Another anti-gambling editorial

Another week, another smug, alarmist anti-online gambling editorial, this time from the Christian Science Monitor:

Fresh from fixing Wall Street’s casinolike ways in high finance, Congress begins work Tuesday on a bill to overturn a 2006 law banning Internet gambling in the US. The measure is being rushed through the House Financial Services Committee on a promise that it would create 30,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue.

via Bill to legalize Internet gambling: No dice –

I dare you to click through and read the whole thing–it’s short and really all over the place. Let me point out a few of what I believe are misconceptions or exaggerations

1. “a promise that it would create 30,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue”
I’ve said before that most of the projections I’ve seen seem to be to be way too optimistic. I’d really like to see the math behind these numbers, because to me it doesn’t make sense.

2. “Any parent who’s puzzled or despaired over their child’s trancelike playing of video games during the past 20 years can readily see why Internet gambling operators are drooling over the chance…”
In other words, adults shouldn’t be allowed to choose whether to gamble online or not, because children are incapable of not playing video games. So does that mean we’re all children when it comes to gambling, or just gambling on computers?

3. “It’s ‘click the mouse, lose your house.’”
Great, Professor Kindt came up with a rhyming catch-phrase to go up there with “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” But does this make sense? Is it inevitable that everyone who gambles online will lose their house? A few thousand online poker players would say no.

Here’s the general problem with the editorial: it assumes that the worst will definitely happen. It doesn’t take much thought to reduce this to the absurdity that it is. Over a hundred people will probably lose their lives in auto accidents across the United States today (source here). Does that mean we should all stop driving? Someone returning to the United States from abroad will smuggle drugs into the country today–should we close our borders and ban all travel to prevent this? Again, most people would say no. In short, you can’t make rules for society that assume that the worst will always happen. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the most repressive regime the world has ever known.

Now, that’s not to say that the editorial doesn’t made some good points. Which leads toP:

4. I have no idea how the government could squeeze $42 billion in tax revenue out of online gaming. Right now, Americans only gamble about $90 billion a year. Let’s say that online gaming increases the total national wager by 10%, or $9 billion. What do you think the tax rate should be? Even if it was 50%, you’d only be getting $4.5 billion a year, which is a lot of money for most of us, but not much where the federal budget is concerned; I’d guess that much of that would be split with the states as well.

5. We also should take a serious look at state versus federal regulation of gambling. I’m not sure a federal solution would ultimately be in the best interests of any of us, from taxpayers to gamblers to the industry. Interstate horse-race simulcasting provides one model of states cooperating to split gambling revenues, and this approach should be given more consideration.

It’s possible, however, to debate the merits and mechanics of expanding legal gambling without resorting to “click your mouse, lose your house” reductionism and blatant scare-mongering.

Hearing on net gambling

Online gamblers can breathe easy: Congress is now on the case. This Friday, a panel will discuss whether or not it is possible to regulate online gaming. From ABC:

A U.S. House of Representatives panel said on Monday it will hold a hearing on Friday to look at Internet gambling, which is effectively banned in the United States.

The hearing will examine whether Internet gambling can be regulated to protect consumers and the payments system, said the House Financial Services Committee.

Committee Chairman Barney Frank introduced a bill in April that would repeal an effective ban on online gambling imposed last year by Congress.

The Massachusetts Democrat said the ban was “imprudently adopted” and the pastime is “a matter of individual freedom.”

Frank’s bill would make it legal again for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.

The bill includes provisions for licensing and regulating online gambling companies to protect against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money-laundering and fraud.

ABC News: House panel sets hearing on Internet gambling

As I’ve said many, many times previously, studying Internet gaming is a great idea. With states already using gambling for revenue and development purposes, it makes sense to take a serious look at the pros and cons of an Internet gaming regulatory regime.

Frank introduces anti-ban bill

In what might be the opening salvo of a campaign to reverse 46 years of federal anti-cross-border gambling action, Barney Frank has introduced a bill to legalize Internet gaming. From Marketwatch:

Attempting to roll back a ban on online gambling, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank introduced on Thursday a bill that would permit Americans to place bets over the Internet.
Frank’s bill would enable companies to be licensed to accept bets and wagers online from individuals in the U.S.
The bill would exempt the operators from current restrictions on online gambling and would require licensed companies to have protections in place against underage and compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud. Read text of the bill.
Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, called existing Internet-gambling law “an inappropriate interference on the personal freedom of Americans” that should be undone.
Current law prevents U.S. banks and credit-card companies from processing payments to online-gambling businesses outside the country.

