Is Online Poker Legal? Online Poker Poker — 30 September 2006

So a few thoughts on the new anti-gambling bill:

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arrow 3 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006   Thoughts

It doesn’t do anything making playing poker online illegal. Only accepting transactions will be illegal. This means that Party or Stars are the ones at legal risk while you are pretty much free to do as you please.

The guys who are going to feel the pinch the hardest seem to be the Neteller’s and online casinos.

It’s likely that during the 270 days that have been given to implement the financial side of the law, that some of the provisions may be impossible to satisfy. EFT’s are the main target as credit cards already code transactions which is why you can’t use your credit card to get money onto a casino site. Rolling out a new EFT protocol would take years to implement. First they need to figure out what changes to make and how to make them to the existing protocol and then they need to go and modify the software that handles EFT’s. Since there haven’t been many previous changes to the EFT protocol it’s likely that most banks haven’t even touched or looked at that code in decades meaning it will be difficult to just roll this change out across the entire US. Plus, and I’m a little fuzzy on this part, it may require international banks that deal with the US to change their EFT protocols as well. Suffice it to say that it won’t be trivial.

There’s also a strangely worded clause which states:

“exempt certain restricted transactions or designated payment systems…if [they] find that it is not reasonably practical to identify and block, or otherwise prevent or prohibit the
acceptance of, such transactions…”

This could be an out though it would likely mean that payments in and out of online poker sites would have to travel by checks via snail mail.

Bottom line, no need to race to put money in or get money out of poker sites just yet. See how this unfolds and do whatever you think is necessary to protect your interests.

There’s also some uncertainty over professionals, affiliates, and others who are connected with online gaming sites. There will also likely be a drop off in advertising by online poker sites in the US which means that WPT, High Stakes Poker, and similar television shows could become financially unviable.

There are ways to circumvent the laws though. Here are a few off the top of my head:

Open a foreign bank account. The stricter the banking secrecy laws in that country or the more motivated they are to give Uncle Sam the finger the better. Antigua is a perfect example of a country with fairly good banking secrecy laws and someone who is pissed at the US for not allowing online gambling. Open a bank account in Antigua and hook your Neteller account up to that.

If Neteller or the other payment processors refuse to accept US customers you may have to go to some extremes. One would be to establish fake residency in another country by having a PO Box in Canada or someplace like Antigua. Again, these are extreme situations that hopefully won’t be necessary.

The best thing that could happen is that the online casinos band together and buy themselves some lawmakers willing to write a new law that overturns the law just passed. This law got passed because Frist and like-minded cronies wanted to play up to certain special interest groups. The online gaming industry needs to pony up millions in lobbying money and get enough of that money into lawmaker’s pockets so they can strong arm a new bill through. I’m sorry, after today’s events, I simply don’t believe in the system doing the right/fair thing anymore. It needs to be worked. And working the system means putting a lot of money into the political cesspool. This is one of those issues nobody really cares about even if they support your point of view.

It wouldn’t hurt if someone like the Poker Player’s Association staged another phone barrage having people call their lawmakers and express their dissatisfaction that they allowed this to be tacked onto the port security bill.

Ship It Holla Ballas!

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About Author

Bill Rini has been working in the online poker industry since 2004. He was a product manager for poker at Full Tilt and was the poker room manager at PartyPoker. Currently, Bill is the Head of Online Poker for WSOP.

 

Bill has been blogging about online poker since 2003 and is considered one of the leading authorities on the online poker industry.

 

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(0) Readers Comments

  1. Write your congessman!
    http://www.house.gov/writerep/

  2. Is it an offence for a friend who resides in another country to open up an account in *their* name, fund it with an amount which coincidentally equals the amount you wired them as a birthday present, and let you know the username/password to log in and play using *their* money?

  3. It is an offense to give advice on how to circumvent the financial blocks. Hypothetically speaking, if you suggested one use Antigua or Canada to move funds – you are eligible for a fine and possibly jail time.

    Yes, but the president has not signed the bill so what I’m doing is still currently legal.

  4. I agree with you that this is not a big a deal as it first seems. There are two troublesome points:

    1) It is an offense to give advice on how to circumvent the financial blocks. Hypothetically speaking, if you suggested one use Antigua or Canada to move funds – you are eligible for a fine and possibly jail time.

    2) There is language on ISP blocking in the bill. Most people get their internet through monopolies like comcast. I doubt comcast will refuse govt requests/demands to shut out party poker, full tilt, etc. Dial-up is a potential way around but who is going to drop back to dial-up after using broadband access?

  5. If the Feds ask, I moved in with you. :)

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