I guess that’s why they call it a ‘Boat.’

Editor’s Note: Rush Spencer Smith is a new columnist here at Joboo. Once a week, or so, he’ll be writing about poker. He joins our cavalcade of gambling authors along with Lance’s Stone Cold Locks every Friday and The Champ’s Bold Predictions on Thursday night. Doherty and I are comfortable in our roles of mocking athletes and providing analysis. And as always none of the views or incoherent logic expressed represents the opinions of Joboo’s creators.

 

The crowbar slowly cracked open the crate. Smells of rotting food and urine poured out of the new opening. The beard of the Iranian had grown longer during the cross-Atantic trek. He threw a rope over the side of the crate and discovered that his crate was stacked on top of several other crates. He knew the tanker had completed the voyage, all in good time. He praised Allah for a safe voyage.

 

The night sky reflected from the bottom of the clouds like an inverted moonlight. The man had never seen the lights of New York before. His surprise in seeing such brightness so late at night sent his mind into a minor haze. He shook his head and thought of the task at hand.

 

He reached down to the ground and pulled out the case. The time was near. He was to get as near the city as he could, and then activate the device. The stakes here were as high as he had ever fathomed. Lives would be ruined, but that was his mission. He was prepared to go all the way.

 

He slung the case over his shoulder and lowered himself down the stacked crates via the rope. Slowly he reached to bottom, careful not to make any sudden drastic movements so as not to damage the contents in the case.

 

The crew from the ship had disembarked. Nobody would notice him. Americans… He managed to exit the ship with nothing more than a nod to the occasional passerby. The time was close.

 

A clarity washed over the man like a poet observing a foggy glen as the sun begins its slow march in the morning. His bones tingled with electricity, yet his hands remained steady. It was time for the first incision.

 

He found a corner of two buildings and tucked himself into the crevice. Slowly he opened the case. He checked his power supply to discover it was completely full, just as it should be. The laptop opened with a tiny creak, and carefully he turned it on.

 

The moment was now. His training, his dedication, and all his skill were about to be tested like never before.

 

The computer came to life. He clicked on the program to initiate it. The network uplink was established, and in the time it took him to look around to ensure nobody was watching, he was connected.

 

He clicked on the appropriate links. He waited for the right combination. To his utter surprise, it showed up right away. A sign from Allah perhaps. He closed his eyes. It was time. With his Pocket Aces, he made the move.

 

“All in!!!!”

 

America would never be the same.

 

 

On Friday, the senate approved legislation that will ban online poker in America.

 

The name of the bill, you ask?

 

The Safe Port Act.

 

Really.

 

Yeah, I’m serious.

 

 

 

Near midnight on Friday, our elected representatives stopped harassing pages with sexy-gay laden instant messages long enough to pass the bill. The common consensus is that not more than a couple of senators had read the language banning online poker before they voted on it. Senator Bill Frist, a republican from
Tennessee fought like a pit bull all week to get the poker legislation attached to anything he possibly could.

 

Bill Frist wants to run for president in a couple of years. He, like most Southern Republicans, panders to the bible thumping conservatives of the intellectual superpower that is Tennessee. Much of the impetus of this legislation lies in the disturbing fact to most conservatives that this congress has done next to nothing despite having a majority in both chambers of the legislature and a president that has only vetoed one bill (Stem Cell Research spending, of course) during his distinguished tenure in the White House.

 

Despite your political leanings, I have to imagine that most Americans would prefer, if not actively hope, that any legislation that passes would be subject to real and intelligent debate so that nuances and concerns could be addressed and properly considered before passage.

 

But this is an election year.

 

I originally was invited to Joboo to do a weekly poker column. My poker resume consists mostly of online play. When I started playing, I lost copious amounts of money playing poker online. I was never a terrible player, but in time I got much better and learned how to overcome bad beats and crappy decisions on my part by building a big enough bankroll to earn money (think investing: If you only invested in one penny stock at a time with all your money, you’d go broke no matter how good you were. Kinda the same thing.) My intent in this column was to try to impart some wisdom and humor to those of you who care at all about poker, and maybe to a few of you that don’t. Maybe even make a few people laugh.

 

But poker apparently poses such a severe threat to our ports that anyone seeking to play online poker now will be shit out of luck. Our government has decided you are not capable of determining if you should be allowed to gamble.

 

Go figure.

 

My enthusiasm for such a column is a little bit tapered right now, and I apologize in advance. But I believe poker will continue to be seen and played, despite the fact that online poker will cease. We will never again see 9000 people in the World Series of Poker, as most of those people got in from online play and satellites. Many people played this year in the World Series without putting up a single dime. That will never happen again. Those of you that live near casinos will still be able to play, but those of us that live in areas without a nearby poker room are fucked.

 

The good news is that our ports are now safe.

