September 19, 2006
The New Texas Hold-'Em: Blackjack
Posted by Christine Hurt

As readers know, I am often frustrated by the hypocrisies and inconsistencies inherent in U.S. gambling laws.  While six non-residents await proceedings in the U.S. after being arrested while passing through this country for violating U.S. laws by owning online gambling sites operated in foreign countries (here and here), our own country continues to broadcast gambling entertainment on television monitors to numerous jurisdictions.  Although the U.S. holds that it is illegal to allow U.S. citizens here to gamble on legal foreign-owned and operated websites, the U.S. seems to think it is perfectly fine to televise gambling that is legal at its physical location (say, a Las Vegas casino) and then broadcast that game to all 50 states (say, Utah), regardless of whether that gambling is illegal in that jurisdiction.  First, we had the broadcasting of various poker tournaments, and now blackjack.

According to this WSJ story, CBS has a new program called the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, which will air on Saturdays before college football.  The program showcases a blackjack tournament, duplicating successful broadcasts of World Series of Poker and similar shows.  The first few rounds were filmed in a Las Vegas casino, where blackjack is legal.  However, the final rounds were televised in front of a live audience in Los Angeles, where blackjack is illegal.  (California has tribal-owned casinos, and I don't believe the CBS soundstage qualifies.)  Where's the DOJ? 

Now, technically, the tournament on the show may not be gambling if the players are not wagering anything.  The article states that each player in the final rounds start with $100,000 in chips, and the player with the least chips at designated times is eliminated.  The winner may receive a pre-determined prize, making UBT look more like Jeopardy! than a back room card game.  However, the shows obviously encourage interest in real gambling, so the distinction that makes Saturday afternoon watching of UBT legal and Tuesday night playing blackjack online illegal seems fairly fuzzy.  The line between illegal prostitution and legal erotic filmmaking seems to be the camera in the room, so perhaps the camera in the room can turn illegal gambling into legal entertainment also.

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