Saturday, February 28, 2015

RAWA’s Problem with Problem Gambling

There are problem gamblers here.
The rationale for Sheldon Adelson’s push to “Restore America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) seems threefold.  We’ve hammered away at two aspects – the threat to families because children can access gambling sites and ruin Mom and Dad, and the threat of terrorists using the sites to launder money.  But a third – the fact that these sites “prey on the vulnerable” and lead to increases in “problem gambling” – gets less attention.

One reason could be that problem gambling is seen as a real problem by both sides of this issue.  Anti-gambling forces are always horrified to think about gambling addiction and the potential harm it can cause.  Those in the gaming industry also see problem gaming as a big issue, and many do participate in programs designed to assist curb many of the abuses of problem gambling.

But RAWA’s argument than online sites “prey on the vulnerable” and by eliminating online gaming in the US we can curb “problem gambling” is absurd.  And the building you see above is proof.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, let’s discuss how online sites “prey on the vulnerable.”

This is a term CSIG and Adelson’s minions have never defined.  What do they mean, “prey on the vulnerable?” How, exactly?  Just by being online?  Because they advertise?  Do they specifically call out, “Hey, you, Mr. Vulnerable – how about a turn at the roulette wheel?”  These same arguments about preying on the less fortunate or the vulnerable (or some other euphemistic word for “poor”) are always vetted when states consider adding lotteries, as if certain people should be told how to spend their money (seriously, would we tell someone not to buy a type of car or phone or sausage?).  Are they saying the poor shouldn’t be allowed to try to be rich, or at the very least, try to get some more money with their money?  Ah, if they won they’d just waste it on food and clothing.

And when was the last time you heard an online site suggest that a player take out a reverse mortgage so they could continue to play?  Ridiculous?  Pat Robertson, that paragon of fundamentalist virtue, made such a suggestion, and no one called him out for “preying.”

So if we get rid of online gambling, do we rid ourselves of the problem of problem gambling? 

Hardly.  Which brings us to the building pictured above. 

Every Monday from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, Gamblers Anonymous holds an open meeting in room N003 in the building above, in what is referred to as the “north building.”  Of the County Building. 

In Salt Lake City. 


Utah, where NO form of gambling is legal (and, in fact, gambling is a Class B misdemeanor, unless it’s via the Internet, and then it’s Class A).  Yes, people gamble there (and make the two hour drive to casinos in Wendover, NV, and drive up to Idaho to buy lottery tickets).  People always find ways to gamble if they really want to. 

Changing the law does not necessarily create different patterns of behavior.  See: 18th and 21st Amendments to U.S. Constitution.

BTW, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, champion of the House version (HR 707) of RAWA, represents the 3rd District of Utah.  Perhaps he should meet with the good folks at the GA meeting next Monday and ask them how making something illegal works for them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Opposition to RAWA – We Are Not Alone

Colorful, fun to play, and online
It’s easy to get all wrapped up in the battle against Sheldon Adelson, his Coalition, and his Congressional minions, and think it’s just about poker.  Certainly, for many reading this post, it’s ALL about poker.  It’s certainly the most visible aspect of the battle – UIGEA and Black Friday were specifically directed at closing down the Internet Poker industry here in the US.

But the movement to re-grab the Internet for GAMBLING came from the Lotteries, not poker.  The Department of Justice’s December, 2011 decision was in response to running online lotteries.  The New York Times summed it up as such:

The legal opinion…came in response to requests by New York and Illinois to clarify whether the Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits wagering over telecommunications systems that cross state or national borders, prevented those states from using the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within their own borders.  Although the opinion dealt specifically with lottery tickets, it opened the door for states to allow Internet poker and other forms of online betting that do not involve sports.

So while we in the poker community fume and fuss and Tweet and write letters and contact our Congresspersons and such, how are the state’s with online Lotteries looking at the potential for a “Restoration of America’s Wire Act?”

They’re equally pissed.