 

What America has declined to do is regulate and tax online poker. In a time when out government has bucked fiscal responsibility favoring tax breaks and huge deficits, I find it strange that they wouldn’t simply try to legalize and regulate an industry that is almost entirely foreign. Billions of dollars are changing hands online via poker, and the US government could certainly fund a couple of small wars with the money they could make in taxing the industry and regulating it. Or, God forbid, put some money into public schools.

 

Regardless, there are more columns to come, and most will focus on live play as I won’t encourage anyone to break the law.

 

God Bless America.

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19 comments
  1. “Despite your political leanings, I have to imagine that most Americans would prefer, if not actively hope, that any legislation that passes would be subject to real and intelligent debate so that nuances and concerns could be addressed and properly considered before passage.

    But this is an election year. ”

    By “election year” do you mean 45 years after they had this debate? The debate was had, been done, been law for years. This is to extend it to new technology.

  2. Spencer do you have any idea how difficult it would be to regulate online poker? Especially since there are several cross-border players not only from Canada but around the world. With the diverse nationalities of online poker players, the government would not know whether the person was exempt from tax on winnings or not. (it depends on whether you are from a county that recognizes taxing gambling winnings or not.)
    from here you also have to look at the potential for deductions for gambling and the fact that there is no paper trail with online poker. This leads to more litigation for the IRS since there will be more claims that a taxpayer overpaid taxes since he has this “online” gambling bill.
    All of these things leads to significant increases in administrative expenses, increases in personnel and increased invasion on privacy. An issue that is already touchy in the United States.
    Logistically, regulating online poker causes more hassle than it is worth in the eyes of politicians. I hate it just as much as you Spencer but at least I still have online poker via Canadian sites.

    For the readers a note that I am Canadian, Doug wanted me to add this so as to not confuse readers.

  3. savepoker said:

    Couple of questions for you primetime:

    1. Can you play in the US as a Canadian resident? I would imagine not.

    2. Why wouldn’t the US allow companies to establish themselves here in jurisdictions like Nevada and run our own internet stuff? At least get our hands in the pie. Nevada could handle it just fine, imo.

  4. Spencer, I think Albert Pujols’ adopted son might be more coherent than you. To quote Doug, “some fools are dead to me.” So why don’t you settle in and play some online poker before they force you to make better use of your time than trying to scrape five dollars of some 13 year old that stole his mom’s credit card.

  5. Man, I went all in on a boat and got busted last week. Still trying to get over that.

    999QQ to QQQ99.

    Fucking ports.

  6. Yeah, Bertrand smacked the HELL out of you on that one Champ, but hey, at least you didn’t get up talking like Rodney Dangerfield.

  7. To answer your second question that you posed to Shawn it isn’t really a question of whether or not the US would allow gambling sites to set up here because that is a state issue. States like Nevada may not be as excited as you think to allow those gambling sites since the brick and mortar gambling industry has been one of the staunchest opponents of internet gambling. The other real problem is that if Nevada allows the site, that still doesn’t mean that it circumvents other states’ bans on gambling. The federal government is unlikely to use their power in interstate commerce to preempt a states’ right to control the gambling habits of their own citizens.

  8. savepoker said:

    Um… “The federal government is unlikely to use their power in interstate commerce to preempt a states’ right to control the gambling habits of their own citizens.”

    Isn’t that exactly what they just did?

  9. No in fact the language of the actual act explicitly states that is not the case. “(ii) Rule of Construction Regarding Preemption-Nothing in this subchapter may be construed to preempt any state law prohibiting gambling.” So to answer your question the federal government is saying that even if a state wanted to do this they couldn’t, but the preemption language indicates that even if, like you proposed, the Congress left it up to a state to decide how they would treat their citizens the same Congress would be unlikely to preempt a State’s right to prohibit any form of gambling they so choose. And without a congressional mandate that a state must honor another state’s wish to allow internet gambling there would be nothing stopping a state from prohibiting the gambling activity inside it’s territory.

  10. Kevin said:

    Doug, Dotes and Shawn are all hatin’ on you Spence. I got your back, viva la resistance!
    P.S. Shawn, Canada now has legal internet poker and free health care??? Sounds nice except for all of your French buddies.