Speaking to reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference, Frank said he doesn’t gamble himself but said the bill is meant to address personal choice.
“This [current bill] is an intrusion on individual liberties,” Frank said. On Wednesday, Frank called Internet gambling a “victimless crime.”
The estimated 12 million to 20 million online gamblers in the U.S. contribute more than half the industry’s estimated worldwide annual revenue of $12 billion, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Internet gambling would be legal under Rep. Frank’s bill – MarketWatch

Online poker players will no doubt cheer the bill. I’ve got to confess that I don’t know enough about the political climate in Congress right now to handicap the bill’s chances. I just think we should keep in mind that we’re heading into what promises to be an extremely divisive poltical season en route to the 2008 presidential campaign, so you’ve got to think about how a yea or nay vote would help or hurt members of Congress and their respective parties.

I’m not sure that wrapping online gambling in the flag of personal liberty is the best tack for Frank to take, because there’s a fairly solid body of law that says gambling is not an inalienable right. Here’s why:

In 1960, the Nevada Gaming Control Board published it’s “Black Book,” or list of excluded persons. It had on it 11 men suspected of links to organzied crime–many hadn’t been convicted of anything–who were to be barred from all Nevada casinos. One of the men, John Marshall, was ejected from the Desert Inn after deliberately flouting the ban. Marshall sued just about everyone–governor Grant Sawyer, the Control Board, and the DI–and argued his case up to the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Marshall’s exlcusion was justifiable and not a violation of his 14th amendment rights, though the court made it clear that the Control Board should follow regular procedures in putting people in the Black Book.

The upshot of this is that gambling isn’t a natural right: if a state or federal government can give a reasonable explanation of why you shouldn’t be allowed to gamble, you can’t gamble. And this is precisely the argument the Justice Department has used, arguing that “unregulated” online gambling is a conduit for money laundering and organized crime. You can disagree over whether they’ve proven that, but I’m not sure that you’d win in court.

The better rationale for legalization, looking at history, is dollars and cents: Legalizing online gaming will allow states to channel some of the money spent on it to the public good. A secondary argument should be that, by allowing already-regulated U.S. and European companies into the field, fly-by-night and criminally-linked competitors will be driven out. Regulation, rather than prohibition, may be a more effective regime for player protection and crime control, and it would definitely benefit states–at least those that chose to legalize it.

WTO objections go mainstream

For a long time, I’ve been a little surprised that the US/WTO online gaming case hasn’t gotten more mainstream press. Now the tide may be turning. This LA Times editorial is a case in point:

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, former British colonies on the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, are smaller than Los Angeles and less populous than Burbank. Yet they may be able to force the world’s most powerful government to change its gambling laws.

Not since 1960 has it been legal under federal law to place or take bets on sports using interstate or international phone lines. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 and subsequent measures also have been interpreted to ban online gambling as well, or at least gambling on sports. At issue is whether those laws constitute “arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination” against foreign firms.

Do they? Antigua and Barbuda argue that they do — and the World Trade Organization agrees. So do we.

So the U.S. faces trade sanctions from the WTO unless Congress does one of two things: Either acknowledge that betting on horses from overseas is no greater threat to the nation’s moral fiber than it is at an OTB parlor, or make OTB parlors illegal.

Maybe it doesn’t have the stomach for either. If so, then Antigua and Barbuda may want to ask the WTO to ponder why allowing the interstate sale of lottery tickets — a form of state-sponsored gambling — is any less hypocritical than the U.S. stance on thoroughbreds and trotters.

Get rid of gambling restrictions – Los Angeles Times

If this editorialist had read Cutting the Wire, he/she would have known that federal efforts to ban interstate gambling go back to the turn of the century, and that the Wire Act was the culmination of a half-century of agitation over the race wire.

Another WTO rebuke

The WTO is fed up with good old-fashioned American intransigence, at least as far as online gambling goes. From Ars Technica:

The tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda has just won a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the US regarding online gambling. The WTO has ruled that the US “has failed to comply with the recommendations and rulings” of past WTO decisions, opening the way for possible trade penalties against the US.