I contacted ten different state Lotteries to see what their position on RAWA was – some, like Michigan and Illinois have active online lotto activity; some, like Ohio and West Virginia, are contemplating it and/or actively pursuing it.

As you might imagine, they see this like we do – as a direct threat and as infringement on state’s rights.  Jeffrey Holyfield, Director of Public Relations for the Michigan Lottery, summed it up nicely:

The Michigan Lottery is opposed to that legislation. If it becomes law, this legislation would halt the Michigan Lottery’s successful sale of online games, which were offered to players beginning last year.  Those games are expected to increase significantly the Lottery’s contributions to the state School Aid Fund.  The Lottery estimates the online games will allow it to provide an additional $480 million over the next eight years to support public education in Michigan. More than 73 percent of adults in Michigan already play lottery games and the latest research finds 33 percent of players want to do so online.  In fact, more than 100,000 players already have registered to play the Michigan Lottery’s online games.

Last year, David Gale, Executive Director of NASPL (North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries), fired off a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham about RAWA. You can read the letter here, but the key ‘graph is this (italics are mine):

Our Association believes, and is on record, that all gaming should be left up to the individual states to determine the games that are offered, as well as the manner in which they are being delivered to their customers. This is, and has always been, a state’s right to make these decisions as they relate to gaming within its respective borders.

Also, Tom Tulloch, Director of Administration for NASPL, wrote back to me assuring that their feelings on this issue were “…basically identical.”  ‘nuff said.

Granted, not everyone “gets it.”  The folks at Massachusetts Lottery might not realize the bill’s impact, as they told me:

The Massachusetts State Lottery has no formal position on HR 707.  
Playing poker, online or otherwise, is illegal in the state, so the Mass State Lottery has never had any authority or regulation concerning poker.

Yes, I did write back to them clueing them in (there was talk in 2012 about Mass State Lotto going online).  No word back yet. 

My point is this – if you are a Senator or Congressperson from a state that has online gaming, either the three with poker/casino, or the many who HAVE online lottery games/sales or are contemplating it – how “excited” will you be to voice support of RAWA knowing that it hurts your home state’s revenue stream?

Yes, some (Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, for example) will seek a “carve-out” for state lotteries, but ask yourself – what makes a state lottery any safer and less attractive to children and/or terrorists than an online poker site?  Well, yeah.  If Michigan Lotto has already signed up 100,000 players, think how many might sign a petition against RAWA.  Or vote against a legislator that made it happen.

We’re not alone in this, and we need to join forces with those states who see the Internet as a useful tool in promoting ALL kinds of gambling (I think it’s the wave of the future).

Monday, February 23, 2015

RAWA and Lies and Social Gaming - Sheldon's Flank Attack?

Yes, there's even MORE of What’s Really Wrong with RAWA.  This is another serious post, and the reason I didn’t add any of what you are about to read is because I did not want to cloud the issue.  Reminder: the “debate” about RAWA (the Restore America’s Wire Act) can be boiled down to a simple three-step process:

  1. Adelson and the CSIG have trumped up problems like “money-laundering terrorists” and “kids who steal their parent’s credit cards and play online” as if these problems currently exist in the LEGAL and REGULATED USA online gambling world (the three states with poker/casinos, and the states with online lottery games).
  2. These problems are so awful and dangerous that the ONLY solution is to shut ALL (well, almost all) online gambling down – for good.
  3. The proposed solution, RAWA, doesn’t fix either problem (and remember, we’re assuming these problems do exist).
One thing I did not mention is the outright deception as to how RAWA is being peddled to the public.  I’ve documented plenty of issues with their website and FaceBook page as to how they confuse Internet Sweepstakes cafes and off-shore sites with the US scene, making it seem like it’s all the same – nefarious, dangerous, and ripe for crime and punishment.  But the real deception is how they push the RAWA bill (what follows is from their own website):

Congress should step in now and restore the policy banning Internet gambling to give Congress and the public time to fully examine and consider such issues as the potential for money laundering, terrorism financing, fraud and other criminal activity, participation by minors, exploitation of individuals with a gaming addiction and the impact on jobs and economic activity.

