Online poker: Possibly too level-headed

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UIGEA regulations are out: "Whew"

The final regulations are 66 pages long and there's no way I'm immediately reading them when other people can do it for me (I'll do it later), but the gist appears to be this:

-Withdrawals are not blocked in any way (THANK YOU BABY JEBUS)

-Electronic deposits (including echecks) are blocked via a continually updated blacklist [edit: scratch that. Instead, it looks like each bank develops its own policies and "somehow" makes sure that cross border transactions aren't used for gambling.]

-Paper deposits are not blocked (more than they were; WU/MG, for example, "cannot be used for gambling" even though that's never stopped any sportsbook from simply rotating different names to send money to every few days)

-The compliance deadline is 12/2009

2+2 has predictably panicked. Personally, I think this is close to the best case scenario possible. It's by far the best case for every American pro on the Internet, since we can all simply swap funds with each other and our main concern was always withdrawing. In fact, if anything, I expect this to mean the end of obnoxious people asking for big vigs on online/live swaps - I never believed in making anyone pay to simply swap funds and I'm not about to change that belief now that large amounts of online money are, theoretically, harder to come by. At any rate, in practice, every pro on the Internet has lots of friends from different countries to swap with.

I suppose depositing will probably get harder. In practice, though, few credit cards worked to deposit with for years, so most casual players I know that didn't have friends with poker money used pre-paid cards, some ewallet that charged a huge fee (is this the end of US ewallets? maybe, but on the other hand, not all of them should instantly get blacklisted), or Western Union, which will work about as well as it always has. It's the end of American-based deposit bonuses, but the good times for those things ended around 2005. [edit: Upon further review, this is even more toothless. No bank in its right mind is ever going to review every outgoing transaction for gamblingness, so what they will do instead is have customers sign a "no gambling" waiver and wash their hands of it afterwards. Once again, thank you, Baby Jebus.]

On top of that, it gives a year's grace for compliance, which means an entire year for getting UIGEA repealed to begin with. The chances aren't enormous, but I'd say we're favorites to do it within two years. The climate is right.

At any rate, barring anything horrible I've yet to read, US online poker seems to have dodged a huge bullet.

Quick reaction to the UIGEA regs

The proposed regs are out. Here's the 2+2 discussion.

I haven't read these yet and am not planning on it until I get back from vacation, but I've read the thread and looked over the key paragraphs quoted in it. If there's nothing in the .pdf that's missing from the discussion, my initial half-assed legal opinion is that this is a total win and the best case scenario for online poker players as a whole. There's no definition of poker as illegal (I expected this and would have been very surprised if poker was even mentioned in the regs, but that was the worst case outcome); the regs fall back on the state laws surrounding Internet gambling, which further muddies the waters for everybody; and they all but exclude the possibility of a blacklist of ACH processors/merchants.

But wait, there's more; these regs allow banks to expend absolutely no effort on verifying whether an ACH transaction is proper at all, as long as the last foreign entity in the transactional chain says it is. That's basically the ballgame, because all a site has to do to go back to the Neteller, "money in your account ASAP" era is to find a non-US bank willing to make that certification. Moreover, as long as the bank sticks to poker sites and excludes sportsbooks, it's arguably not even doing anything wrong, because it's not violating any federal laws (at least from the Fifth Circuit's point of view, and there's no way the DoJ will ever bring another case on the matter - if the Fifth Circuit [hint: Texas] is that unwilling to give the government's broad definition of the Wire Act any credit, nobody else will, either).

This plus the ongoing WTO saga means a very rosy future for US online poker.

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