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UIGEA May Have a Negative Impact on the World Series of Poker

Many speculate that the recently passed Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in the US, which bans most forms of online gambling in the country, could have a negative impact on the number of participants that will enter the world's richest game, the World Series of Poker.

By attracting over 8,000 players, the tournament, run by gaming giant Harrah's Entertainment Inc., saw a record number of entrants this year. Back in 2003, the WSOP only saw 839 participants, where accountant Chris Moneymaker made $2.5 million after bagging first place, from the $40 he invested in an internet poker tournament.

Out of the 8,773 players of 2006, an estimated half have won their way into the WSOP via the internet. However, the new law currently bans US banks and credit card companies from handling online gambling transactions. This being the case, the number of next year's participants is expected to decrease.

"It's going to affect the average player most dramatically. And those players are the ones that have kind of filled the ranks," said Michael Bolcerek, President of the Poker Players Alliance, a group that has strongly fought the legislation.

"The hardcore ones will find somewhere, they won't care whether it's regulated," said Bolcerek. "That's what a prohibition does. It drives everything underground."

Mike Sexton, a longtime poker player, philanthropist and World Poker Tour host, said that the ban would be hurting the game of poker, which many already consider a sport.

"I wouldn't say it would put poker in a death spiral, but in the long run it will hurt the growth of poker," Sexton said. "The World Series of Poker is going to be devastated over this."


02/11/2007, Sunday
Todd Sanders

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