The case began back in the summer of 2003, when Antigua and Barbuda requested that the WTO form a panel to investigate US laws against cross-border gambling web sites, many of which are based offshore in the Caribbean islands. The claim was that the US had not lived up to its obligations under the “General Agreement on Trade in Services” (GATS), and that it was blocking services between WTO member countries.

In November 2004, the WTO panel concluded that US federal laws (including the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act) and several state laws incorrectly breached the GATS agreement, and they required the US to change its ways. In early 2005, the US and Antigua and Barbuda both appealed portions of the ruling. The appeal proved more favorable to the US (it agreed that gambling laws could fall under the “public morals” exception to GATS), but the US was still required to change its rules because it remained in violation of Article XIV of the GATS.

An arbitration panel headed by Dr. Claus-Dieter Ehlermann concluded that a reasonable time period for implementation was 11 months and two weeks, which meant that the US should have made changes by April 3, 2006. In the summer of 2006, Antigua and Barbuda claimed that nothing had yet been done, and they requested a new WTO panel to enforce compliance. That panel has just issued its report, which takes the US to task for not complying with the earlier ruling. “Rather than take that opportunity,” the report says, “the United States enacted legislation that confirmed that the ambiguity at the heart of this dispute remains and, therefore, that the United States has not complied.”
The complete WTO report (PDF) is available for those who want to wade through forty pages of bureaucratic writing at its finest.
US rolls the dice at the WTO and loses; must change onling gambling laws

We’ll have to see where this goes. This might spur Congress to re-consider the the Internet gambling ban, but I really think it will be more internal political pressure and a need for state revenues than any external demands that will pave the way for legal Internet gaming in the US.

Antigua v. US: Round three…fight!!

I just love this headline: Tiny Antigua grabs the US by its illegal, online dice. The story is interesting, too:

Has the time actually come for Congress to read its own legislation?

In the wee hours before Congressmen could head off for their election year recess, they managed to churn out a mound of unread anti-gambling legislation. In their haste to vacate, the lawmakers added fuel to a smoldering trade dispute between the tiny island paradise of Antigua and the superpower to the north. While the conflict centers around online gambling, it could well end up disrupting the businesses of companies such as Microsoft and Google, if the US is unable to fend off the bully Antigua.

The legislation in question primarily sought to restrict access to online gaming sites for American players by criminalizing financial transactions between American financial institutions and the sites in question. It has, however, had the unintended consequence of strengthening Antigua’s hand in its dispute with America before the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the supply of cross border gambling services. As Mark Mendel, Antigua’s lead attorney in the case explained to El Reg:

The new legislation strengthens our arguments that the US permits domestic remote gambling but not foreign remote gambling, as it has a number of ‘carve outs’ for domestic operations that cannot apply to foreign ones. It is just further evidence of the discriminatory effect of US laws and the [American] government’s enforcement of them.

In its hurried attempt to penalize the foreign-based online gaming outfits without offending the American-based horse racing and Indian casino industries, Congress managed to bring into bold relief the crux of Antigua’s claim against the United States – namely that American law treats foreign suppliers of gambling services differently than its own. Such equitable treatment between trading partners forms the backbone of the WTO, and, if Antigua has its way, American intellectual property owners will ultimately pay the price for the American government’s refusal to open its market to at least certain types of internet gambling.

Tiny Antigua grabs the US by its illegal, online dice

Fans of Mortal Kombat will have to imagine that game’s narrator reading this post’s headline to get the full dramatic effect.

I’ve already written extensively on the WTO case and the latest gambling “ban” (for that matter, I was a consultant on the WTO case), so the only new thing I’ve got to say is that Congress will learn that in today’s world, borders just aren’t as inviolable as they once were.

Online poker will go on

All you people who get really worked up over gambling online, click over to the article and bang your chest at the denoument. It’s from Yahoo!News:

It was getting late on Oct. 12, the night before a sweeping anti-Internet gambling bill would be signed into law. Paul McGuire was at his computer, enjoying one last hurrah on PartyPoker, a site that had pledged to kick off all U.S. users as soon as the law left
President Bush’s desk. “It was kind of like that last party before summer ends when you’ve got to go back to school,” says McGuire, a 34-year-old New Yorker and author of the popular “Tao of Poker” blog. “They were playing loose because it was the last night.” Maybe for some.

