Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thinking About June 1 (& the UIGEA)

Last week we heard the news that with regard to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, House Rep. Barney Frank does not believe there will be any further delays of the implementation of the final regulations. In other words, come June 1st -- less than ten weeks away -- it appears likely that Americans who play online poker will encounter additional difficulty getting money onto sites.

Yeah, I know. Everybody has that other bill on their minds -- the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 -- which has now been passed by both houses and is about to be signed into law. But while reading around yesterday I was reminded by Gadzooks64 of the UIGEA and that fast approaching deadline. And also the possible consequences.

According to those UIGEA final regs, U.S. banks and other financial institutions are being instructed to block transactions between their customers and online gambling sites (no matter if they are located outside the U.S.). Like the original UIGEA, the “Final Rule” does not define what “unlawful gambling” is. Indeed, it makes explicit that the law does not, in fact, provide that definition, noting that “The Act does not spell out which activities are legal and which are illegal, but rather relies on the underlying substantive Federal and State laws” to make those distinctions. (Of course, in many cases, those “underlying” federal and state laws are themselves full of ambiguity.)

The regulations acknowledge that the banks will likely find it difficult “to prevent restricted transactions without unduly burdening their processing of lawful transactions.” Nonetheless, the regs express hope that the banks will practice “due diligence” when it comes to identifying and stopping those transactions from occurring. Many have suggested that such “due diligence” will involve “overblocking” all suspect transactions rather than risk allowing a restricted one to go through.

One other important note -- the banks and other institutions are not obligated to block transactions which involve a customer taking money off of an online gambling site. Rather, “[u]nder the final rule, the term ‘restricted transaction’ would not include funds going to a gambler, and would only include funds going to an Internet gambling business.” Meaning one is (theoretically) supposed to be able to cash out without hassle, but depositing money will be prohibited.

I think it is possible banks could block cash outs, too -- that is to say, they aren’t obligated to do so, but it could happen that some do so, anyway. In fact, I’d say it is probably likely that will happen here and there, given the uncertain position the banks are in with regard to enforcing the UIGEA. Also, even though compliance with the finalized regulations is not mandatory until June 1, banks can already block transactions if they wish.

Gadzooks64 notes how “there is already a dearth of really bad players” such as were easy to find just a couple of years ago, and believes it will only get worse come June 1. Her post made me think of an observation made by Tom Schneider a long time ago -- early 2007 -- on the old Beyond the Table podcast regarding how the UIGEA could potentially affect the relative value of the money one has on poker sites. (I wrote a little about his comment here.)

Responding to the fact that a lot of U.S. players were pulling their money off of online poker sites then -- and with Neteller having just pulled out we were facing additional trouble reloading -- Schneider opined that the money on poker sites could become worth “more than cash.” He speculated that in some cases players could be ready to play “a premium” (a fee of some sort) to a third party to help them get money moved into their online accounts.

He was talking mainly about the higher stakes games, I believe, but I noted at the time what he was saying could apply to us small-timers, too. In any event, if, indeed, it becomes too arduous or even impossible for some of us Americans to deposit anymore, that should affect the player base considerably. It’ll also affect how some of us practice our bankroll management, too. Come June 1, a lot of us may suddenly be playing with our “case money” (so to speak) -- that is, our last remaining funds with which to play.

In her post Gadzooks64 mentions that rather than play that way, she might just take her money out prior to June 1 and stick to them freerolls, avoiding the hassles altogether. I would bet others are probably thinking along the same lines.

I’m not going to use the money in any of my online poker accounts to make that bet, though.

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Blogger bellatrix78 said...

I have no proof of this and don't want to accuse my bank (Wells Fargo). But at WSOP time last year, I withdrew 1000$ for about 5 weeks every week (until my money got held up in that NY DA case). During that time and about 3 months beyond my debit card kept being blocked. Every time I called, they unblocked it and said nothing, only that I should be careful with "suspicious activity" in my account. I asked them if there was any specific suspicious activity and they said that they couldn't answer that, the computer flagged. So I think even cashing out is going to be a huge hassle. Already now people are paying 5% or more for online-cash transactions. If I give you 20k in cash I expect at least 21k online.

3/23/2010 12:03 PM  

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