At first glance, Utah doesn’t seem like the sort of state that would be looked at as a potential ‘pioneer place’ with regards to regulating online poker.
The state, which sits east of Nevada, the first state to legalise and regulate online poker, is widely seen as being an old-school conservative state with anti-gaming views. However, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported that a meeting took place in April 2010 between then state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and members of the Poker Players Alliance.
According to Shurtleff, the meeting was held as part of an initiative to ascertain the arguments on whether poker is a game of skill or chance. However, the former Attorney General denied that the legality of processing payments from online poker sites was discussed at that meeting and that it was not brought up before the meeting took place.
“I wasn’t clear about who was [processing poker payments] or where it was being done and it wasn’t a question that was even asked of me,” he said.
The question of whether online poker payments was discussed was brought about as it was discovered that the meeting was organised by a “major campaign donor” who had been processing online poker payments at the time the meeting was arranged. However, it was stated in the Tribune that emails have been obtained that show some of those who attended the meeting had talked about the legality of payments.
The meeting in question took place around one year before the infamous Black Friday, which essentially put a halt to online poker in the US. It also led to the arrest and indictments of a number of figures, including various online poker payment processors, who had been illegally involved in providing online poker services to Americans.
That is perhaps the most controversial aspect of this story; the fact that senior members of a state government had been dealing with figures engaged in an activity that resulted in the arrest of various other figures just a year later.
Online poker in the US has made significant strides since then, however. Two states currently regulate online poker within their borders and a third, New Jersey, is slated to rollout a regulated market later this month. That may complicate the aforementioned situation in Utah as the game has become slightly more accepted since then.
Shurtleff also received advice last year from lawmakers that processing payments from online poker sites was illegal in Utah. That increases the likelihood that he genuinely was not sure of the legality of such payments during the time of the meeting.