Not McGuire, whose online handle is “Dr. Pauly.” At 11 p.m., he simply closed down his PartyPoker account, withdrawing thousands of dollars in winnings accumulated in recent weeks. He later wired the funds to an offshore account with NETeller, an Internet bank registered in the Isle of Man, and opened new accounts with two other poker sites — both of them privately owned.

So much for the U.S. crackdown on Internet gambling. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is designed to halt the flow of the roughly $6 billion that flows each year from U.S. gamblers to foreign Internet casinos by officially barring credit card companies and other U.S. financial institutions from processing illegal wagers. The Justice Dept. has long maintained that online poker gambling, like sports betting, violates terms of the 1961 Wire Act.

But within hours of the new bill’s signing, McGuire was back online, betting on hands of Texas Hold ‘Em — and he was not alone. He’s now wagering through and, both licensed by the Canadian Mohawk territory of Kahnawake and happily taking U.S. customers. (PokerStars also has a license with the government of the Isle of Man, where it is headquartered.) Both sites saw record numbers of players the weekend following the law’s adoption, according to Louisiana’s Casino City, which monitors traffic on online poker sites in its trade journals.

Indeed, the new law will do little to stop online gambling, say gamblers, betting companies, and industry analysts alike. Instead, the law will drive out regulated, publicly traded companies like PartyGaming, the Gibraltar-based parent of PartyPoker, and make way for private gambling companies and banks based in nations where such industries are loosely policed at best. As a result, the new law could ultimately make billions of dollars in U.S. online gambling transactions more difficult to trace, and increase the likelihood that funds end up in criminal hands. “It leaves an opening for some of the more unscrupulous companies coming in from unregulated places,” says Frank Catania, past director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement and president of Catania Consulting Group (see, 7/12/06, “Betting Against Online Gambling”).

Online Gambling Goes Underground – Yahoo! News

This is exactly what everyone predicted would happen: the law won’t stop online gambling, but it has crippled the publicly-traded companies with U.S. exposure.

After a few months of this, you’ve got to think that Congress will appoint a committee to seriously devise a national policy on Internet gambling that will actually address the concerns of all involved.

And yes, that was a really lame Celine Dion joke in the intro. I just had a mental image of these habitual online poker players transferring funds into new ewallets while over-emoting.

Russians veto casino bill

The Russian State Duma–their version of parliament–voted down a bill that would have created a new regulatory framework for Russian casinos. Existing regulation, it seems, is something of a slapdash affair. From RIA Novosti:

The bill’s doom does not mean gamblers and casino proprietors have several more years to enjoy the absence of related legislation, some happily drawing super-profits, others squandering their money, as before. The fate of the Russian gambling business is sealed, bill or no bill. Debates on the issue have been raging for years, with numerous arguments for and against. The State Duma discussed bills, one after another. Authorities took the hard line in some parts of the country. For example, all casinos and slot machine halls were closed within two days in Chechnya and North Ossetia. Now, President Vladimir Putin has issued a final verdict. He likened gambling to drug addiction and alcoholism in a public address, and offered the State Duma a bill of his own to fetter the vice.

Recent research by the Moscow Serbsky Psychiatry Institute produced some sensational revelations: gambling has become an obsession with more than two million Russians. Moscow, with its enormous number of slot machines, has 330,000 compulsive gamblers. The owner of just one slot machine makes an average profit of $10,000 per month. Gambling business tax returns have struck a seven billion ruble mark, roughly $260 million.

Many Russians hate gambling. State Duma member Vladimir Medinsky, author of one of the legislative amendment draft versions, went so far as to say concrete walls topped with barbed wire ought to be built round “casinos and other such filth” to keep young people and old-timers away. Another parliamentarian, Anatoly Aksakov, offered a package of Civil Code amendments envisaging incapacitation of gamblers.

The casino lobby fought back. The state regulation bill took so long to appear in parliament for its second reading partly due to a huge number of proposed amendments providing legal loopholes for proprietors to continue reaping their fabulous profits. Now, President Putin’s draft bill leaves no room for compromise. It envisages a complete ban on Internet gambling throughout Russia, and proposes to establish analogues of Las Vegas by 2009 – areas of legalized gambling under strict state control. As the presidential blueprint has it, there will be no more than four such gambler’s paradises in the entire country.

