Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unlawful Internet Gaming Comment Response

Recently London Dave put up the following comment:

What is your take as an American online pro, and implications for you.

Compliance 12/1/09

The Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board today announced the release of a joint final rule to implement the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The Act prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with unlawful Internet gambling, including payments made through credit cards, electronic funds transfers, and checks.

The Board and the Treasury are required by the Act to develop a joint rule in consultation with the Department of Justice. The final rule requires U.S. financial firms that participate in designated payment systems to establish and implement policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to prevent payments to gambling businesses in connection with unlawful Internet gambling. The rule provides non-exclusive examples of such policies and procedures and sets out the regulatory enforcement framework. For purposes of the rule, unlawful Internet gambling generally would cover the making of a bet or wager that involves use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any applicable federal or state law in the jurisdiction where the bet or wager is initiated, received, or otherwise made.

Compliance with the rule is required by December 1, 2009.

London Dave

For those of you who have forgotten or didn't know the story of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act here is a brief summary of the story. When the UIGEI passed in September 2006 as a last second addition to the Safe Port Act of 2006 (tell me that's not total bullshit!) it called for the treasury department to figure out a way to police transactions related to online gaming within 270 days. Banks everywhere cursed under their breath at the super conservative republicans who snuck this garbage in there.

As soon as this legislation passed a movement to get it repealed started. The Poker Players Alliance was created. To make a long story short on that front there are now over 1,000,000 members with a former US senator as the leader. The PPA is constantly lobbying in Washington and pushing forward the cause and fighting for the rights of poker players in the US. Check out their webiste here for all the latest news about the legality of online poker.

Nothing happened for about 50 of those 270 days, then a bunch of bad stuff happened. Neteller and Firepay the two leading processors of payments from customers to online casinos (and vice versa) decided overnight to block US users. Then one by one all of the publicly traded poker sites (including party poker which at the time was by far the industry leader) either shut down completely or blocked US users which turned them into poker ghost towns. This was a major boon for the privately owned websites who's market share got a major boost overnight.

Around this time the games got really tough. Some casual players fearing they were breaking the law stopped playing. Others ran out of money in their account and weren't willing to jump through the hoops to get more in there. All of a sudden if you were in the US the only way to get money into your account was to send the website a money order when before that it was a few clicks and the money was instantly available for play. There were still games to be played, but the easy money started to dry up.

For a good while everything was quiet as far as the UIGEA was concerned. The 270 days came and went and nothing changed. Then came a light in the distance! A savior! A miracle! INSTANT E-CHECKS! All of a sudden it was back to instant transfers right from your bank account to the website.

Gradually the games got better and then there was a bit of good news. A few of the websites that had blocked US users, unblocked them and came back into the fold. To me this was a major sign that the UIGEA was something that was going to be on the books, but didn't really have any teeth.

The news of this week is that the government has set the date of December 1st 2009 for compliance. This seems very similar to the deadline of 270 days. Well guess what, we're coming up on 800 days and all they've done is set a new deadline!

Maybe the biggest problem the government is going to have is the banks don't want any part of this! They don't want to have to review every single transaction to see if it's related in some distant way to online gaming. And even if they did want to check everything out, I'm not sure they could stop it without tremendous effort and cost. With all the trouble in the banking system these days I can't imagine anyone pushing for anything that would make it tougher and more expensive for banks to do business.

When I cashout my checks don't say Internet gaming. They say KJR financial or CRQ corp. or BRG group. I don't know if it's ever said the same thing on top of any two checks I've received. Furthermore, the checks themselves all look different and they come from a wide variety of banks.

On the other end when you make a deposit to the website it doesn't say anything at all about gambling on your statement. It says netvibes or intertainment or whatever.

Right now there are no fewer that 6 bills in congress related in one way or another to repealing the UIGEA and/or creating a regulated form of Internet gambling in the US. With the new congress and new administration coming in who knows what might happen.

The two biggest things I have working in my favor are 1) Poker is a skill game and 2) just about no one is in favor of a ban on Internet poker. There has been much talk that even if other online gambling gets squashed somehow that a niche will be carved out for poker since it's a game of skill. The main group of people who are in favor of a ban on online poker are religious Conservatives. In congress those people are on the way out or their power has been greatly diminished. The people who are against it are the banks, the poker players, and most important of all people who think Americans should be able to spend their money however they want to!

Anyway, to sum up I'm not worried. I think things will remain as they are or get better for me. Since I pay my taxes I'm not worried about the government taxing and regulating the industry. If the government licensed a regulated Internet gambling it would be worth billions of dollars to them and everyone in the industry knows that it would bring in so much new money to the system that the extra taxes would hardly matter.

I'm not sure if I really responded to your comment or not Dave. Let me know if there was anything specifically that you'd like me to comment on additionally.

1 comment:

Cris Cohen said...

Waiting for the follow-up story: "Police Arrest Every Member of the New York Stock Exchange."