Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An Explanation for Motives --- The Online-Site Fence-Sitters

Anyone wondering why there hasn't been a ton of posting here for the last 48 hours? Well, it's been dust-settling time. The action-reaction chaos in the wake of the passage of that most un-American piece of piggybacked legislation, the Anti Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was unavoidable. While we tossed out a few key nuggets as they first popped into sight, there was still not much for it --- the same tidbits were being picked up in ten thousand other venues, to the point that no one really had much of anything that was new.

That said, be forewarned that you will be subjected to two large 'filler' pieces in the coming days. One will be an up-to-date list of which sites will stand with American poker players, and which sites will cut and run; the second will be a detailed collection of links to some of the very best insight on the matter. Both of these remain in a state of flux, but it gets a little bit clearer with every passing hour.

What's been most interesting so far is that a couple of the major sites have been noncommittal on the matter, the most prominent of these being Poker Stars. Early reports at that Stars was poised to exist the U.S. market have not been borne out (to date) by Stars officials themselves; the most reliable comments have been those issued by Stars' cardroom manager, Lee Jones, who has said that Stars' decision has not yet been made.

It's a curious non-commitment by Stars, particulaly when matched against the stances of the other large sites. Party and 888 Holdings (Pacific), have proven their lack of moral fiber once again by immediately announcing plans to bail on the U.S. market, despite the fact that these sites are not directly impacted by the legislation. Sites such as Ultimate Bet, Absolute, Bodog and Full Tilt, on the other hand, are not traded on the London Stock Exchange, and thus have less to fear from what is for them another country's uneforceable laws.

But in the middle is the fence-sitting Poker Stars. Unlike Party, 888, or SportingBet (progenitors of Paradise), Stars is privately held, and if Stars management was planning on taking Stars public, well, that's just not going to happen in the next couple of years. As a privately held firm that's licensed, I believe, in the Isle of Man, Stars has little incentive to comply with U.S. laws. Rather, they have a whole lot of incentive not to, as Stars's player base remains largely American.

So why hasn't Stars giftwrapped a giant papier-mache middle finger and sent it off to the wannabe Fuehrer, Senator Frist?

Here's why, best as I can determine: Stars may well be creating as much room as possible to allow its executives with American ties the chance to decide their personal fate. One example is Nolan Dalla, who has resigned his position with Poker Stars on the advice of his attorney. It makes perfect sense for Nolan, who would be an easy grab for any feds looking to make a case, given his high visibility, lofty respect within the poker world, and one of his other big hats, that as Media Director for the World Series of Poker. Oh, and he lives in Vegas, which is the biggest point of all.

A more interesting case is Lee Jones, who currently resides in the Isle of Man, but whose roots, I believe, are from California. If Stars stays in the market of serving U.S. poker players, then it may put Jones in a dicey legal spot, and has the potential of making him a target for our feds. Same goes for all the celebrity endorsers, of Stars and other sites, and each of them may be forced to drop their affiliations, file suit against this law, or consider other extreme actions.

Well, that's tonight's food for thought. More fodder in the coming days.


Bill Rini said...

I'm not sure how you can claim that sites like Party and 888 "have proven their lack of moral fiber" but respect that fact that people like Nolla and Lee might have valid concerns.

Haley (a.k.a. "Cawt") said...

Fair question. It has to do with the fact that Party and 888, sans large numbers of American executives --- do they have any? --- just tripped over themselves in their rush to lock the U.S. out.

Party and 888 have always been predatory marketers, and a hallmark of that business model is to cut and run when the road gets bumpy. Nor has Stars said that it's pulling out; this piece was simply a possible explanation why.

That said, I pulled my Stars balance util they make up their minds --- I can't reward them for their fence-sitting, justified as it might be. I dumped a bit into, already have some in other sites, and will probably put some back into Full Tilt, UB and other sites.

I plan on rewarding those sites who stand up to the U.S. ... not that I have a great deal of choice in the matter.