Sound great, except:
  1. There is no timeline in the bill – it ends online gambling, period.
  2. There is no “call to study” in the bill – it ends online gambling without a second glance.
  3. If Congress was to study online gambling, it would help if online gambling was actually in process – ending it leaves no chance to study it.
  4. Again, “all” online gambling is not banned, as the bill has “carve outs” for Horse Racing and Daily Fantasy Sports betting.  And NOWHERE is anyone considering examining Horse Racing and DFS for “potential for money laundering, terrorism financing, fraud and other criminal activity, participation by minors, etc.
To repeat from my earlier post, RAWA only does one thing:  It shuts down current LEGAL and REGULATED U.S. sites – poker, casino, and lotteries.  It would strike a blow to those companies who have invested in online gaming technology (hint: Adelson’s competition). 

Keep that in mind for a minute more…as there has been some speculation that RAWA might also “take a peek” at Social Gaming.  While I think they want to ban social gaming as much as I think they’ll hold a fair hearing next week, this does warrant a bit of speculation here.

There are many non-gaming companies involved with social gaming like Yahoo and Zynga (who actually now DOES do for-real-money gambling in the U.K.), and many U.S. firms use their social gaming sites to enhance their customer relationships and affinity with players (not to mention that it can make money – almost $3 Billion total).  IGT has DoubleDown; MGM and Stations are tied into MyVegas; Caesar’s has Caesar’s Casino on Facebook plus Slotomania and Bingo Blitz; several smaller casinos (including Native American casinos here in Oregon) have social gaming sites of their own with free play; and at the Michigan Lottery you can play free demo versions of their for-real-money games (and they are fun – any kid would love ‘em). 

In fact, there’s only ONE major casino company absent from this arena.  Guess who?  C’mon, guess.

Could this be Adelson’s flank attack?  Cripple his competitors in TWO ways?

ONE MORE TIME:  CSIG has established scary-sounding problems that don’t exist, and even if they did, RAWA does NOTHING to solve them.  The sole purpose of this group and this act is to curb competition, perhaps in a variety of ways.  It's “Crony Capitalism” at its utmost worst.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What’s Really Wrong with RAWA

This is a serious post.  No jokes.  No comic pictures.  Granted, I was doing something frivolous this weekend when it hit me, but…I am serious.  We’ve been going at this all wrong, opposing Sheldon Adelson and his bought-and-paid-for Congressional minions and their Restore America’s Wire Act and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

We’ve been saying that their arguments are false, when, in fact, even if they were true, what they propose to do about it misses the mark.

Let me explain.

The two biggest arguments from the CSIG camp as reasons to ban online gaming are kids and terrorists.  They say: “Kids with a cellphone can get their parents’ charge cards and go crazy and lose everything.”  We say: “There are safeguards to prevent this.”  They say: “Terrorists can go online and use poker sites to launder money and conduct other nefarious criminal activity.”  We say: “There are safeguards to prevent this.”  We could also say: “This would be stupid, as currently, to play in New Jersey you have to actually be in the state of New Jersey, and how many terrorists wish to chance that?”  Of course, this leaves out domestic terrorists, but we all know how much our leaders give a rat’s ass about that.

Anyway, we go back and forth, and, for now, I want to propose a thought experiment. 

Let’s assume they’re right.

Yes, for the purpose of this demo, assume they’re correct.  Kids CAN get hold of Dad’s cellphone and Mom’s Visa and play roulette and blackjack and 7-card-stud and click on the mouse and…you know the rest.  And yes, Osama has taught his troops to play PLO and Badugi and they’ve got accounts set up to play 100-200 limit and that’s how they plan to fund their next wave of attacks.

And, more important, we assume that these problems are serious enough to shut down an entire US online industry.

So they’re right.  And it’s serious.

So the question is this – does the “Restore America’s Wire Act” solve these issues?

NO.  Not on a bet.

