Friday, June 24, 2005

Online Poker, The Government and You

The name is Dikshit. Anurag Dikshit. He's the largest shareholder in PartyGaming and he's very, very soon going to be very, very rich. That should make up for all the teasing he got in elementary school.

"It's pronounced Azzz-weee-pay!"

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was gonna talk about the PartyGaming--parent company of Party Poker--IPO, but that's not nearly as interesting as the whole "Internet Gaming is Illegal in the U.S." thing, is it? Quite a black cloud on the offering, even though it appears to have little present effect on investors' thirst.

I'm a lassiez-faire guy. The government takes FAR too much interest in personal choice in this country. Always under the guise of the public interest, which is really just another power trip more adequately described as their inate desire to "save us from ourselves." You know, like Prohibition. That worked out really well, wouldn't you say?

So we've got Elliot Spitzer running around putting the squeeze on banks. We've got Arizona Senator Jon Kyl whipping up the Congressional frenzy, charging Internet gambling, among other laughable claims, "encourages organized crime (and is) rife with fraud and abuse." Exactly. And smoking a doob finances terrorism. The Justice Dept. sends out its menacing letters to any magazine (Esquire) or media outlet (Discovery Channel) that accepts money for online gaming advertising.

So far, the online sites have found ways around these meddlesome tactics. But what's next? A question pertinent to PartyGaming as it prepares its IPO.

Right now, the US has applied the Interstate Wire Act to Internet gambling cases, but there are legal questions about the validity of that application, such as the Act being limited to sports-related gambling and the debate as to whether it's appropriate for wireless communications, such as cell phones and wireless internet connections.

There have been no less than four legislative attempts to prohibit online gaming, each of them failing. I wonder if the $9 million deposited in policians' coffers from online sites has anything to do with that? Nah, I'm not that cynical.

Well, yes I am. And that's really the industry's best chance for some kind of understanding. Money. Not just in the form of "donations," but as a carrot to dangle in front of our elected officials.

It really comes down the the government's desire to regulate everything. A thumb in every ass. Because regulation means taxation. And taxation means money. That's what they really want. So, how to go about it?

Clearly, regulating the borderless world in which the industry now exists is nigh impossible. You have severe juristictional issues, dealing with apathetic foreign governments which are profitting from an enterprise they deem legal.

A 1999 survey indicated 86% of Americans had gambled at least once in their life. Horse racing, lotteries, Indian casinos, Vegas, Atlantic City...all permissable activities. All REGULATED activities. So do the same with online gaming. Allow established US gaming corporations to operate online casinos. Companies like MGM Mirage, Harrah's, etc. have massive name recognition. You don't think they'd immediately grab sufficient market share? You don't think they'd pay top dollar for existing online sites? By linking the online operations with a land-based casino/multi-billion dollar company, the government gets its oversight.

Sure, they'll have plenty of restrictions: higher level of age and identity verification, assurance of game integrity and the like. Not unwelcome changes. And Uncle Same will get a chunk of money. Further, that money can be used for education, for treatment of pathological gambling (and possibly, god forbid, school textbooks), much more effective means for "saving us from ourselves" than simply outlawing the practice.

The biggest hurdle to this type of thinking, near as I can see, is reconciling the "legalization" of online gaming with the stated "moral values" of the party in power. I don't think Dr. James Dobson will like this. But, last I checked, this is a Democracy, not a Theocracy, and I think the people are speaking, as in nearly 87% of PartyGaming's revenue comes from the US.

The stakes are raised. Let's see a flop.


I have to thank Div over at Poker, Pique and Parenthood for the inspiration. Div writes lengthy, literate essays about a variety of subjects, including, naturally, poker. There's the added bonus of seeing the view from across the Pond. I encourage anyone who doesn't read him regularly to do so.


Okay, so I lied. I WILL occassionally play MTTs on school nights. Like last night. I got home earlier than usual, just in time to jump into the $11 Crazy Re-Buy on Stars.

After nearly three hours, the event simply comfirmed that I Hate Poker.

Kidding. Sorta. I was happy with my play. I was happy to spend a bulk of the evening chatting with other bloggers who also railbirded my "action."

But I feel like I should get some sorta reward for playing well. Not be card dead for three hours. Not only getting three pocket pairs all night and not winning the pot in any of those instances. Not patiently waiting to snap off the LAGs at my table, only to see my biggest starting hand of the night be second best, sending me out 50 from the money.

I was a bit frustrated. But I stayed patient and it still didn't work out in the end. A reasonable amount of time it will, right? Right? RIGHT?

Thanks again to BG, Heather, drizz, Chad, Joanne, Felicia and April for hanging out and talking about boobies.


The galacticos are coming. The galacticos are coming.

Real Madrid is playing an exhibition against Your Los Angeles Galaxy next month here at the Home Depot Center. And while Real no longer employ The Greatest Midfielder Ever in Steve McManaman, they do have Michael Owen. At last check. Could change any second.

They've got a couple other good players, too.

Yes, I'm going. Jealous?


At 11:59 AM, Blogger Easycure said...

It's not just the party in power, Mr. Speaker. The other side of the aisle equally covets new sources of revenue....the only difference is they don't have to tiptoe around the hardline (read: christians) end of their party.

I'm honestly not to worried about the internet, and gambling, being regulated, it's going to happen. It's just very important that the people who know it best, the players and the sites, make sure the government does it fairly. It is a dauting task, to be sure; the government is constantly farking it up.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Human Head said...

Word up.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger April said...

I feel like there should have been some sort of grainy black and white video included with this post...

At 6:49 PM, Blogger BigPirate said...

So, the government can advertise the lottery in the poorest parts of town, encouraging those who can least afford to play to spend their money on a 140m:1 shot, but middle class guy can't blow a few bucks on the internet in what appears to be a above board industry as long as one sticks to sites with a proven track record.

I gotta run for office again. That won't work. Too honest.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Minnesota passes a law agreeing to let bars hold poker tournaments... yet shoots down an attempt to build a racino with a $200+ million windfall for the state.

This is why I don't attempt to understand politics.

At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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