Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another alternative viewpoint on the Reid bill

This time from F-Train:

If Dave (along with Foucault, John Pappas, and others) is right about a gathering storm of federal crackdown on payment processors, it makes me want to ask: All you who claimed that a poker-playing Barack Obama in the White House would be Good For Poker (and/or for freedom generally), how are you feeling about your choice now? With one phone call or memo, he could tell his attorney general, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. attorneys to leave online gaming alone. You want to make a bet that he will do that? Has he lifted a single finger in support or defense of your interests?

And for those of you who campaigned/voted for Reid on the belief that he'd make headway for online poker, how do you feel about his work on your behalf? Do you feel like commending him for waiting until the 11th hour to make a fruitless, half-hearted effort, instead of tackling the problem, oh, say, anytime in the previous four years?


Grange95 said...

The general attitude of Democrats vis-a-vis online poker ranges from benign disinterest to lukewarm support. The general attitude of Republicans ranges from outright hostility to benign disinterest. The Republicans orchestrated UIGEA. The Democrats got an online gambling bill out of a major House committee and Sen. Reid used his influence to make a serious attempt at attaching an online poker provision to lame duck financial bills. There's no evidence Pres. Obama would've vetoed an online poker bill that landed on his desk.

Here's the important thing to keep in mind--even for politicians who support legalizing online poker, doing so is not a priority. Reid is unquestionably "better for poker" than Angle; ditto for Obama vs. McCain. But that doesn't mean that they care about legalizing online poker. Let's face it, the Democrats aren't going to use political capital to pass pro-poker legislation, at least not ahead of other, higher priority legislation. The best hope for poker legislation is the continued pressure from the gaming industry, which has substantially more clout than the PPA.

Grange95 said...

Also, with respect to federal prosecutions of money processors, the Obama administration has an obligation to enforce federal laws. Note that the prosecutions only target the payment processors, not poker players. Handling money in violation of federal law can't be ignored, given the connection of offshore money processing to organized crime and terrorist groups. It's unrealistic to expect any Justice Department regardless of political party in power to simply ignore these kinds of illegal money processors.

Rakewell said...

Grange: My point isn't that Angle would have been a better champion for poker than Reid. My point is that it was silly to vote for Reid in the expectation that he would actually accomplish something good for poker. More generally, unless one finds the rare politician who is willing to make the subject a priority, poker is a dumb criterion on which to select a candidate.

I disagree that the feds can't ignore payment processors. With limited resources, they're constantly making judgment calls about enforcement. For example, Obama announced that his justice department was not going to go after medical marijuana production or use that was in compliance with state law, even though it violated federal law. (See, e.g., Predictably, this promise proved to be as much a lie as most of what comes out of his mouth. But the point is, he has the power to direct his underlings to selectively be either aggressive or passive in which laws to focus enforcement resources on.

More importantly, though, you seem to agree with the DOJ's apparent position that these transactions are all illegal. But if online gaming (with the likely exception of sports betting) is not illegal in a state, the attendant financial transactions are not illegal either. I do not think it is "unrealistic" to ask the DOJ not to prosecute things that do not violate any federal law.

Grange95 said...

Agreed that voting for/against any candidate based solely or primarily on a single issue is generally certain to result in disappointment.

As for the UIGEA enforcement, agreed that the feds do have to prioritize enforcement of various laws. But financial transactions are always high priority for every administration. The UIGEA was part of an anti-terrorism bill; there's no way any administration is going to look to be soft on enforcement. Also, UIGEA violators are rather brazen, certain to draw prosecutors' attention. The federal money processor prosecutions aren't about poker, they are about financial transactions that in some cases are related to poker.

As for online poker being legal or illegal, my position is that it is in fact illegal under most states' anti-gambling laws. I know my view is contrary to the poker community's dogma that online poker exists in a regulation-free ethereal Shangri-la. On that point, we'll simply have to agree to disagree.

Local Rock said...

Grange95 wrote: "The general attitude of Democrats vis-a-vis online poker ranges from benign disinterest to lukewarm support."

Oh really! This will come as a great surprise to many congressional Democrats, who've been rather proud to trumpet their good work "protecting people from exploitation by evil online gambling profiteers."

