Too bad the world appears to be ending.
Today most of the sites came forth with official statements regarding the surprise late night passage last Friday by the Senate of the dreaded Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (formerly known at the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act).
I spoke with Party Poker’s customer support today and was informed that the moment President Bush signs the Act into law, American players will no longer be able to play on the site. The customer service representative confirmed for me what I had already read in the statement issued by Party Poker earlier today:
“After taking extensive legal advice, the Board of PartyGaming Plc has concluded that the new legislation, if signed into law, will make it practically impossible to provide US residents with access to its real money poker and other real money gaming sites. As a result of this development, the Board of PartyGaming has determined that if the President signs the Act into law, the Company will suspend all real money gaming business with US residents, and such suspension will continue indefinitely, subject to clarification of the interpretation and enforcement of US law and the impact on financial institutions of this and other related legislation. Access to PartyGaming's online gaming sites for the Group's US free play customers will be unaffected. Access for all of PartyGaming’s non-US customers will also be unaffected.”
The use of the subjunctive there -- “if” Bush signs the Act into law -- is wishful thinking. As sure as a full house beats a flush, Bush will be signing the Act into law. And soon. In other words, the party is over. I’ve already cashed out . . . all but the 46 cents they kept, having rounded my request to the nearest dollar. I’ll consider it a tip.
Another site on which I sometimes play, Interpoker, informed me today that the bonus toward which I was working is no longer available to U.S. players. No matter how far we had progressed on these new player and reload bonuses and/or rewards, they’ve all evaporated into thin air as of now. I haven’t written about Interpoker before, but I do enjoy the site. It hasn’t the traffic of the larger sites, but the software is about as smooth as any I’ve experienced. They have a good selection of games and tourneys, and customer support is always available via phone and (with relative rapidity) via email. So I do recommend ’em to non-American players. But not to us Yanks.
Cryptologic, the corporation that owns Interpoker, has also announced they “will not take wagers from U.S.-based players.” Their statement sounds as though they have already stopped allowing Americans from playing on the site; however, I spoke with their customer support today and they, too, are allowing players to continue to play until the Act is signed into law. The very nice customer support representative told me she wasn’t sure what the plan was once Bush signs the Act, but she thought it very likely they, too, would cease allowing Americans to play on the site. So I’ve withdrawn from there as well. Account balance = $0.00.
In their statement, Full Tilt Poker essentially says they’re not commenting on the situation at present. They “do not expect any immediate impact from the legislation,” citing the 270 days that banks and credit card companies are being allowed to respond to the new law once Bush signs it. Neither has Poker Stars committed to any position regarding the future for American players. Says Lee Jones, the Poker Room Manager for Stars, “We have not made a decision one way or another as regards closing our American accounts.”
Not too long ago, I had nearly emptied my Full Tilt account and pumped those funds over to Stars in order to maximize the WCOOP reload bonus. So I’ve only a pittance sitting over there. I have more in Stars and will probably leave it there for the time being.
It is quite remarkable how few seem to have anticipated the poker sites’ response to the Senate passing the Act. On forums and podcasts there were frequent references to the part of the Act that disallows online gaming sites from accepting payments via U.S. banks & vice-versa. Most commentators characterized such restrictions as largely impotent, given the fact that most American players use Neteller, Firepay, and other (non U.S.-based) third-party vendors to transfer money to the sites. Few seemed to have worried much at all about the part of the Act that places a so-called “burden” on internet service providers to block online gaming sites, perhaps with good reason. In their earlier commentary on the Act, CardPlayer called that latter part of the act “an unenforceable nightmare for all involved.” I still think they are right on that score. I genuinely cannot imagine federal agents actually coming to get ISPs for allowing access to poker sites. Or poker blogs, for that matter . . . .
But not once did I hear or read anyone discuss the possibility that has actually occurred -- that the poker sites would back down by blocking American players. I’m sure someone on the 2+2 Forums somewhere along the way floated this possibility, but I never read it. Nor did any of CardPlayer’s many commentaries even suggest this might happen. Indeed, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman’s article from July 12th now sounds hopelessly naïve on the entire subject. There Shulman confidently wrote “I will reiterate what I have predicted every year for about the last 10 years. My prediction is that no law will pass in 2006 banning online gaming. The attempts are more complicated but no more feasible than they have ever been . . . .” So much for that prediction.
As mentioned in the previous post, the 2+2 Forums' “Legislation” section is a good place to keep up with the latest news. Once Bush drops the big one and signs on the dotted line, we’ll have a better idea what is left of the online poker landscape.
Meanwhile, has anyone seen where I put my gas mask and duct tape . . . ?