Is Facebook Compliant With US Online Poker Laws?

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A very interesting debate is underway revolving around what does and what does not constitute gambling.  Facebook and MySpace are the world's two most recognizable social networks, and each of the sites offers applications in which their members can take quizzes, sign up for other sites, or even play poker against other members. 

It is the third of these applications that have suddenly thrown themselves into the forefront, with growing speculation that they too will draw the attention of some aspiring lawyers or politicians looking to crack down on Internet Gambling including online poker.

Users of the applications such as Zynga's Texas Hold ‘Em, the poker application of choice and the largest such software on the social network sites, would find this to be quite strange, since after all, they are not playing for real money and have no way of depositing or withdrawing fake funds.  However, legal experts that have been reviewing the laws as are currently constituted point to the presence of virtual "gifts", items that members can send to other members for trading in some of their play money to attain.  For example, Facebook allows players to send up to 16 "gifts" to other Facebook users per day.  The intent of the gifts are to promote the application and to encourage other people to take part in the games.  The "gifts" cost $5-$10 virtual dollars and are not actual physical items, more of a status symbol that appears on news feeds or a Facebook person's "wall".

It should be noted however, that there is currently no law expressly making it illegal to play online poker at the Federal level.

The argument that lawmakers could point to is that by promoting and advertising a gaming platform of any kind, the developers would ultimately be profiting from online gambling.  Advertising would stream in more customers, and thus more advertisers, and thus more scrutiny.

As followers of these types of stories know, there are items in the works in government which would regulate internet gambling.  Should this actually happen, then social networks would be in the clear.  However, the specter that prosecution could actually arise from such activity, though frivolous to some, is one that should remain in the public consciousness.


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