shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)
[personal profile] shipitfish

I am actually surprised to see that online poker sites are so quickly jumping to the idea that they will ban players from the USA from the moment the bill is signed (a Google news search for “poker” will get you more and better links than I can). The bill only makes it illegal for financial institutions to move money to online gaming sites, and the banks have a full year to comply. Yet, Party Poker, Poker Stars and Pacific Poker (via their parent company 888.com) have all said that they will stop all action for USA players the moment the bill is law here. (Some stories suggest that Pacific/888 has already suspended USA activity, although W.D. has an account there and confirmed that they are letting him play.) Of those companies that spoke out, only Paradise Poker has sworn to defy the law, but that was before the others announced, so their stance may change. (Bodog made some equivocal statements that argue that they don't care, which may just be an Ayre marketing ploy.) Full Tilt is the only large site that has been noticeably quiet.

It's clear, though, that most of the bigger online sites are trying to force the hand of USA poker players. They need the business to keep the profits high. The USA market probably brings the plurality (if not the majority) of poker players to these sites. I suppose they feel that a year (or more) of uncertainty and slow attrition is worse for them in the long run. Perhaps they expect what typically happens with partially enforced and ambiguous legislation — people who really want to can get around it, but the casually interested don't bother. In other words, what happened to NYC public poker could well happen to Internet poker in the USA, and the online sites are clamouring to get ahead of that inevitability. I can speak first hand that such an outcome would be a disaster for the online poker scene.

A shrewd move — vowing to ban USA players. By jarring the players here with locked down accounts (presumably, we hope, that you can still cash out from, but that don't permit playing or depositing), they hope to spur action to seek repeal of the law. However, the company owners, mostly being citizens of countries with real representative government (unlike the USA :), probably have overestimated the people's ability in the USA to actually impact legislation, particularly to get something repealed once it's law.

I can imagine this war of attrition will go on for months, if the online poker sites hold their ground — and they now have no choice but to do so. I am flabbergasted that they put themselves in this sort of “do or die” situation in the very first news cycle. If they change their minds now or at any time before repeal or further clarification of the rules, it will be seen as a flaunting insult to the USA government; that would put them in a bad negotiating position. So, they are effectively committed to this course of action, and they committed themselves so darn early! I hope they understand the situation better than I, but I can't imagine getting a repeal of this bill easily. We're in for a long fight, and in the first 48 hours a big chunk of the online poker industry chose brinkmanship! Do they expect they can endear themselves to USA regulators this way and therefore get a better outcome?

Meanwhile, it actually hurts their standing with the players. We're left to wonder how we get money out, and they aren't making appropriate assurances to the players. Many casual players will see the news onslaught today and say well, so much for that, never giving online poker another thought. I am trying to decide if I should go home and cash out all my accounts or instead go home and play out my pending bonuses and get the last shot at all the fish that will soon be gone.

With all this, plus with NYC poker a small echo of what it once was and with no mode of easy transport to Atlantic City (I hate Greyhound and have been unable to get rides), it looks like home game poker is again the way to get a poker game without serious travel. I suddenly feel like I'm living in the 1990s again. Anyway, I hope people will take a look at my home game post; now is the time to start one, I think, and today has made me more committed than I was even last night.

Of course, the funniest part of this story is that in New York, it's legal to be a player, which is defined as a person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment. Of course, as I read the statue, setting up my home game is advancing gambling activity and therefore probably a misdemeanor. I don't care, frankly; the irony is too great. It's legal to play at the NYC clubs (but you might get a gun pointed at you and robbed), and it's legal to play online from anywhere in New York (but soon effectively impossible to carry out because it'll be illegal for your bank to make the deposit for you). To combat my options being closed, I start running a home game because there is so little poker to chose from, and that act makes me an actual criminal even though I don't charge a rake or time charges, because it's advancing gamblingGreat, the NYPD can come get me. The fact that I'm running a home game has already been announced publicly, so hopefully this qualifies as civil disobedience. Not the most important thing to do civil disobedience over by any stretch, but we are about the pursuit of happiness around here, aren't we?

[ UPDATE: the lawyers say in the comments that I misread the statue and I defer to their judgement. Apparently, my home game is 100% legal, until I start that hefty rake I'm planning (kidding). It looks like even if I charge for food and the like, I am probably ok, at least in part because I am an equal participant with my guests in the gambling. ]

I've always been a law abiding citizen. Even though I'm opposed to the stupid drug laws, I don't personally break those laws (due to lack of interest in that activity), as many people I know do. So, my hobby coming in direct conflict with the law is really my first experience with pointless laws about my personal behavior. I must admit: I'm with the libertarians on this one.

Update:This guy on livejournal bothered to email every site he had accounts on and collected their responses in a series of comments on this post.

your game

Date: 2006-10-04 15:10 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If you want it to happen, I would send out an email with time, date and place, before sundown today.
-dawn

nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-04 15:16 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
can you put up a link to the law that says setting up a home game is advancing gambling?

Re: nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-04 18:44 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The definition of "advancing gambling activity" is in Section 225(4) (http://wings.buffalo.edu/law/bclc/web/NewYork/ny3(a)(2).htm) of the New York Penal Code (you'll need to scroll down). I think the better reading of the statute as a whole though is that it does not apply to hosting home games. As long as you don't take a cut from the winnings, hosting a game appears to be explicitly carved out under Section 225(3):

A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation thereof by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying cards or other equipment used therein.

--Alceste

Re: nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-05 02:27 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shipitfish.livejournal.com

Is there case law on this? I like your reading, but I had a hard time justifying it. It comes down to the definition of “advance”, which I don't see given a specific definition in the statue. They make a distinction between advance and profit:

A person is guilty of promoting gambling in the second degree when he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity.

Some could argue I advance those people who are gambling in a social game of chance, since I'm providing the venue, chips, cards, etc.

I admit I'm not a lawyer, but the ones I work with every day keep telling me I think like one. :)

Re: nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-05 03:19 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You don't need caselaw, Bradley. It's all right there in the statute that Alceste excerpted, to wit: "A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein " (i.e. you) does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation thereof (i.e. cross the line into illegal territory) by performing, without fee or remuneration, (i.e. by doing for free) acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying cards or other equipment used therein (i.e. posting an invite on their blog, emailing people to come over, buying a table and cards.)

In sum: As long as you are not making money by bringing people to the game or making people pay to play, you can host as many games you want and invite anyone you'd like, including the Brooklyn District Attorney himself.

On the upside, Alceste, it looks like our hundred grand plus for law school was not a waste!

-Dawn S

Re: nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-05 15:33 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
To tie up Dawn's point, "advancing gambling activity" is defined in 225(4) to include one who "materially aids" gambling activity. 225(3), however, explicitly carves out from "material assistance" one who plays on equal terms and does not receive a fee (even if one arranges or facilitates the game). Since you haven't rendered material assistance, you haven't "advanced" the gambling activity for purposes of the criminal statute even if you've facilitated the game.

--Alceste

Re: nyc statute

Date: 2006-10-05 20:56 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shipitfish.livejournal.com
That was the piece I was missing; my lame attempt to quickly search for actual definition of "advance" was what made me think I might still be advancing.

Hi

Date: 2006-12-21 21:06 (UTC)

Re: Hi

Date: 2006-12-21 22:23 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shipitfish.livejournal.com
Thanks. I am glad you enjoy it!

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