In or out?

Are online poker sites in the United States in the post-ban world, or out? Card Player has a few answers:

In the past few days, we have received definitive confirmation that the following companies are not pulling out of the United States: Full Tilt, Bodog, Full Contact Poker, Doyle’s Room and the Doyle Brunson Network, and Absolute Poker are all in! We also have good authority that Ultimate Bet’s intention is to accept US customers. As a matter of fact, many of these sites have rewarded US players by offering specials for their customers. Please visit this page to examine and cash in on the bonuses.

Card Player learned moments ago that PokerStars has made a decision to continue accepting US customers even if the President signs the current legislation. Bravo for PokerStars!

We have strong reason to believe that this afternoon, PokerStars customers will receive answers to their e-mails stating that PokerStars will remain doing business in the United States.

Card Player applauds PokerStars and all the other online sites for their informed decision to continue offering poker games to United States citizens.

As a poker community, let’s begin right now, before the bill is signed, by supporting the companies that have not abandoned US players.

Poker News – Good News: The Tide is Turning

Poker Stars has this to say (via Casino City Times:

PokerStars has received extensive expert advice from within and outside the U.S. which concluded that these provisions do not alter the U.S. legal situation with respect to online poker. Furthermore it is important to emphasize that the Act does not in any way prohibit you from playing online poker.

Therefore, our business continues as before – open to players worldwide including the US. You may play on our site as you did prior to the Act.

PokerStars believes that poker is a game of skill enjoyed by millions of players and we remain committed to providing you a safe and fun environment in which to play. We value your loyalty to PokerStars, and look forward to continuing to serve you with the best online poker experience, as we have for the past five years, six billion hands, and 40 million tournaments.

I don’t know what kind of advice Poker Stars is getting: the law says, rather unambiuously, that “gambling” includes any game “subject to chance.” You can see the relevant part of the law here.

As I said last week, Congress could have said “primarily of chance,” and left poker out of the ban. But “subject to chance” means that chance only has to be a small part of a larger game which can include skill.

I think that there are great reasons to argue against the ban–Congress should definitely convene a non-biased committee to study Internet gambling and reccomendations about legalization and regulation. But anyone who’s ever even looked at a pair of cards will tell you that poker, though in many regards a game of skill, is definitely subject to chance. How else could so many of the recent WSOP champions have come from nowhere to win?

I wouldn’t stake my freedom, or my financial security, on aruging before a jury that poker is a game entirely of skill, not subject to chance. I’d be interested in hearing the legal opinions that Poker Stars received. There may be another reading to the law that I’m not seeing here, because it looks cut and dried to me.

As I’ve said before, the key isn’t trying to argue your way around the law: it is to develop a new revenue model, like a subscription-based service, that might actually be legal.

For those who say it can’t be done, and that online poker is doomed without the current model is scrapped, answer this question: where was the online poker industry 15 years ago? There was nothing written in stone saying this is the only way that players can play for money, and sites can profit from this desire. We need people who can rethink everything here. Whoever can be the first (or the first to do this well) will become the next industy leader.

And if you’re wondering whether I’ve got a plan, the answer is definitely “no.” I’m a historian/author, not an online business whiz. I can’t even figure out how YouTube makes money, let alone how to re-imagine online poker in the post-SAFE environment.

But if you think you’ve got the answer, I’d be happy to come on board as a consultant.

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