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So, What’s New?

September 21, 2011

Wow, it’s dusty in here. I guess that’s what happens when you lock up the joint for a couple of months. But seriously, it’s not like anything has happened in the online poker world since I stepped away, right?

Oh, right… there’s that little legal kerfuffle that’s been causing my phone and email to blow up over the past 24 hours.

Since people are asking, here’s what I feel like I can comfortably say about the latest drama at FTP:

  • No, I don’t think I have anything to fear in regard to the DOJ coming after me. Like most of the US employees who worked for Tilt, I was a pretty small fish in the pond and certainly had no insight into the top-tier management decisions that have now effectively shuttered the company.
  • No, I don’t think FTP will ever come back in any other form. The company is, in my opinion, completely trashed. The brand is ruined and, while the software may be worth something to somebody, you will never see any of the current management working in the poker industry ever again. And, with rumors that the AGGC has already permanently revoked the company’s license, I don’t see anybody willing to take a chance on licensing a reconstituted FTP, even with all new management in place.
  • Are people like Ray, Howard, Chris, and Rafe criminally liable for what happened at FTP? Honestly, I don’t know. Having worked and socialized with all of these people during my tenure as an FTP employee, I would like to think that none of them acted with any criminal intent while running the company.

    Did they individually and collectively make bad decisions that ruined the company? Undoubtedly. Were any of these choices criminal? I know that some of their decisions certainly look criminal to my – and to nearly everybody else’s untrained eyes – but I’m not a lawyer and I can’t know for sure that they were. That’s why we have a legal system and why, despite the speculation and our gut instincts, we need to let it work.

  • No matter how you slice it, there are absolutely no “winners” here. Did people make millions of dollars from FTP? Of course they did. (I wasn’t one of them, btw.) Is the money worth the harm that’s been done to their reputations? I doubt it. Sure, Howard, Chris, and Ray may all have enough cash stashed away to spend the rest of their days on a secluded Tahitian island, but what’s the cost they have to pay? Is it really worth becoming a pariah in order to live a life of leisure? I certainly don’t think so.
  • Will the fallout from the FTP scandal lead to legalization and regulation of online poker in the US? Maybe. Like anything else in politics these days, opponents and proponents of online poker can spin the facts of this case in hundreds of ways to support their various positions.

    As someone who plays poker and who has made my living working in the industry, I’m certainly biased toward the game, but that’s not why I think it should be legalized. (OK, that’s not the only reason I think it should be legalized.) The simple fact is that we’ve already tried prohibition in this country and seen that it doesn’t work. If competent, sane adults want to spend their hard-earned money on something – be it liquor, drugs, or poker – they’ll find a way to do it. That said, we’ve now seen the consequences of what can happen in an unlicensed and unregulated marketplace.

    So, instead of marginalizing and, possibly, criminalizing a game that millions of people love to play, let’s use the FTP debacle as an example of why online poker version 2.0 needs to be a safer and saner place for both the players and the site operators. And, hey, if the government can make a little money off the enterprise through licensing fees and taxes on winnings while at the same time, providing a safe, regulated poker environment, I’m OK with that too.

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