Excellent investigative article about the history of Absolute Poker and how it decided to deal with the changes in poker law landscape the past few years. I found it a different type of read than the typical poker articles, and obviously timely. Enjoy.
Archive for April, 2011
A nice article posted on CNN about small-time poker players, and one in particular that is doing something about the present situation. Check it out.
I’ve posted on this before (I think) years ago, and certainly thought about it after living in NYC for decades, but rather than reinvent the wheel I’ve decided in these troubling times simply to pass on another bloggers post. At the end of the piece he questions why the SDNY is pursuing the action and not the jurisdictions in which state law specifically outlaws online poker. I cannot be certain – only US Attorney General Holder knows the answer – but I would harbor a guess that the SDNY took action for a variety of reasons, including that Manhattan is the home of numerous large banks that have been hampered by the UIGEA’s requirements, the SDNY often takes the lead in pursuing advanced financial fraud, and NY federal law (precisely because of the first two reasons) is more developed than most jurisdictions on financial issues. One other point about the post. The allegations include bank fraud (i.e., lying to the banks about what the companies did) as opposed to admitting it was poker-related. This is a significant distinction as proving poker is a game of skill will not remove the bank fraud allegations. In other words, the sites still could be shut down. Well, at least Absolute Poker.
Remember that World Trade Organization case from not too long ago that Antigua brought against the U.S. (and, by the way, won, though it had no practical effect)? Well, it is rearing its head again and could be a boon to poker players around the world, and especially in the U.S. Absolute Poker is based in Antigua, a tiny Caribbean nation that gets a significant portion of its gross national product from online poker/gaming. It has long alleged that the U.S.’s anti-online poker stance when contrasted with it allowing online horse-betting and live poker is protectionist. In perhaps one of my favorite quotations of all time, the Antiguan government’s legal advisor said “It’s as if Antigua would put Americans in jail for selling pineapples.” How can anyone argue with that logic? Unfortunately, many Americans are not against pineapples for moral reasons. So here we are.
Anyway, all this is well and good, but the legal system pretty much played itself out with the original case and failure of the international community to stand up to the U.S. But, just maybe, if Antigua can make enough noise again, and, just maybe, if the U.S.’s current stance ends up having a significant effect on the pocket books of larger countries via reduced rake from decreased play (think Britain), just maybe enough pressure will be exerted on the U.S. that it will alter its stance. If you asked me whether I would bet on this happening my answer would be that you better be laying me some serious pot odds — more than it takes to draw to a one-outer on the river. But in the game of life, and with nothing for me to lose at this point, I’ll take those odds cause it’s all I’ve got. In the immortal words of Jim Carrey — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance… *YEAH!*”
Straight from the Government’s mouth: This “Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them.” Check out the “good” news here.
I find it interesting that we have not heard a peep from the banks. Now banks do not normally comment on current events, but given how significant a cost enforcing the UIGEA’s regulations was(ugh, not is, was) on them I would have expected some sort of statement. It makes me wonder. For years the banks have had considerable influence on Capitol Hill — they are long-time residents of Gucci Gulch. And they are the ones that benefit the most by the closing of the sites (public morals aside, of course…dripping with sarcasm…). So their silence is damning.
I hope some day we learn the truth about the bank’s role in this, if any. Cause with all the banking options (brick-and-mortar and online, see a parallel…?) I just may choose to take my money to one that did not lobby in favor of UIGEA enforcement.
This may not be a popular opinion in these parts, but the more I think about it the more I support the government’s actions. Let me clarify. I am against criminalizing online poker, am against arresting players, and am against shuttering the sites. But I’m also against people that flaunt the laws of the U.S. by engaging in subterfuge and deceit. People that bribe bank officials and lie to regulators. People that break the law not to prove some moral principle but to make money. And that’s what the poker sites did (according to the government at least). They wanted to make as much money as possible despite laws designed to stop their activities. Rather than just lobby to change the laws, they covered up their activities by lying to banks (who are on the hook financially and legally for accepting banned payments) and, failing that, bribed some of them to ignore the law. I sympathize with the underlying cause — online poker — but cannot support anyone that openly breaks U.S. laws. As an American I cannot. Our legal system is just too important to the stability and prosperity of our society. It is a value I will not sacrifice, even if it means sacrificing poker played from the comfort of my couch, in boxer shorts.
Owners of three of the largest online poker sites — Full Tilt Poker, Pokerstars, and Absolute Poker — were charged with violating the UIGEA by defrauding banks into believing that the shell companies to which online poker money was funneled were legitimate entities. This obviously is a massive development. It signals the U.S.’s intent to crack down on online gambling (including poker), its willingness to enforce the UIGEA, and the banks’ opposition to gaming (rather than pushing to repeal the UIGEA). It also could be a foreshadowing of the closing of the major sites and the federal government’s willingness to oppose intrastate online sites (and certainly the District of Columbia’s recent efforts, since it is subject to federal law). We all need more time to digest this. I will be posting more thoughts in the near future. Stay tuned.
(Oh, one final thought. The department of justice does not rush indictments. This was a case that it had been developing for some time but keeping quiet. Wonder why they chose now to release the hounds. The D.C. law? Bank pressure? Random coincidence?)
The Swedish high court has released its long-awaited ruling on whether poker is a game of skill. Sort of. The Court held that poker is a game of skill when played in tournament form, but a game of luck when played in cash game form. Apparently, the sample size of hands you are forced to play was the determining factor. Strange. But here’s the kicker. Swedish cash game players were happy with the decision because it meant that their livelihood was not deemed a profession, which are taxable. Got to love Sweden.
D.C., a federally run entity mired for decades in financial chaos, has decided to test the government;s anti-poker laws. D.C. is permitting its lottery operator to start an online poker site. There’s a huge article in the Wall Street Journal. Check it out! Sadly, I envision an injunction and long legal battle before the site becomes operational.