Speaker Pelosi will certainly be quite surprised that she is not "hostile" to something she said would only happen "over my (her) dead body." And that was to a poker players' newpaper; I wonder how "lukewarm" the leader of House Democrats might become to an audience that actually supports her position and that of the majority of elected legislators of her party in opposition to online gambling?

Further, asserting "there is no evidence Pres. Obama would've vetoed an online poker bill" might be indulging in a liiiiiiitle bit of creative literary license, since virtually the only thing Mr. Obama was known for as a state legislator in Illinois was leading the opposition to allowing plain vanilla brick and mortar casino licenses in Illinois, on grounds of protecting the poor, and former congressman Rahm Emmanuel, who as you know was until recently Pres. Obama's chief of staff, was a very vigorous supporter of UIGEA while helping pass it in the House.

Grange95 said...

@ Local Rock:

Note that I said "general attitude" of the parties. Sure, we can pick and choose a handful of folks from both parties who might take different approaches, but I think my general comments are accurate.

Pelosi might not have wanted online gaming, but she would never have denied a powerful chair like Barney Frank a bill he wanted, if he had wanted it badly enough. Similarly, Obama might not support online poker (most likely, he just doesn't care), but if Sen. Reid brought him an online poker bill, you can bet he would've signed it. After all, Obama will likely need Nevada's electoral votes in two years ...

All told, if the question is "Who is better for legalizing online poker?", the answer "generic Democrat" beats "generic Republican" without breaking a sweat.

Local Rock said...

Nope, not gonna let you get by with that Grange.

Barack Obama, as a state legislator, speaking on a proposal to allow casino licenses in Illinois: "...(the) moral and social cost of gambling, particularly in low income communities could be devastating." --The Chicago Defender (his hometown paper for the community he represented in the legislature at the time) on May 21, 2003.

The vote among Democrats in the House on the original more restrictive version of UIGEA was 115 to 76 in favor on July 11, 2006, with no other complicating legislative matters attached. Of the 76, a significant number stated they thought it was too weak. 48 of the 50 states attorneys general, most of them Democrats, publicly endorsed it and actively worked for its passage. That is not a handful. It is a dominant consensus position within that party, just as it is in the other.

As much as I may generally enjoy sharing the metaphorical table with you, your play here is too loose, and the estimate you are determined to assign for the range of V's in this multiway pot is far too narrow.

Grange95 said...

@ Local Rock:

The UIGEA is not the same as an online poker legalization bill. The UIGEA was touted as a necessary measure to prevent money laundering by terrorist groups and organized crime. A legislator could easily support the UIGEA and support (or be ambivalent to) online poker. All I can tell you is that the Republicans pushed through the UIGEA and form the main opposition to online poker. The Democrats have made the most serious progress toward online poker legalization. You tell me which party a poker player should support, at least on the online poker legalization issue.

As for Pres. Obama, I honestly think online poker is utterly a non-issue for him. He doesn't seem to care either way about the issue. If Barney Frank and Harry Reid could pass an online poker bill, I see no indication Obama would veto it. Unlike McCain, Obama would not be beholden to the religious right.

Jeff Simpson said...

Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association (and a Republican) readily admits that congressional Dems are much more likely to approve an online poker bill than are their GOP colleagues.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a reputable political analyst who would disagree.

Grange95 is clearly correct in his assessment of Reid, Obama and congressional Dems and Republicans.

Local Rock said...

Wrong on both counts. It would be just as accurate to describe it as "pushed through by Democrats" both in the drafting and in the advocacy of it on the floor of the House as well as among the congressional leadership. It was "pushed through" by both political parties, following nearly a decade of building to a consensus for passage, including the original proposal on expansion of the Wire Act (along with raids and prosecutions of state licensed wagering hubs in the 1990s)from the Clinton Justice Department.

And please contemplate once again how, if the "main opposition" is due to those dastardly Republicans, nearly half a decade of overwhelming Democrat dominance of both houses by historic margins has resulted in nothing ever being brought to the floor of either chamber.

As a simple factual matter of counting noses, if there were nothing but Democrat members of congress and all Republican members completely ceased to exist (while I know you personally would celebrate that for reasons that have nothing to do with this issue) the legislative outcome and legal status of online poker would be exactly the same.