RAWA does NOTHING but shut down gaming sites in the U.S.  Poker and casino sites in NJ, NV, and DE, plus online lottery sales in those states offering such (MI, GA, MN, IL, plus more to come soon) would all be knocked off…but the problems of terrorists laundering money through gambling sites and kids stealing credit cards to “gamble” would still remain.

If terrorists felt the need to set up accounts to launder cash via the digital felt, there are more than a thousand sites to choose from, all around the world.  Seriously – three states in the US shut down, and suddenly we’re safe?  Get real.

And if kids are “smart enough” to steal Dad’s phone and Mom’s charge cards and get online now, how much extra effort would it take to imaging the little tykes going the extra step and accessing one of those thousand sites elsewhere?  And what stops them from going to one of the Daily Fantasy Sports sites or DerbyJackpot or XpressBet or one of the other Horse Racing sites? 

Certainly not RAWA.

No, RAWA is one of the biggest “mis-directions” in the history of our great country.  By crowing about a problem that doesn’t exist, and then proposing a solution that doesn’t fix a problem that doesn’t exist, RAWA only does one thing:  It shuts down current LEGAL and REGULATED U.S. sites – poker, casino, and lotteries.  This would cause the very budget deficits that CSIG currently spends time pissing-and-moaning about.  It would also strike a blow to those companies who have invested in online gaming technology (hint: Adelson’s competition).

To repeat:  Sheldon Adelson and CSIG have established scary-sounding problems that don’t exist, and has suggested that it’s worth killing all US Internet gambling activity to “solve” these problems.

And then, their proposed solution, RAWA, does NOTHING to solve these issues.

That’s why RAWA is so very wrong.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jason Holds a Hearing

Make no mistake, I have no pretensions that the “new and improved” (same old) RAWA as introduced by Rep Jason Chaffetz will go the standard way of “how a bill becomes law.”  I figure the best chance for HR 707 to become a reality is to take the UIGEA-back door route, attached in secret (or attempted, at least) to a must-pass bill in the dead of night.  That’s iffy (we’re all watching now), so at the very least there may be some pretense of a legislative “process” with a hearing, recommendation, etc. 

Of course, I expect THAT act to be a sham.  Despite Chaffetz’s threats that he could call a hearing to discuss how children are targeted and perhaps issue subpoenas, I expect a dog-and-pony-show type of event.  Scripted by you-know-who. 

Something like this…

On the fifth day of March, in the “D” of the “C,”
In the heat of the day, did RAWA come to be.
He was pounding his gavel in front of the boys,
When Chaffetz the Congressman heard a small noise.
So he stopped with the gavel and stopped being loud.
“And now,” said Jason.  “Here’s Andy Abboud.”

Andy spoke with a passion, his voice rather meek.
“There’s children to think of, it’s gambling they seek.
“This online stuff is like garbage a stinkin’,
“If you don’t believe me, go ask Blanche Lincoln.”

And Lincoln stood up, as she wiped back a tear.
“I have two small boys, who I love very dear.
“We can’t allow gambling to be on their phones.
“I have a busy schedule, and they’re all alone.
“I could be a parent, and lay down the law.
“But they might think me evil, and that’s the last straw.
“I’d rather the governments do all this for me,
“And go back to Arkansas where the Waltons ignore me.”

“Here, here,” said the committee, their voices as one.
“We know families suffer, so let’s call in some.”
“Not now,” said Chaffetz, “There’s no time to ramble.
“We want to know all about how terrorists gamble.”

And with than George Pataki took to the table.
And said, “With this letter, I hope I am able
“To show how the terrorists launder their money
“Through online casinos like bees around honey.”
“They play only Pot-Limit Omaha tourneys
“To give all their ill-gotten money a journey.
“Through smooth calls and all-ins, they never make errors
“And that’s why their poker play gives me the terrors.”
 “Huzzah!” the committee cried, “We must defeat ISIS.”
“This online casino stuff is really a crisis!”