RIA Novosti – Opinion & analysis – Gambling to be exiled in Russia

I did an interview with NTV, a Russian TV channel, a week or so ago, and was struck at how anti-gambling the questions were. At one point, the reporter asked me whether gambling was “less uncivilized” in Las Vegas, now that all gamblers didn’t lose everything they had and blow their brains out (his words) at the tables.

I simply had to say that there was no record of a time when corpses littered the streets (as they would if all gamblers promptly suicided).

People have said that Macau was a den of iniquity before 2002, but from this story it seems that Moscow is the real 21st century Dodge City.

Internet Gambling Prohibition summarized

Do you want to know just what the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition” is? I’ve printed out all 107 pages of the “Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006,” AKA, the SAFE Port Act, and, skipping ahead to page 94, I’ll summarize the relevant bits for you.

Section 801 of the SAFE Port Act says that this section can be called the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.” Good for us.

Section 802 starts getting substantive. It declares that Chapter 53 of title 31 (not Section 31, so Star Trek fans everywhere can calm down) of the United States Code–that’s federal law–will be amended by adding “Subchapter IV–Prohibition on Funding of Unlawful Internet Gambling.”

The new section 5361 (of title 31, remember), starts with a preamble, saying that Congress, an investigatory apex, has found that internet gambling is primarily funded through payment systems, credit cards, and wire transfers. Congress has also found that Internet gambling leads to debt collection problems. Also, nothing in the new law alters any existing law banning or permitting gambling within the US.

Section 5362
defines a bet, chiefly as risking something of value on “a contest of others, a sporting event, or a game subject to chance,” with the expectation that, if you win, you win something of value. This includes, specifically lotteries (and obviously sports betting) but not poker. It doesn’t include:
a) buying stocks legally,
c) banking,
d) games where you don’t risk anything but your time, or free credits
e) fantasy sports, where the result is NOT based on the performance of a single team, or combination of teams. Fantasy football is kosher, parlay cards are not.

This section further defines these terms: betting business, desginated payment system, financial transaction provider, Internet (wow!), interactive computer service, restricted transaction, secretary (of the Treasury), and state.

It further defines unlawful Internet gambling, which means, surprise, using the Internet to place, receive, or transmit a wager that is illegal under federal or state law.

This does not include intrastate transactions that are specifically legal within that state, and use appropriate age and location verification systems (which are not defined).

It also does not include specified horseracing transactions “allowed under Federal law,” or bets on tribal land, subject to federal law and state compacts.

So betting within states, within tribal lands, and on horseracing across state lines might be legal, but betting on sports across state lines is definitely prohibited.

Section 5363 ( is the meat of the bill. This declares that no one in the betting business can knowingly accept credit, EFTs, checks, or any other kind of payment, for gambling reasons. Period.

Section 5364 charges Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System with developing policies and procedures that will let payment systems (banks, etc), identify and block “restricted transactions,” i.e., bets. This is long on responsibility and short on specifics, so it seems that Congress has ruled, and it is up to the money guys to figure out just how to identify gambling transactions.

Notably, one subsection indemnifies anyone who blocks a transaction that is actually restricted, or that they “reasonably believe” to be restricted. In other words, if your credit card company won’t send funds to someone, and you are hurt (if, for example, you lose out on a auction), you can’t sue them, if they say that they reasonably thought it might be a gambling transaction.

This section will be enforced by federal bank regulators and the Federal Trade Commission.

Section 5365 lays out the Civil Remedies that U.S. district courts–and states–can seek.

The feds can apply for injunctions to block what they think are restricted transactions, and so can states’ attorneys general. On Indian lands, the feds have enforcement authority, but nothing in this law supersedes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

“Interactive Computer Services,” (we call them web sites) can be subject to “relief” if they don’t remove, or disable access to a link to a site that violates this act. This can be done after they are served notice and given a chance to block access. Sites don’t have to “affirmatively seek facts” (in other words, they don’t have to jump in the Batmobile and start looking around Gotham for links to gambling sites), but when told that they have to shut down access. They aren’t considered to be violating the Wire Act (section 1084 of Title 18) unless they are the people actually running or owning the gambling website.

Section 5366 tells all the scofflaws, in plain black print, that, if you violate section 5363, you can go to jail for as long as 5 years and fined; you can also be subject to a permanent injunction that prevents you from accepting bets.

