Archive for the ‘Poker’ Category

U.S. Government shuts down online poker

I don’t write too much about online poker, simply because I’ve been too busy to write about much of anything these days, between work, school, and the rest of the banalities of life. However, it’s hard to ignore the subject on the day that the U.S. government essentially shut it all down. Charged with fraud and money laundering, three major online poker sites have effectively been shuttered, as far as U.S. players go.

Online poker in the U.S. has had a pretty absurd history, even before today, start in 2006 when the ban was inserted into a piece of completely unrelated legislation. To argue that those that play poker online are either criminals or victims is pretty ridiculous: players wager their own money using their own free will on a game of skill. Of all the issues facing the U.S. today, online poker seems to be rather unimportant. Especially considering that the purveyors of online poker are practically begging to be regulated and taxed, in order to gain legitimacy. Not that online poker sites had much trouble getting U.S. players before today.

Of course, gambling addiction is a serious issue, and more needs to be done to keep kids from accessing gambling sites. These are exactly the kinds of issues that could be addressed if online poker were regulated by the government, with tax revenue that could partially go towards gambling treatment. Today’s actions, however, will no more eradicate online poker than making marijuana illegal has ended drug addiction. With everything going on in the world today, it seems hard to argue that the guy playing a few five buck online poker tourneys a month is such a scourge that it requires the immediate and full attention from the government.

I’ll end with a comment about this action found on Reddit: “Aren’t the CEOs of Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, and Fannie Mae still walking around free?”

Online Poker Bill Advances

Not quite as boring a headline as “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”, but it’s still a good sign. The bill passed the House Financial Services Committee by a pretty healthy margin. There are still several steps to go before it becomes law, but hopefully this means that Congress is starting to understand the inevitability of online poker.

Some argue that the promise of increased tax revenue is what is changing minds, but online poker is not going to be a cash cow. It’s a reality anyway, so they may as well tax and regulate it. Let’s hope the full Congress understands this and legitimizes what is already happening: the play of online poker in the U.S. by tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

Political Poker

I don’t think President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or other Democratic leaders in Congress are poker players. I think they’d be much better politicians if they were. If they were regular poker players, they’d understand that Obama and Democrats are now “pot-committed”, and folding their hand is the worst mistake they can make. Sadly, early reaction from the election yesterday seems to indicate they are all too willing to get up and walk away, guaranteeing defeat.

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Online poker nonsense

Last week, the Minnesota Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division sent letters to 11 ISPs in the state asking them to block access to 200 online gambling website, citing a federal wire transfer law of dubious applicability to the Internet and the state’s ability to force ISPs to take this action. This is a terrible idea in so many ways it’s hard to count.

First, a bit of disclosure: I like playing poker. I’ve played poker both in real live ring games and online. I take issue with online poker being lumped in with other forms of “gambling”. Gambling at a casino means making a bet against the house, which has an edge that varies from the very small to the outrageously huge. There is little, if any, skill involved, and over the long run you are going to lose your money. Poker, on the other hand, does not pit a person against the house and its daunting advantage. Instead, it pits player against player, and the money you win comes directly from other people when you outmaneuver them. It is certainly possible to make a living by playing poker; skill is all that counts, the cards you get evening out for everybody in the long run. Online or in real life, the provider of the poker arena (the online software or the chips, dealer, table, cards, etc. in real life) just get a slice of the action for providing the service.

So if there’s any such thing as a truly “victimless crime”, online poker, where participants willingly win and lose their own money amongst themselves, has to be it. Wasting resources going after this activity seems like a case of misplaced priorities. However, that’s hardly the sole reason this is a bad move. More frightening is the state attempting to get ISPs to block whatever they believe to be “objectionable content” without demonstrating a clear public need for such a block. This proposal came out of the blue with no public input; surely a measure as drastic as blocking access to a large category of websites deserves some debate among the people.

Barney Frank, the Democrat from Massachusetts is proposing that the ban on online gambling be modified to undo the draconian change that was passed into law in 2006 almost completely under the radar (under a Republican Congress, to boot); I think such a change is long overdue. Should online gambling be regulated? Absolutely. But outright bans and witch hunts don’t accomplish much.