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Poker Players Fight Back Against Proposed Online Gambling Ban

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

Washington -- America's 70 million poker players say they aren't bluffing in their resistance to the latest congressional efforts to ban online casino gambling.


To dramatize that determination, their leader, San Franciscan Michael Bolcerek -- president of the national Poker Players Alliance -- staged some most unusual events on Capitol Hill Tuesday. He brought three big-name professional poker stars to court the press, lobby with members of Congress and attend an evening reception for members and their staffs at which a few hands of Texas Hold 'Em were probably played. Not for money, of course.

Congress is considering legislation that seeks either to get banks to block customers' transactions with overseas Internet gambling sites or force Internet service providers to block access to poker Web sites. Poker players say the proposed bans attack nothing less than the American way of life.

"I'd hate for 70 million poker players to wake up one day and learn that their game has been made illegal,'' said pro Howard Lederer, who with his sister Annie Duke forms a sister-brother pro duo in a sport that has become a TV staple the last few years.

Radley Balko, who was there yesterday, has the scary details in the bill being pushed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Here's a bit of it:

As has been discussed here, not only does it ban online gambling, it also bans linking to sites where online gambling takes place. And not only that, but the bill requires financial institutions to set up invasive (and, most say, impossible to implement) mechanisms to track every financial transaction you make. Particularly bothersome are ACH transactions, the favored method of payment at most gaming sites. ACH transactions leave a more generic paper trail than credit card transactions. For banks to get to the point where they could track these kinds of transactions would require a level of familiarity and intimacy with your buying habits that ought to make all but the most ardent police-staters skittish. One gaming industry rep describes the requirement as "know your customer on steroids."


In addition to the privacy concerns, there are also more general concerns about deputizing private businesses to start monitoring and policing the activities of their customers. We got into this mess, of course, with money laundering laws. Now we're seeing the same M.O. applied to Internet gambling. I wouldn't be surprised to see it soon applied to porn sites, too.

And then there are the compliance costs. Why should banks, credit card companies, and cash transfer companies be forced to foot the bill for Rep. Goodlatte's moral crusades? The answer, of course, is that the government simply can't police the Internet without deputizing private corporations to do its dirty work. Goodlatte's prohibited by the Constitution from monitoring what you do online. But he can certainly hold your bank responsible for not adequately monitoring how you spend your money. So that's what he'll do.

What's so disingenuous about the proposed legislation (bizarrely trumpeted as lobbying reform) is that all the monied domestic interested - state lotteries, casinos, Indian tribes, horse racing, etc. managed to get themselves excluded. Gambling, in one form or another, is allowed in nearly every state in the union - often sponsored by the state; yet we've driven the online gaming industry overseas. One could argue whether that is good or bad thing, but there's no arguing that the opportunity cost of the potential to tax that industry is staggering.


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Comments (8)

I suspect the intent of thi... (Below threshold)
John:

I suspect the intent of this, truly, is to keep US gambling money in the US, not to let it go to strange places with questionable finance laws.

Sure looks like an effort to rein in both an outflow of greenbacks and a piece of the war against terrorist/drug money laundering.

As more of a brick-and-mort... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

As more of a brick-and-mortar poker player (1-2 times a week) I think it's completely disengenuous of the bill's supporters to say that online gambling is unfair competition. I think brick-and-mortar casinos are actually doing better thanks to the expanding the popularlity of the game. Just take a look at the World Series of Poker Main Event; 6 years ago there some 2,000 participants. In 2005? 6,000 plus!

More ancedotal personal evidence that the unfair competition angle is bogus. These days, there's usually a wait to get onto a table, where as 5 years ago there simply wasn't a wait at all--which is good, from a poker player perspective, because that means lots of 'dead money' (bad players) is available. If a casino doesn't have a poker room there losing out on a ton of business. (Caesars's Palace and MGM both recently opened up poker rooms in Vegas in order to stay competitive for tourist dollars. And smaller rooms at smaller casinos here in the Seattle area are opening up rooms left and right, and doing great business!) And I don't even consider staying at a Vegas casino if it doesn't have a decent poker room.

As for underage gambling--which I'm against--most if not all poker sites require you to show proof that you're of legal gambling age, and your credit card has that information. So if some 16 year old is using Daddy's or Mommy's credit card to gamble then that's Mommy and Daddy's fault, not the site's.

Thanks for putting this up Kevin! I read the Chronicle daily, but I missed this story. Those goosestepping details are scary as hell, too.

What's so disingenuous a... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

What's so disingenuous about the proposed legislation (bizarrely trumpeted as lobbying reform) is that all the monied domestic interested - state lotteries, casinos, Indian tribes, horse racing, etc. managed to get themselves excluded.

We just had the lotto (excuse me, EDUCATION Lottery) start here in No. Carolina over the stiff opposition of people who opposed it on religious grounds or because they think that poor people will inevitably drive themselves further into poverty by playing the game.

Frankly, I don't care either way. It ain't the government's business to regulate this sort of thing as it is completely voluntary. If people want to gamble, it's their business.

Here in Oregon, the comedy ... (Below threshold)

Here in Oregon, the comedy is the one Tribe with a big casino is crying "save the environment and the Columbia Gorge" when the governor approves a rival Tribe's casino there.

Yeah we,ve got a lot of tha... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Yeah we,ve got a lot of that in Minnesota too, but it has nothing to do with money now ...or does it ? hehe

I live in Costa Rica, a cou... (Below threshold)
Ernesto:

I live in Costa Rica, a country were online a lot of online gambling sites are located.

As you may know the US opinion all around the world has changed a lot due to your policies on the war on irak, iran, the immigration law plus lots of other policies which are sometimes seen as imperialist attitudes towards 3rd world countries.

The US is always speaking on how they defend democracy and freedom. Freedom? Apparently the goverment wants to control what you do on the privacy of your house and what you do with your money. Not to mention a recent incident with some phone calls being herd without authorization...

The issue is not if gambling is moral or decent, the issue is that even if the population is against it the goverment won't listen to their "democracy's" opinion and just make the call by some 5 guys.

Gambling is dangerous and should be regulated, never the less on a country, where freedom and democracy are supposed to be the backbone of your policy, it just doesn't seem right.

In my country we suffer a lot from gambling addiction, I my self have this problem but thank to God I am in the process of overcoming it. This doesn't mean that everyone suffers this. A lot of people enjoy betting a couple of bucks on a poker table, and I don't see the crime on that.

A lot of your politicians claim this business is related with money laundring. At least the big companies located here which provide jobs to thousands of US, Canadian, European and Costa Rican people have never been involved in such issue.

I have even had the experience of working for a couple of these companies and their business is 100% legit and straight. The pay good salaries and have become part of our way of living.

Only let me put it like this... Do you know that for a tico to apply for a US visa it costs us $100... that is a lot of money for a costa rican citizen... This amount does not guarantee you the visa.. only the right to request it... correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that gambling with your money for a visa??

thanks

Ernesto,Point well... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

Ernesto,

Point well made.

I don't agree with Bob's ga... (Below threshold)
Fran:

I don't agree with Bob's gambling position, which can be found on his website:

http://www.house.gov/goodlatte/aboutbob.htm

Bob serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims and as Vice Chairman of the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Subcommittee. The Judiciary Committee is well-suited to many of Bob's legislative priorities including cracking down on spammers, curbing illegal Internet gambling, and stemming the abuse of frivolous class action lawsuits.

It seems that Bob has been honest with his constituents and wants to do his best for them.

Everybody has a slightly different sense of morality and freedom, and Bob is in a position to legislate his views. If they pass a fairly pro-business Congress.




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