Heading into the homestretch, section 5367 declares that, 5362 (2) notwithstanding, financial transaction providers, site owners, and service providers are liable if they actually own or control gambling sites, as opposed to just linking to them or processing their payments.

Section 802 then wraps up with a bang. In this case, it’s a “technical and conforming amendment” that amends the table of contents for good old section 53 of title 31.

But wait! There’s more! Section 803 finds that the feds should work with foreign governments to see if Internet gambling can be used for money laundering “or other crimes,” and encourages the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering to study how Internet gambling is being used for money laundering.

Finally, the Secretary of the Treasury is charged with submitting an annual report to Congress on any deliberations between the U.S. and other countries concerning Internet gambling. This, I would assume, means the Antigua/U.S. WTO case, and anything else that crops up.

And that’s it.

After about an hour of reading and summarizing, I’m done. I’ll leave further analysis to others; comment away.

In or out?

Are online poker sites in the United States in the post-ban world, or out? Card Player has a few answers:

In the past few days, we have received definitive confirmation that the following companies are not pulling out of the United States: Full Tilt, Bodog, Full Contact Poker, Doyle’s Room and the Doyle Brunson Network, and Absolute Poker are all in! We also have good authority that Ultimate Bet’s intention is to accept US customers. As a matter of fact, many of these sites have rewarded US players by offering specials for their customers. Please visit this page to examine and cash in on the bonuses.

Card Player learned moments ago that PokerStars has made a decision to continue accepting US customers even if the President signs the current legislation. Bravo for PokerStars!

We have strong reason to believe that this afternoon, PokerStars customers will receive answers to their e-mails stating that PokerStars will remain doing business in the United States.

Card Player applauds PokerStars and all the other online sites for their informed decision to continue offering poker games to United States citizens.

As a poker community, let’s begin right now, before the bill is signed, by supporting the companies that have not abandoned US players.

Poker News – Good News: The Tide is Turning

Poker Stars has this to say (via Casino City Times:

PokerStars has received extensive expert advice from within and outside the U.S. which concluded that these provisions do not alter the U.S. legal situation with respect to online poker. Furthermore it is important to emphasize that the Act does not in any way prohibit you from playing online poker.

Therefore, our business continues as before – open to players worldwide including the US. You may play on our site as you did prior to the Act.

PokerStars believes that poker is a game of skill enjoyed by millions of players and we remain committed to providing you a safe and fun environment in which to play. We value your loyalty to PokerStars, and look forward to continuing to serve you with the best online poker experience, as we have for the past five years, six billion hands, and 40 million tournaments.

I don’t know what kind of advice Poker Stars is getting: the law says, rather unambiuously, that “gambling” includes any game “subject to chance.” You can see the relevant part of the law here.

As I said last week, Congress could have said “primarily of chance,” and left poker out of the ban. But “subject to chance” means that chance only has to be a small part of a larger game which can include skill.

I think that there are great reasons to argue against the ban–Congress should definitely convene a non-biased committee to study Internet gambling and reccomendations about legalization and regulation. But anyone who’s ever even looked at a pair of cards will tell you that poker, though in many regards a game of skill, is definitely subject to chance. How else could so many of the recent WSOP champions have come from nowhere to win?

I wouldn’t stake my freedom, or my financial security, on aruging before a jury that poker is a game entirely of skill, not subject to chance. I’d be interested in hearing the legal opinions that Poker Stars received. There may be another reading to the law that I’m not seeing here, because it looks cut and dried to me.

As I’ve said before, the key isn’t trying to argue your way around the law: it is to develop a new revenue model, like a subscription-based service, that might actually be legal.

For those who say it can’t be done, and that online poker is doomed without the current model is scrapped, answer this question: where was the online poker industry 15 years ago? There was nothing written in stone saying this is the only way that players can play for money, and sites can profit from this desire. We need people who can rethink everything here. Whoever can be the first (or the first to do this well) will become the next industy leader.

And if you’re wondering whether I’ve got a plan, the answer is definitely “no.” I’m a historian/author, not an online business whiz. I can’t even figure out how YouTube makes money, let alone how to re-imagine online poker in the post-SAFE environment.

But if you think you’ve got the answer, I’d be happy to come on board as a consultant.