  11. whoa morrow, we never had free health care, it’s more like free first aid stations.
    To answer your questions spence: Yes i can play in the US as a Canadian, thus one of the problems with the lack of limits on the internet.
    to answer your 2nd question, again goes back to trace-ability and enforcement of the internet. Also i’m sure that nevada actually wants people to come to their casinos and gamble. By taking the physicality out of gambling the specific states lose several benefits. Now if someone has to physically come to the casino, the casino makes money off the gambler (in general), makes money off food and drinks and even off that gambler staying in the casino’s hotel. Along with this there are travel expenses associated with getting to these casinos which all relate to more taxable income for the States.
    Now the fed’s are concerned about this loss because the internet allows foreign people to play on US sites, winning US money (either tax free or taxed) without having to in any way contribute to the economy. The fed’s would obtain a lot more money if those foreign gamblers had to come to the US to sit and play poker for the reasons i listed for the states.
    So when you say get your hands in the pie, they are doing that, but this law is a way to ensure that the pie can’t be taken electronically. If there was some specific way that the US could limit the internet and not violate specific trade regulations, they might have opened it up to private companies if the private companies could show trace-ability. Showing trace-ability with a paper trail for gambling however is a little more difficult than swallowing a bad beat like champ is.

  12. savepoker said:

    No way is this law about trying to get foriegners to come to the US to play poker. Just no possible way. Gambling is legal all over Europe and South America. There is no chance that banning internet poker is going to increase foriegn travel to gamble in the United States. That’s just sillly.

    As to you gaming on the net from the US, I guess if your bank accounts are all Canadian you’re ok, since this measure is really about banks and getting your money or getting it in.

    Dotes, your preemption argument is right but misleading. If gambling was truly up to the states, then they wouldn’t have to pass this law. When you say this federal legislation doesn’t preempt the states from taking action, you’re correct in that if the states want to pass their own more restrictive restrictions on internet gambling, they can. But this legislation permits Indian Casinos to link themselves up, but not for States to have truly intrastate online casinos. If they are linked to the internet then they are linked pretty much everywhere and subject to the jurisdiction of the legislation. So, while the states may regulate gambling they certainly can’t regulate internet gambling after the Safe Port Act unless they want it to be more restrictive than the federal measure.

    My beef with the legilsation, aside from the fact that I hate it, is simply the manner in which it was passed. It was typical sneaky backroom last minute garbage that is going to effectively put many of my friends out of a job.
    I would just like to see the Senate debate it openly and treat it like a serious issue.

    Additionally, I think the United States could have companies that host internet gambling, and those comapanies could be taxed. You don’t need to get into much else other than the company’s bottom line. Whether individuals report their winnings is another issue, but I’m sure the IRS has been tackling tax evaders for years, and they could certainly continue to do so.

    In short, this still sucks.

  13. the point is, internet gambling has taken tax evasion from a problem to a serious problem. The IRS can’t handle all the tax evasion going on without internet poker, now with internet poker they are overwhelmed. How many people do you think play online poker? How many more IRS auditors would have to be hired to go through those games to see if anyone received winnings and did not claim them. (of course meeting the threshold requirement to even get the IRS concerned).

    as to your point criticising me saying they want foreign gamblers to come to the US. My point was not that the US is doing this to encourage travel to the US but merely a means to making foreigners pay something to gamble in the US. OR are you telling me the US is totally cool about having foreigners take tons of gambling winnings without spending a dime to help the US economy? Last time i checked no country was a fan of having foreigners rob them blind, which is what foreigners do playing US online poker. I can make this statement being that I am a foreigner who doesn’t have to claim winnings from poker. The only difference between me and several other internet gamblers is that i go to US casinos also and contribute (although limited on the law school student budget) to the economy.

    my bank accounts doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that my citizenship is Canadian and as we know Canada doesn’t tax citizens on gambling winnings. On the off chance the IRS takes a portion of my winnings there is a form i can file to get it all back.

  14. Actually Spence, the act does come out and says that “(B) Intrastate Transactions.- The term ‘unlawful internet gambling does not include placing, receiving, or otherwise transmitting a bet or wager where- (i) the bet or wager is initiated and received or otherwise made exclusively within a single State.” So if a State wanted to allow internet gambling intrastate, and a company thought it would be profitable to start a site with safeguards to ensure that only players from a single state were allowed on they would be able to do that. If the site only allowed people from one state to play against each other, even with the use of the internet, that would fall outside the Congress’s interstate commerce power and into the state’s police power. Would this requirement cut into the online poker company’s profits? Of course, but that isn’t a valid argument against the legislation. My question is, did you even read the act before writing the criticism?

  15. savepoker said:

    Actually Ryan…

    My question is, do you have to be a dickfur in every comment you write? And yes, I understand that you’re upset that I took a few shots at republicans in the article and are now just trying to get my goat. In the future I’ll just cut to the chase about your political party if you’re going to get snippy anyway. So it goes.

    But…

    I read the act, and we’re on the same page… ish. I just don’t think there’s any way that a state could use the internets (not intranets) to allow gambling solely within a state. It’s the nature of the internet (seriously. People everywhere use it. Even in like Africa and Antartica and stuff. I swear). But in your hypothetical world, I suppose that a state could only allow people from its state to gamble on some sort of magical intranet that only worked statewide. I just don’t see that as realistic and decided not to delve into pure fantasy. We’re talking about real-life internet gambling, not some abstract hypothetical new network that doesn’t reach Oslo, Birmingham, East Lansing, and Berlin all at the same time.

