Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lockouts, Legislation and Lawbreaking

We've all been seeing what's transpiring on Capitol Hill this week, and while I can see the obvious advantages of poker regulation in the LONG term, I'm mystified by the events taking place that will effect the online poker landscape in the short term.

From a personal standpoint, let's face it - a 15 month lockout for US players is a major buzzkill. Mind you, I don't play for a living, so I can't even imagine what daily grinders must be dreading (a real job, perhaps?). Granted, standing alone this bill is a longshot but tacked on to the tax legislation, this thing might just have a 1 in 3 chance of being tacked on, Safe Port Act-style.

I think the pertinent question is this...US-friendly sites have flaunted the law once already - since they are well aware that they are going to the back of the line in lieu of Harrah's, Mohegan, Foxwoods and every other brick and mortar that might join the ring, do we really think sites like FT and PS will really honor the law like they did in Washington state? If the UIGEA laws aren't enforceable, will these be worth ignoring?

I pose lots of questions without a clear answer, of course. The blogerati have their opinions spread all over my Google Reader, so all I can do is speculate and offer my own viewpoint. I'm not a 'casual' player - I take my game quite seriously - and put in a lot of volume on these sites that may go away in a month, two months. Aside from all the licensing, regulating and taxing, again the question remains - will the US friendly sites flee Party Poker style, hoping that by abiding US law they will profit in the long run,or will they stick around and take their chances, leaving us to play in an environment that, in reality, won't feel much different than when the UIGEA was enacted?

Like a brazened gold speculator, Harrah's has positioned themselves perfectly by acquiring the technology and putting up for free. Surely 'Harrah' Reid and his constituency were gladhanding in anticipation of something like this - but besides Harrah's, who still has brand awareness? PokerStars has two successful Tv shows running - Full Tilt patches abound on Poker After Dark - and American players will still swarm those free sites. Which poses an interesting scenario...

IF this bill passes (a big if), how will the offshore sites implement their free portals? Will we see more freerolls into big events? It would seem a certainty- otherwise attendance to WSOP, WPT, NAPT and EPT events will surely tumble, and those venues will suffer a big economic hit - does Senator Reid realize what THAT might do to his state's economy in 2011?

If the bill DOESN'T pass...will the Republican congress commence the UIGEA witch-hunt? Will we all be in bigger trouble? Will I be shackled and bound for multi-tabling 27-man SNGS? If that's the case, I guess I'll wait the 15 months.

To be continued...

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