“Just wait,” cautioned Jason, “It only gets worse.
“Here’s Willie and Wellington to tell us the curse
“Of the freemium games that our kids play so bolden.”
“And then they slide over to play Texas Hold ‘em.”
“That’s right” said the duo of Welly and Willie.
“These games look like fun, and some are quite silly.
“But they’re dangerous horrible threatening games
“Because they have bright colors and colorful names.
“Like Candy Crush Fever and Farmville Eleven
“Zombie Dash, Bingomania, and Trivia Heaven.”
The duo got solemn.  “And are you aware
“They even use characters like Paddington Bear?”

“Not Paddington, please!” The committee showed fright
At the thought that a game would make kids not just right
But gamblers and degenerates, plying their vices
On iPhones and tablets and other devices.

“I told you,” a voice cried into the masses.
“You must pass this bill – now get off of your asses.”
The committee turned ‘round, and who should they see,
But Sheldon G. Adelson, as mean as could be.
“I’ll spend what it takes to get gambling erased
“From the Interweb…Cloud…whatever you call that in space.”
The committee sat stunned. “Who knows more than me
“About gambling, that is.  I’m the richest, you see,
“So that means that I get what I want – that’s the way
“That America works now.  So vote and I’ll pay.”

And off the men rushed, to head out the door.
And vote for the RAWA upon the House floor.
But one soul remained, “But wait, I for one
“Would like to know how it’s actually done.”

It was Tulsi Gabbard, the lone woman there.
“I know you’re convinced, but the evidence is bare.”
“A kid playing slots, and all just because
“Of the scarecrow and tin-man from Wizard of Oz?
“And terrorists trying to launder their money
“By playing Badugi?  To me, that’s just funny.
“We’ve not heard from experts, the states where it’s on.
“New Jersey and Delaware.  Is this a big con?”
She grew more indignant. “And where are the tech guys?
“The one who would know how to stop terrorist spies.
“And keep kids from accessing Dad’ digital cash.
“There’s none of those folks talking here in this trash
“Of a hearing.  What kind of a joke is all this?”
At that Sheldon got up to go take a … break.

“And what about online state lotteries?  How
“Will they continue now that you’ve killed their cash cow?”
“And what about Horse Racing and the DFS stew?
“Can’t kids and the terrorists try these games, too?

And Jason saw Adelson back in the room.
And he started to speak with a voice filled with gloom.
“Graham says he won’t run anymore, so that’s that.”
Sheldon spoke, “And I guess I will throw down my hat
“And admit that the Internet is here to stay
“And it’s safe – so let’s let all the USA play!”


At that, Jason woke from his afternoon nap.
It was all because someone yelled loudly, “Oh, snap.”
And he looked all around – who was this loud joker?
It was Senator McCain, on his phone, playing poker.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fifty Shades of Greed

There are some who say that money and politics have always been a thing, that it’s always been this way, where politicians take the side of the highest bidder.  To be sure, there always HAS been some cases where the idea of legislation that actually benefits the populace and allows the nation to grow is sidetracked for “favors” to a donor where the end result is suspect.  But certainly in this century, money talks much louder than ever, and, in the wake of the Citizen’s United decision in 2010, the gloves seem to be off (better to reach into one’s wallet, I guess).

Some folks have noticed.  On the left, liberal websites like Daily Kos decry the Koch Brothers attempts to buy a pipeline, at $250K per vote.  On the right, sites like Gateway Pundit call out George Soros and various labor unions.  Stephen Colbert even tried to start a PAC (for humor value or was it the real deal – who knows for sure).

Noticeably one name was absent from much of the hoopla.  Can you guess who?

I’m not the only person who noticed this.  Mike Qualley, PPA’s Minnesota State Director, has picked up this thread before.  I got a note from him that said, “Day after day I see post after post, articles and news stories blasting the Koch brothers for their tactics. Now, I'm not saying that I agree with what the Kochs are doing, I don't! However, they are not the only billionaires pulling stunts to try and run our lives. Yes, you guessed it – I'm talking about none other than Sheldon G. Adelson!”