    But the legislation as written wouldn’t even allow a company to start internet gambling in oh… say Kansas (pretend it’s legal there to play poker), and then for someone who lives in Kansas to play on the site and cash out the money. Why? Because the legislation attacks banks that faciltiate transactions from companies that are associated with internet gambling (under the assumption it involves interstate commerce). So, the Kansas company, because some kid from Georgia is playing there, is now not free to recieve or send money to and fro anyone in the United States, even if that person lives in Kansas (the home state of the company and where everything is located). Only if the Kansas company created some totally secure network that didn’t cross state lines could they pull off what you’re talking about. Yet even though the person playing in Kansas on the company placed the bet in Kansas to a company in Kansas, the way this legislatation is set up is such that the wager would be illegal. How is that not preemption?

    Aren’t you a free-market guy?

  16. Well, I wasn’t trying to be a dickfur, whatever that is, I usually draw the line at dickhead. I don’t see how it is appropriate to resort to claiming I only disagree with you because to took some swings at some conservative politicians that I don’t particularly like anyway. I went out of my way to make my arguments about the merits of your argument exactly to avoid this problem, but alas it seems futile to have a discussion simply on the merits of the proposed legislation. Truth be told, I’m actually against this bill in its entirety. What I don’t understand is how someone who is asking for a full and fair debate resorts to cheap political barbs that only demean your overall point. If you are going to expect others to debate the merits of the bill isn’t it a bit hypocritical to not do the same thing?
    Given how you didn’t seem to make it clear from your post or comments that you read the Act I think it was certainly a fair question in light of your complete misunderstanding of its language.
    And yes, despite your snotty tone, I understand how the internet works. But I don’t see how what i was suggesting about intrastate betting is in fantasy land. If you are telling me that a poker company set up a server in Kansas, and allowed financial institutions only in Kansas to transmit funds from a person with a Kansas address to another person with a Kansas address that doesn’t sound like it is outside of the realm of possibilities to me. That would be the definition of a bet originating in and culminating in the same state. That is clearly outside the ambit of this legislation. I know that liberals often get scared when the federal government leaves it to the states to make decisions, but last time I checked that was how it was supposed to work.

    By the way, I am very much a free market guy, but even more than that I’m a state’s rights kind of guy.

  17. savepoker said:

    I suppose the courts would have to settle the question of the Kansas server, but I think it’d be decided against the company and deemed to be within the ambit of the legislation as long as it was on the internet.

    In the end, we’ll have to wait until the various regulatory agencies define the phrases from the statute before we really know how this bill is to function. I think that third-party companies like Neteller are done in the US, but what will happen when third-party companies give money to a foriegn bank who then transmit it to an American bank is a whole new question.

    As to your personal comments:
    I openly support a debate on the merits of the legislation and it seems to me that we’ve had a decent back-and-forth as to whether this legislation is preemptive of state police powers pertaining to internet gambling. Since that was the only point you brought up on the merits, I don’t see the problem here. Seems like we’ve reached a reasonable disagreement where anyone could side either way. Jesus, what a debacle.

    And I apologize if my tone was snotty, but I thought I should change it away from the ‘incoherent logic’ epsoused in a lesser manner than Albert Pujols’ son that I was previously accused (in such a dignified manner by the accusor, no less). But I apologize if I brought the ‘tone’ down in this debate. My bad. I know conservatives get upset if liberals fight back with any sort of equally low retorts or petty swipes.

    One last note on the whole fedealsim issue- I think that internet gambling should be outside of the state’s realm. Clearly the internet is a powerful and vast source, and I don’t see how the States could possibly approach internet casinos operated offshore with any force on their own.

    Come to think of it, creating intrastate companies that would link all of Michigan together to gamble would be pretty fucking cool, at least absent the big dog poker companies. I say we start one. Bet it wouldn’t last long till someone shuts it down though.

    Word.

  18. Benny B. said:

    I think this act is fully justified, as it protects young’ns like me from going online and losing my life savings, time and time again hoping a 10 will come up on the last card to fill out the bottom end of a straight…yet it never comes. 😥

  19. I realy feel for the gamblers in the US. I cant beleive your Congress banned all banks and credit card companies from accepting transactions from online gambling sites which makes you unable to play online poker. What a bunch of hypocrites your state government are. They have the largest gambling operations with lotto, keno, etc. If they truly believed their rhetoric about internet gambling they would cut out the state operations also. And now they are bringing in a law to legalise slot machines. Personally I would have a big grudge against any party that stopped me from playing online
    poker. I think there must be some way for you guys to get around this problem. Must make you wonder if you are living in the land of the free when it seems the government has full control on what it will and wont let you do.

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