Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bill Frist and Satan are Gay Lovers

Part of me is hesitant to yammer any more about the fallout from the passage of the Internet Gamling is of the Devil legislation, as it's all pretty much speculation at this point. Monday should be interesting, as far as watching assorted publicly-traded gaming companies get taken to the woodshed, and I would imagine that many operators will issue press releases of some sort, as far as their stance on the situation.

Well, I'll yammer a little bit. One issue that I don't feel people are taking seriously enough is the power of implied threat, especially for operators that are publicly-traded. It really doesn't matter whether or not the US government has the authority or the ability to punish a foreign company that knowingly transacts business with US players. If you think they're going to risk the consequences of being a rogue operator and openly flaunt US laws, think again.

Does that mean that EVERY online gaming site will fall all over themselves to comply with this law? Of course not. We'll see some more ban US players, probably as soon as Monday, but the major operators will hold out for as long as possible. And there will still likely be some rogue operators who do everything in the power to continue to accept and process transactions with US players. There's currently a few shady casino operators that openly brag about their ability to accept credit card deposits from US players, based on their willlingness to play the cat and mouse game with credit card companies, opening new merchant accounts on a continual basis as the credit card companies ferret out and close their old ones. But the casino operators doing that are shady as hell, screwing players over right and left, which is pretty much what you'd expect from someone willing to jump through such hoops.

The onus of the legislation pretty much falls on banks and operators, so there's no reason you can't play poker today, if you already were. It's still a gray area, as far as whether playing poker online falls under the Wire Act, but nothing has changed as to whether its illegal or legal to play poker, based on the state in which you live. Assuming sites don't rush to ban US players, you'll likely be able to continue playing for quite awhile, as the affected parties (banks and operators) have up to 270 days from when the bill is signed to get their acts together and start enforcing it. There's no reason to freak out and cash out and withdraw all of your money from Neteller. There's no reason to stop playing poker online. No one knows how any of this will really play out, but rest assured that it'll be made pretty clear when action is required from you.

If you're a blogger or website operator and have links of any sort, to any online gambling site, you may be at risk. Buried in the "Computer Services" section of the bill is language that can be read to mean that it is illegal to provide a hyperlink to an onling gambling site, with punishment include fines and/or up to 5 years in prison. This gets heavy into the legalese and I'm not even going to pretend I have any knowledge there. It's being debated on assorted boards and affiliates are hypthesizing that circumventing it may be as simple as using a link redirect or hosting your site outside the US, but only time will tell. If you're making money from affiliate programs or from ad placement deals, there's no reason to freak out and no one is going to beat your door down at this point. Just be aware that you're potentially at risk, and that this legislation isn't solely focused on banks and online operators, as it does include provisions for ISPs to block access to sites, and it includes something as simple as a hyperlink to an online gambling site as being illegal.

As nice as it is to cook up assorted loopholes such as the specific language of the bill not touching on withdrawing using certain financial instruments or establishing fake domicile elsewhere or more elaborate ways of circumventing it, well, I applaud the thought, but it's also missing the point. Again, it spleens me to say this, but the crafty bastards were smart with how they went about this, because the whole point is to create a big enough stick and to point it menacingly at online operators, waggling it a bit, and forcing them to bar US players from their sites. That's all they have to do to effectively prevent the majority of US citizens from gambling online. The operators are going to fall in line, eventually, after dragging their feet for as long as they can.

There is a sliver of hope, though, in some of the language that includes ISPs blocking access to sites, as well as it being illegal to provide a simple hyperlink to an online gaming site. It's the sort of broad, sweeping language that has proven to be unconstitutional in the past due to its infringwment upon assorted freedoms of speech. It's kind of surprising, actually, that it's even in there, as it's one of the few toeholds of potential support we might seen from folks like the ACLU, who would otherwise steer clear of any argument that we have the freedom to gamble online. Think what you want of the ACLU, but at least they've been willing to get involved in the past with fighting similar sweeping legislation in the past, even if it meant that they were fighting to roll back laws preventing other similar evils such as online porn, etc.


El_Stuntman said...

mad stuff Scurvy

feel free to move over to Ireland where we still have some notion that people can be expected to choose for themselves what is and what isn't bad for them!! You'll be more than welcome...

Eric Bergen said...

There is hope! It appears that outlawing online gambling violates the US agreements with the WTO. We better get a Democrat in office soon.

You can sign the petition on my site