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Bridge for money outlawed by ACBL

I'm the co-founder and CEO of bridgebig.com, a new site to offer online duplicate bridge for serious money prizes. 

A while ago our website was featured in ACBL magazine with a really nice story. So it was in good faith that we prepared for the NABC in St. Louis to promote our new website. But then, last week we received an unexpected email from Robert Hartman, the CEO of ACBL. Basically it said we would not be allowed to have a booth in St. Louis or promote our site via any of the ACBL's marketing channels. The email mentioned questionable legality in the US as the reason.

As we've always been very upfront about the legality of online money bridge in the US (both in the article and to our players), we were flabbergasted to read about this sudden change of heart by the ACBL.  

While online gambling isn't legal in nearly any form in the US (with the curious exception of horse race betting), online wagering in games of skill is an entirely different thing. 

Legality (in many cases) hinges on whether an activity is predominantly a game of skill or a game of chance. Although the question of where poker sits on that scale hasn’t been definitely answered, there’s no question that duplicate bridge is a skill game. So, while there are some US states that prohibit wagering of any kind, even in skill games, the majority of states allow us to operate. 

In fact, we're not alone here. For some time now, BBO also hosts money bridge on its site. To quote from the section on legality of money bridge on bridgebase.com:

"Is this legal?
Yes. Because bridge is a game of skill, Money Bridge on BBO is not considered gambling.
However, there are some countries and states in which this game is not legal. By playing moneybridge, you are asserting that this is legal for you in your locality."

So why are we blocked? I have no idea, but I sure as hell am angry. We are a company of young, fanatic bridge players that want to make a change in the bridge world. We want to stop bridge from ageing with every passing year. We want to attract young players to the game again. We've all seen this happen with poker and there's no reason we cannot make bridge this exciting and happening again, especially since we all know that bridge is a much better game. 

When I asked the ACBL CEO to elaborate on his position I got the following response: 

"It remains the League policy to refrain from supporting playing bridge for money."

There it is. The stance of the ACBL. Bridge players should never be able to make a dime off their skills... 

It's depressing to get no support from the established bridge world, here represented by the ACBL. But it's good to know that many of you share our opinions. If so, and you happen to be in St. Louis, we would love to meet you there and exchange thoughts on how to overcome these barriers. We'll be the ones wearing Bridge Big clothing, as long as the ACBL doesn't order us to wear bright yellow BBO shirts Wink.

Signed,

Rene de Waele

CEO bridgebig.com

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