Thursday, February 05, 2009

Running It Again with the UIGEA

If at first you don't succeed, call it version 1.0Thanks to High Stakes Poker, even casual poker fans and players have become familiar with the idea of “running it again.”

One of the more memorable examples of players doing so was probably that $743,800 pot that went down between Patrik Antonius and Jamie Gold during the fourth season. (See the hand here.) With the board showing 3sQdThKh, the pair got it all in with Antonius holding AsJd for the Broadway straight and Gold KsKd for top set.

There Antonius had something like a 3-to-1 advantage with one card to come, and they agreed to “run it” three times, meaning three different river cards would be dealt, with each being worth one-third of the massive pot. Gold got lucky when the first river card was a queen and the second a trey, giving him full houses both times. Antonius finally claimed one-third of the pot when the third river card was an eight.

On the first day Barack Obama took office (January 20), some apparently thought that from a legal perspective we were now in a situation where it would be possible to “run it again” with regard to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

On that day came a report that his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had already sent a memo around to all of the new administration’s agencies and departments telling them to “stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted” by the new administration. Some heard that news and took it to apply to regulations for the UIGEA.

An easy mistake to make, I think, as those regs had indeed been “pending” for many, many months. But they were published back on November 12, 2008, and went into effect on January 19, the day before Obama took office -- i.e., those regs are not among the ones able to be stopped and reviewed. Of course, as the regs themselves state, “compliance... by designated payment systems is not required until December 1, 2009.”

No, there will be no “running it again” when it comes to the UIGEA.

Actually, I shouldn’t say that definitively, as there are a couple of faint legislative possibilities out there for the UIGEA and other so-called “midnight rules” that were finalized and put into effect by the outgoing Bush administration to be revisited.

One is this Congressional Review Act of 1996 that actually allows Congress (not the White House) to review and even overturn any rules finalized during the last six months of the previous administration’s tenure. However, that law has only actually been used one time since it was passed -- in 2001, when Congress used it to overturn a rule made during the Clinton administration having to do with establishing requirements for ergonomic work spaces. (If you’re curious, you can read more about the CRA here.)

The other chance at “running it again” with the UIGEA is this new “Midnight Rule Act” (H.R. 34) proposed right at the beginning of the new 111th Congress by House member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Nadler actually first introduced this one back in November 2008, but had to reintroduce it when the new Congress started its work. Nadler’s bill would permit a new administration’s cabinet secretaries to approve or disapprove any rules adopted during the last 90 days of the previous adminstration, which would potentially include the UIGEA rules.

It appears highly unlikely, though, that either the CRA or this new Midnight Rule Act -- which was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary where it will likely remain for a good while -- are gonna be used to overturn the UIGEA. Which means from a legislative perspective, other avenues will have to be explored.

There’s been a small bit of buzz this week as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told the Financial Times he intends to reintroduce legislation to license and regulate online gambling in the United States. Frank probably has some sort of IGREA redux in mind, I’d think.

It should be noted that from a practical point of view, those of us who play online poker have to ask ourselves whether we really want to see online poker regulated, especially now that the UIGEA has gone into effect. To apply the analogy from High Stakes Poker, I can’t say for sure if we are in Jamie Gold’s position as an underdog who most certainly would desire the chance to “run it again” or that of Patrik Antonius who having the advantage might be better off not running it more than once.

In any event, we’ll be watching intently. And if they do run it again, it will be interesting to see how the cards fall.

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Blogger Waldo's Wild Kingdom said...

Gol' durn legal morass.

2/05/2009 4:55 PM  

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