I remembered back before he turned completely turncoat, when Senator Harry Reid, (who is no stranger to the “Damn the Koch Brothers” parade), went so far as to say, “Leave my good buddy, Sheldon Adelson, alooooooooone!”  Many times grassroots groups will talk about a movement to overturn Citizen’s United, or call for removing money’s influence on the political process, but they never discuss one of the richest men in the world and his “Personal Presidential Primaries.”

But what to do?

Qualley has an idea: “When we see a post on Facebook or Twitter about the Koch brothers, let's all take the time to place a comment to remind whatever group or news source that is posting the article, as to what kind of underhanded shenanigans that Sheldon G. Adelson is pulling to try and get his bill to ban Internet poker passed in Congress.  Somehow the media and pundits from both sides of the aisle are afraid of Adelson, I have no idea why, but they are.  We need to make light of what he is doing to further discredit him in this fight.”

I concur – the more times we can remind everyone – left and right – that Adelson is trying to buy laws like you and I would buy bananas, the more likely folks will get on board.  It’s shameless “Crony Capitalism” – some have written about it (here, here, and here), but the MSM (and damn Harry Reid) need to be more aware (OK, the Washington Post got it – once).  And frankly, I would appreciate it if more of my lefty friends and politicos would slam the slimy bastard (Adelson, for those who may have missed this).

And, as always, we must remain vigilant.  It’s headed for a showdown, and we need all the ammo we can muster.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

RAWA Hearing Prop Bets

What kind of politician uses pink Post-It tabs, anyway?
I wanted to set the lines now before the hearings began.  What hearings?  Oh, haven’t you heard - they’ve brought back RAWA (technically Restore America’s Wire Act, but in reality Really Awful Whiny Adelson).  Reprehensive Jason Chaffetz (I swear I meant to type Representative - damn you autocorrect) has made his move, with Lindsey Graham set to offer similar bull (a SIMILAR BILL, dammit) in the Senate.  At a presser yesterday, Chaffetz said that he might call a hearing,
“…specifically on how the online gaming industry has started to target children…We have not suggested we would issue a subpoena or anything yet…That is always a tool in our bag we could pull out at any time. It is an issue that is very important, very pervasive.”

Now you and I know that a full public (and proper) hearing would be the very last thing Sheldon Adelson would want to see for his pet project.  After all, facts might emerge.  That would certainly discourage the bill’s passage (unless Uncle Shelly brought an extra checkbook).  But they still might have a hearing.  A slanted, biased, packed-to-one-side type of hearing.  Y’know, the kind Congress is famous for (like hearings on women’s health that neglect to include women).

I considering making this a drinking game, like “take a drink every time someone says, ‘think of the children,’” but alcoholism is a serious problem.  So, I figured that actually betting on the outcome of specific events would be dryer and more appropriate.  So here we go:

Prop Bets/Odds:
2 to 1
Mention of New Jersey online gaming market’s failure to meet ridiculous projections (though the word “ridiculous” won’t be).
12 to 1
Mention of Nevada online gaming market’s success.
6 to 1
Confusion of Zynga Poker with a real money gaming site.
5 to 1
Actual appearance of Andy Abboud.
7 to 1
Actual appearance of Cheri Jacobus.
Actual appearance of Sheldon Adelson.
3 to 1
Mention of “hacks” and online scams of computing systems in Europe and Asia.
10 to 1
Mention of successful, secure, and safe European online gambling sites.
99 to 1
Mention of successful, secure, and safe American online gambling sites (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware for those unaware - like Chaffetz, who said, “This is the Wild Wild West…There are no rules, no prohibitions, no structure, no oversight, nothing.”)
85 to 1
Mention of “hacks” of Sands Corporation systems last year.
4 to 1
Mention of “raid” of Amaya offices in December, 2014.
40 to 1
Mention of increase in value of Amaya stock since December, 2014.
5 to 1
Citing of old 2009 FBI letter “warning” of “potential” of online gaming (and a billion other things) to be involved with money laundering.

