Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In this week's (and we hope isn't the last) Wheaties

Possibly distracted by all the bad news, moaning, and gnashing of teeth about the cloudy future of online poker for U.S. players, Mr. Rico placed an indifferent 46th in the largest field we've seen in awhile, 75 players (and yes, I know, a counter-argument to my "Fred does better in larger fields" proposition). I would imagine that many people were there in case it actually was the last Wheaties. No word on that, though the rumor mill is rife about more sites banning of U.S. players in the wake of Party Poker's announcement on the 2nd.

To my readers who don't follow poker news: the Internet Gambling Prohibition (IGP) Act was passed by Congress last week - as an attachment to the "Safe Port" Act. I'm ashamed to say that both New Hampshire representatives voted in favor of the bill. So much for Live Free or Die. The IGP amendment is expected to be signed into law by Bush... possibly as early as today.

1) The IGP amendment will require financial institutions to monitor and block funding of poker accounts, whether Credit Cards, ACH, Stored Value Cards, electronic checks (debits), electronic funds transfers or physical checks. Within 270 days the Federal Reserve Board and the Attorney General will proscribe policies and procedures with which banks and other financial institutions will enforce this act to monitor and block financial transactions.

2) The IGP amendment requires that “Interactive Computer Services”, essentially Internet
Service Providers (ISPs), remove or disable access to internet links and hyperlinks “that reside” on the ISPs servers to “Internet Gambling” upon written notice from a State Attorney General, or the Attorney General of the United States. The exemptions included in the “Prohibition” are for wagering on Horseracing, Intrastate Lotteries, Intrastate Gaming (where legal), Indian Reservations, and playing Fantasy Sports, but not poker.

According to the Poker Players Alliance, more than 70 million Americans play poker, representing almost a quarter of the U.S. population. Roughly one-third of poker-playing Americans play over the Internet. In addition, the game is played legally in public card rooms in Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut ,California, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Dakota, Michigan, and many other states. Strangly, the new law -- upon its signing by President Bush -- protects state-run lotteries and horse racing from the new law, but lumps poker in with games of chance such as craps and roulette.

I don't know what's going to happen, of course, and I've been surprised by the precipitous action already taken by Party Poker and other sites. Part of this is apparently because the opinion stated by Nolan Dalla, former Director of Communications for PokerStars.com, seems to be shared by many. Dalla apparently resigned his position on the advice of his lawyer as a direct outcome of the imminent passage of the law. In an open letter to the poker community he writes...

Once this bill is signed into law (possibly as early as Wednesday, Oct. 4), it becomes effective immediately. This is why 888, PartyGaming, and others are suspending US operations, effective immediately...

I expect this to have a ripple affect across the entire industry. Most of the larger poker sites, and likely offshore sportsbooks as well, will be forced to block wagers from US residents. Otherwise, all operators/employees are subject to arrest and prosecution if they enter US territory. Those here and elsewhere who have stated this new law “only applies to financial transactions” have a narrow and tragically misguided view of the legislation. It essentially makes any employee or agent of the offshore site a criminal under US law — UNLESS they block transactions from US residents...

You can read Dalla's full article here. I'm not sure I buy everything he's saying. But on the other hand, his conclusion, a nod to the old bumper sticker that reads If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention is right on.

Until next week... I hope.

1 comment:

Maudie said...

It will be interesting to see what happens Nov. 8, not so much because of the IGP thing - that's a blip on the national scale - but more for the more egregious suspension of habeas corpus, etc.