Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reports and Opinions (the DOJ Letter)

Reading the NewsHas been interesting over the last few days to peruse “mainstream” (or non-poker) outlets reporting on that memo from Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz that was made public last Friday. That was the one sharing the Department of Justice’s revised opinion regarding the Wire Act as applying to online sports betting only, a view that many have taken as possibly heralding a new era in online gambling -- including poker -- in the U.S. (See Monday’s post for more.)

The Wall Street Journal and Forbes were among the first to report the story on Friday.

In “Justice Opinion Finds Room for Online Gambling,” the WSJ summarizes the opinion and speculates briefly about its significance. The article actually quotes a lawyer who represents Absolute Poker (Dennis Ehling) speaking of the opinion as "a clear change" in the DOJ's stance toward online gambling and "a boon for a lot of operators." Of course, I can’t really see how it helps his client all that much at present.

Meanwhile on Forbes Nathan Vardi (who has been reporting on all things Black Friday and/or online poker-related for quite some time) borrowed language from the current presidential campaigns for the title of his piece: “Department of Justice Flip-Flops on Internet Gambling.” Vardi points out how as recently as 2007 the DOJ was insisting the Wire Act covered not just sports betting but other forms of gambling.

Vardi also notes how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada received a letter on Friday from another Assistant Attorney General, Ronald Weich, which clarified that “in states that ban various forms of gambling -- including Internet poker -- the Department will be able to investigate and prosecute those gambling businesses” as before, using the UIGEA and other laws to do so.

I didn’t see too much about the story over the holiday weekend, although like most I wasn’t online as often then to check. The New York Times did report on the DOJ letter on Christmas day in an article titled “Ruling by Justice Dept. Opens a Door on Online Gambling.” A few more “mainstream” articles popped up over the last couple of days which discussed the opinion some more.

On Monday the Christian Science Monitor reported on the story in "Boom in Internet gambling ahead? US policy reversal clears the way." The piece notes "gambling critics see[ing] the move as another major crack in America's moral foundation," and speculates whether Congress will further move to pass legislation aimed at curbing addiction and preventing minors from gambling online.

The CSM piece quotes I. Nelson Rose’s recent editorial about Seitz’s memo, makes the connection between the DOJ letter and Nevada's approval of online poker regs, and also notes Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson's recent statement of opposition to online gambling.

Yesterday The Boston Herald reported on how the letter has encouraged state representative Daniel Winslow to hope Massachusetts soon gets its own online poker game going. “Rep hopes ruling puts web poker back in play.” goes the title. The article reports how the state’s treasurer is already convening a task force to look into getting the lottery up and running online.

CNN weighed in yesterday as well to opine that “Ruling increases odds for online gambling legalization”, a short piece that essentially passes along Rose’s optimistic interpretation of things. (Incidentally, a lot of these articles are calling the letter a “ruling” rather than what it is -- an “opinion.”)

MarketWatch had a piece today titled “The online poker gold rush” characterizing the DOJ letter as indicating “the Obama administration may be moving towards legalizing online poker.” The article goes on to suggest keeping an eye on Bwin-Party Digital Entertainment’s stock, referring in particular to the deal Bwin-Party struck with Boyd Gaming and MGM Resorts International a couple of months ago.

The piece concludes with writer Brett Arends cyncially noting how the real reason behind any possible shift in stance regarding online poker is the need for revenue and not a recognition of “freedom, [the] pursuit of happiness, or the absurd hypocrisy of our gambling laws.”

Those are just some of the articles I’ve been reading over the last few days on non-poker sites which are considering the possibility of online poker’s return to the U.S. Almost prefer keeping up on such things from outside the echo chamber that the usual poker news sites and forums can sometimes be -- where even a small rumble can swiftly be made to seem an earthquake.

Of course, that is not to say the non-poker folks aren’t prone to make a lot of a little, especially where online gambling is concerned.

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