decisions. That portion of the law gives states the freedom to control prohibited gaming activities.
It is not yet clear whether or not the web service providers-including Verizon, Comcast, ATandT, Direct TV and Sprint/Nextel and others-will be able to follow this order. Minnesota lawyer Gabe Holloway said that he expects companies to fight the order because they did not want to overhaul their business practices for just one state. This not the first time that a state has tried to control the World Wide Web regarding online gaming.
May 17, 2009