Online Gambling

More Poker Hearings

|

Yesterday, Barney Frank held hearings on the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act.

I was traveling, so I didn't get to watch. But Declan McCullagh did:

Banks, credit card companies, and some Democratic members of Congress are predicting that forthcoming restrictions on Internet gambling will ensnare innocent customers and threaten the viability of e-commerce.

[…]

The U.S. government's "decision not to fully define unlawful Internet gambling places our members in a very difficult position," said Leigh Williams on behalf of the Financial Services Roundtable, which counts Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other banks as members. "They cannot know if a transaction is restricted unless they have in hand specifics of the transaction that in almost all instances they will not have."

At the very least, Williams said, the U.S. government should provide a list of names of Internet gambling businesses that can be identified and blocked–something that regulators are unwilling to do. (One model that's been suggested is the Treasury Department's list of "specially designated" people and organizations subject to economic sanctions.)

Federal regulators have said it would be too expensive for them to create a list themselves, arguing that "the government must engage in an extensive legal analysis to determine whether the gambling Web site is used, at least in part, to place, receive or otherwise knowingly transmit unlawful bets or wagers" and that due process safeguards "would result in considerable added costs."

So they're just going to push those costs onto the private sector, effectively making your bank cop, prosecutor, and jury. Given that there's no sanction for over-blocking transactions, and that there would be considerable sanctions for not doing enough to block gambling-related transfers, Congress has created a situation where the banks' only real option is to block anything that remotely sniffs of gambling.

Meanwhile, all you need to do to get around all of this is open an account with an overseas bank. Which means they'll probably next go after Internet Service Providers, and force them to block access to gaming sites. Quite the clusterfuck to prevent people from playing cards online.

NEXT: Rewiring the System

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Quite the clusterfuck to prevent people from playing cards online.

    Hand out copies of the Kama Sutra to these Federal boys because clusterfuck is the only position they know.

  2. The solution to this intractable dilemma is quite simple: Legalize online gambling! Duh.

  3. The really infuriating part is that this is all based on protectionism for already legal gambling institutions and state lotteries. Is there nobody to bring up this point in the hearings?

  4. One more reason to vote McCain.

  5. It’s for the dealers! Won’t somebody please think of the dealers?

  6. Mon frere, is it really so unclear to you what is happening here? First they ban internet gambling in the private sector, then, after waiting an appropriate amount of time to pass, they institute Government Sanctioned, and run, on-line gambling, the proceeds of which are collected and distributed by said Government. It’s for the children, you know.

  7. Which means they’ll probably next go after Internet Service Providers, and force them to block access to gaming sites.

    Even in the unlikely event that such a draconian overreach would ever be agreed to by the ISPs, I don’t believe such a law would stand up in court in a million years.

    If that ever actually happens, we’re basically the People’s Republic of China, western version.

  8. …all you need to do to get around all of this is open an account with an overseas bank.

    See, they hate us for our freedoms!!!

  9. Does this clusterfuck count as a “Nazi-style orgy”?

  10. It’s for the dealers! Won’t somebody please think of the dealers?

    I will take “most overtipped people in America” for $200, Alex.

    Interestingly enough, they also fall into the category or “jobs that can be easily replaced by computer”.

    Not a good combo.

  11. after waiting an appropriate amount of time to pass, they institute Government Sanctioned, and run, on-line gambling, the proceeds of which are collected and distributed by said Government

    Then, after a few years, they sell and privatize the whole mess (privatizing lotteries seems to be an every-ten-years fad), so they can start all over again with the regulation. It’s the vote-grubbing gift that keeps on giving.

  12. Interestingly enough, they also fall into the category or “jobs that can be easily replaced by computer”.

    But then who is going to wish me “Good luck on that Ace” at the BlackJack table?

  13. ChicagoTom,

    Im sure the computers can be programmed to do that. But they will then expect a tip.

  14. Interestingly enough, they also fall into the category or “jobs that can be easily replaced by computer”.

    Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that AFAIK slots and video poker are already the highest gross revenue as well as highest margin streams for the gaming industry.

    But no, because there is not a substitute (yet) for the human interaction in most table games. The human emotion around them is what makes them qualitatively different than video machines; esp the ones I like. (poker and craps)

    Now the purpose of most staff (as in craps, roulette, blackjack, etc) is to ensure the house is getting their cut.

    But in poker, since your are actually playing against other people, vice the house, there is a role for a referee – and one with a soft touch.

    Thus far, a robot ain’t good enough to prevent someone from making a string bet. And, even when they’ll be able to, you’ve seen the problem we had with these , right?

  15. And while I have a Mr Pink philosophy on the theory on tipping (while being much more generous in practice), and no desire to relive the starbucks thread on the same vein, a low stakes game (3-6, 4-8) will probably only generate about $40/hour in tips. (25 hands/hour with each hand switching between 1 and 2 dollar tip). And I have no idea of the backroom split (i.e. how they compare with waiters spliting with busboys) My guess is it’s the worse tip ratio of the table games, and less what you can get by hustling ‘free’ drinks.

  16. Yay, Barney.

  17. Frank has always been strongly against this bill. He’s basically what a Democrat should be-against all laws banning victimless crimes, but for the standard government safety net.

  18. no desire to relive the starbucks thread

    I almost added to my post that “What is a Starbucks Barista?” was the $1000 question, but I didnt want to relive it either.

  19. Well, thank God, they’re protecting me from the scourge of Internet gamblers and steroid abusing baseball players.

    I mean, it’s not like there’s anything else Congress could do with its time…

    Well, aside from investigating illegal conduct by the Executive branch; restoring civil rights protections; fixing our budget woes; reining in contractors in Iraq; getting the troops home; and restoring Federalism, but hey…

    I sure do feel safe knowing that my neighbor’s not spending his nights online playing a fucking game of Poker.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.