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Not All Bad…

December 1, 2008

But not all good either. That’s my take on the long-awaited 60 Minutes piece on online poker that aired earlier this evening.

As most of us expected, the piece focused on the AP/UB scandals that rocked the online poker world over the summer, and did a reasonable job of highlighting some of the key elements of the story. People cheated by exploiting loopholes in security and viewing opponents’ hole cards. Bloggers and 2+2 posters did much to root out the corruption, and UB/AP did their best to ignore the scandals until things finally got too messy to sweep under the run any longer. Oh, and Kahnawakee… yeah, they’re not good for much of anything when it comes to regulation.

In all, the industry didn’t come out too badly (aside from the folks at AP/UB, who deserve everything they had coming to them). That said, there were a couple of points that irked me:

First – stop calling online poker illegal. It’s not. There’s no law against playing online and the Wire Act doesn’t apply. Is it legal for operators to run their sites from the US? Uh… that’s trickier, but the fact is, none of them do so we most likely won’t ever have a chance to test the legality in court.

60 Minutes did a disservice by barely mentioning the highly controversial UIGEA, which aims to make it illegal for banks to process transactions used for illegal gaming activities on the Internet. Of course, no one in the government agencies charged with defining and enforcing this laughable law can do either, and with the current state of our banking industry (shitty is a good descriptor), it’s unlikely anyone will ever spend the time or resources to try.

By glossing over this issue and simply calling online poker “illegal”, 60 Minutes has helped to plant that thought in the mind of countless viewers who have never bothered to investigate the legality of the games on their own, and who are unlikely to ever summon up the interest to do so. Hence, many Americans will walk away with the idea that online poker is illegal because Steve Croft said so on national TV. And TV is never wrong.

Hence endeth the rant, but I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the real issues surrounding online poker to do some research. This is a good place to start.

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