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Bradley Vallerius

Bradley  Vallerius
Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world. Bradley can be reached through his website www.FortheBettorGood.com.

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Internet gambling ads abound despite UIGEA

7 Nov 2006

By Bradley Vallerius
Advertisements for free-play Internet gaming sites remain as abundant in the U.S. today as they were before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was pushed through Congress on September 30.

Commercials for Bodog.net, Mansion.net, PokerStars.net and other online gambling sites still air on SpikeTV, Fox Sports, Comedy Central, ESPN and the Travel Channel, while ads for offshore sports books continue to be a staple of many sports radio stations. Ads also still appear on billboards and in magazines, newspapers and bathroom stalls across the country.

"It's obvious that we are going to continue to see the privately held companies continue to offer various forms of online gambling, even to U.S. citizens," said Internet gaming lawyer Lawrence Walters. "So they will attempt to offer some sort of message or advertising to try to get the word out to the consumers that they intend to continue to offer those services."

The law does not make it illegal to gamble over the Internet but instead orders banks to block payment transactions from Americans to Internet gambling companies. Some companies-- particularly private ones such as PokerStars and Bodog that do not have to deal with investors or stock exchange rules-- are betting they will still be able to facilitate payments to and from American customers.

"The new legislation does not address advertising," said Walters. "In fact it doesn't contain any kind of ban or prohibition on any particular type of gambling activity. All it does is address financial transactions related to some kind of gambling activity that's already prohibited under existing state or federal law.

"With a proper interpretation of that, there really should be no change in the advertising by online casinos and poker rooms," he added.

"The question is going to be what will the main stream media outlets do with requests for continued advertising."

Bluff Magazine, which is devoted to the game of poker, intends to continue accommodating sites that want to market to American gamblers.

"Right now we feel we are protected by the first amendment," said Bluff's publisher Eric Morris. "We're not doing anything other than providing information, and there's nothing wrong with providing information.

"Secondly, the new law doesn't state that it's illegal to play poker online; it's aimed at the financial institutions," he added. "We're not doing anything wrong, we're no more exposed now than before this bill went through."

ESPN, which holds the broadcast rights for the World Series of Poker, seems likely to continue providing ads too.

"We continue to only accept ads for free, educational learn-to-play sites," said ESPN spokesperson Keri Potts. "We continue to evaluate each potential advertiser on their needs, ours, and how their product fits into our criteria."

Most online gaming ads in mainstream media are for ".net" sites where players can download software, play free games and gain brand familiarity. Internet gaming sites began creating free-play ".net" sites in 2003 after the U.S. Department of Justice threatened advertisers with charges of aiding and abetting illegal activity.

For the moment even ads for PartyPoker.net and ParadisePoker.net persist, even though both companies have blocked American players from their sites.

"The reason why you are seeing Party and Paradise still advertising on the likes of Howard Stern or the World Poker Tour or ESPN is because they previously did an advertising buy, which was already paid for," said Morris. "Once their advertising buy finishes you won't see them advertising anymore."

 
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