Sunday, October 01, 2006

Action and Reaction Time --- Responding to Bad Poker Legislation

Well, the tither has started. While the actual Internet Gambling Ban has yet to become law, it's but a penstroke away, and then the clock will start: it appears as though it will be some 270 days before the structures that be are required to define and implement some form of technological wizardry that will attempt to define for you eactly how you are allowed to walk and talk, and exactly to whom you allowed to give your discretionary income.

That said, don't slide too deeply into despair. Not only is the new bill ripe for challenges --- from constitutional-based, freedom-of-information suits within our borders to more strident World Trade Organization edicts from outside --- it may turn out to be unworkable: as crafted, the bill shows a true lack of understanding about how the Internet and banking industries (i.e.: wire transfers) work. One highly conservative person that I'm close to, who's not a gambler, per se, had their conservative beliefs a bit shaken when I explained the mechanics of the new legislation. Since this person had a decades-long career as a senior engineer at Motorola, and now spends a great deal of free time working in the highest echelons of amateur radio, the person is a great source for technological know-how. The verdict? Unworkable. And to this very conservative person, a very clear crossing of the line between government supervision and an intrusion into private life. It has this very conservative person --- and I'm talking the type who thinks that not only are Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter good peoples, but buys their books --- wondering if it's time to abandon the greater conservative cause.

It's doubtful that anyone reading this isn't already part of the choir, but remember this: the bill was passed on a voice vote --- they didn't even have the balls to sign their collective names. Besides the fact that this is the clearest demonstration yet of why the voice vote needs to be abolished, it shows just how disgusting our government's highest levels have become. My opinions here are mine alone, but I say throw the dogs out. All of them --- for pretending to represent us at the highest level, but then hiding behind anonymous votes. As apathetic as we are, as a country which pretends to be about defending freedom, we deserve better.

As for poker itself, never fear. From the corporate standpoint, the moneys in play are just too great --- the biggest online sites will create new workarounds, just as soon as this turgid legislation is in place. So the executives of some of these large online entities won't be able to come to the U.S. So what? And on this side, rest assured that the freedom-of-speech and freedom-of-information advocates will work to prevent ISP blocking from going into place in a meaningful way. Server re-routing is all but a given, and as a fortuitous coincidence, isn't it nice that the folks responsible for Mozilla FireFox web browser announced a new, anonymous-user browser just this past week? Expert the base technology (or something similar) to be incorporated into poker-site user clients, and expect it soon.

Still, we haven't heard anything yet from the biggest online sites, who have the most to lose. It's tough to expect a non-U.S. based site like Party or Stars, or wait --- all of them --- to take this lying down. The ones without much of a U.S. presence will sit this one out, a la Will Hill just a few days back. But the others have incentive to fight back, and fight back they will. Expect some major announcements in the coming days and weeks, and we'll interpret the best of them for you here.

As an interesting aside, I've been spending my late nights and early mornings sweating the final tables of the various WCOOP events, then writing summaries for a different site. What was the reaction of last night's Poker Stars commentators to yesterday's news, on the Bluff-sponsored podcasts covering the action? Not one word --- it was as if the legislators' actions did not exist. The sites have good reason to focus their energies and not go off half-cocked, even if the rest of us must come up with some commentary on the matter, since it's been dropped onto our plates, front and center, an indigestible main course.

U.S.-based affiliate and informational sites don't seem to have as much to fear. There is a difference between the acceptance of a bet or wager, and merely providing information about the same, which again goes to the heart of that First Amendment stuff. Nonetheless, you may see affiliate click-thorugh links replaced with more obfuscated, indirect versions, every bit as much the token nod to American sham laws as "dot-net" gambling commercials are on TV.

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