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Dikshit Verdict Highlights Confusion in U.S. Online Gambling Laws

Co-founder of PartyGaming and “former online poker billionaire” (as Forbes describes him) Anurag Dikshit has avoided a jail sentence following a verdict by the U.S. judicial system over his role in offering online poker services to Americans.

Highlighting what the Forbes article calls “the extreme confusion over how U.S. law applies to online poker,” the court seemed just as confused as everyone else as to how to enforce the United States’ contradictory anti-Internet gambling laws — the UIGEA, and the Wire Act.

“At Thursday’s hearing Judge Rakoff challenged a government prosecutor wondering why there have been no other prosecutions, specifically mentioning Dikshit’s fellow PartyGaming cofounders, Americans Ruth Parasol DeLeon and her husband Russell DeLeon,” writes Nathan Vardi in the Forbes article. “’Nobody else has been indicted,’” said Judge Rakoff. ‘It has been two years since this defendant began cooperating, what’s going on?’”

“To some it seemed like the Justice Department had drawn a line in the sand against online poker and set a two-year time frame to go after industry players,” Vardi points out, adding: “It certainly would have been strange for Dikshit to wind up in jail even as other online poker entrepreneurs were not being prosecuted.”

After all, it wasn’t the UIGEA — the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, often (falsely) cited as the law that outlaws online gambling in the U.S. — that was used against Dikshit; it was the Wire Act, a law dating to 1961 that government officials also use to prosecute online gambling interests.

And, although jail time wasn’t part of the sentence, Dikshit isn’t getting off all that lightly: He’ll have to deal with a year of probation and a fine of $300 million.

All this points to the need for the United States to clarify its online gambling laws, for the sake of all parties involved — the government officials who must enforce the laws, the unlucky business figures who are seemingly randomly persecuted, and the gaming affiliates and online gamblers who usually have no idea if their business is even legal.