Over/Under (even money bets):
Number of cell phones whipped out, with holder exclaiming, “This could be a casino.”
Number of times someone mentions, “Smart 14-year olds.”
Number of times Senator McCain is caught playing poker while hearing in session.
Number of individuals with any technical expertise on the Internet or computers not named “Thackson” called to testify.
Number of co-chair members of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling called to testify (there are four in all).
Number of members of any online gaming company called to testify.
Mispronunciations of “Antigua.
Number of dollars, in millions, Adelson will use to payoff fund various committee members’ future political campaigns.

Grab some popcorn.  Get your money down NOW.  And notify your Congressional Representatives and Senators to stop this nonsense ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Bet on it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Poker Abstinence is Hell

Seriously - this is a real deck of cards you can buy.  But why?
Almost anyone who considers themselves an avid poker fan, especially the derivative known as “online poker,” recognizes that April 13, 2011 is the day when the Department of Justice cracked down on the alleged crimes of the major offshore operators like PokerStars and Full-Tilt.  This so-called “Black Friday” is when online action ended for players based here in the USA.

Except it didn’t.

It took a little while…but very soon after, poker sites that were not crushed by the DOJ’s ruling began to court American players.  And when the DOJ reversed itself later than year, more sites like America’s Cardroom, Bovada, Carbon, Full Flush, Lock, and plenty of others.  Soon, players were back at it, although not as wild and crazy as before (especially those who had funds tied up at Absolute and FT).  UIEGA put an end to SOME American online gambling, but not all, as it continued, and still does, though it’s a much smaller deal.

My last poker game for cash was a few days earlier than Black Friday.  It was a 5-table Sit ‘n’ Go at PokerStars on April 9th, where I lasted all of 15 minutes, busted when I shoved a set against a nit who was hoping for a straight…and he got there.  This continued a string of 15 straight multi-table micros where I failed to cash.  Truth is, ice cream season had started* and I was only playing late at night to fill some time while the work laundry was in the dryer.  It had been this way (killing time and ice cream season) for the last 6 weeks.  I had been testing a few new playing modes, with not a lot of success, and made a mental note to test a few more before giving up serious poker for the summer’s season, and then getting back into it with renewed vigor in the fall when the store was closed.

I never got the chance.

I stopped playing for a while, and then, when the last (and best) DOJ ruling came down in December 2011, I loaded up some of the above-named software.  But never got around to depositing.  I heard about some issues at some sites, and just figured I would wait until Harry Reid and Joe Barton and Congress got around to finally legalizing online poker like we used to play.

I never got the chance.

Inactivity was the word for a couple of years (I think it’s the actual motto of Congress now), and then, when all hope seemed lost, New Jersey and Nevada (and then Delaware) took matters into state hands and there was hope that this movement would spread, and then once again I could play safe, legal, regulated poker online.

And then, Sheldon Adelson.

You know where we are now.  The battle continues, and now, with the reintroduction of a new (yet same old) RAWA by Jason Chaffetz (R-on-the-Adelson-take) with a soon-to-be-companion bill from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Wimp), even the meager legal online action that exists, plus any expansion, is at risk.  There are plenty of former online poker players who are up in arms, and fighting for their right to play poker.

There are also plenty of former online poker players who are…playing poker.  Online.

Now some of them are also up in arms and fighting for their right to play poker.  I realize that for some poker is a way of life and a business, and you gotta go and do what you must.  I’ve never been one to tell others what they can and can’t do (I leave that to the politicians), and many of them are very vocal when it comes to the fight for online poker.  In fact, they are an asset where they are, because they constantly talk it up when they play to others who are not aware (or just don’t care).  For those in the latter group, there are no issues with online poker, because…hey, THEY’RE ALREADY PLAYING!

Sure, there are times when depositing is tough, and getting withdrawals are tougher (or impossible – we’re looking at YOU, Lock Poker), and system failures and DDOS and times when you can’t log in or a tournament gets interrupted.  But hey, it’s like the old Canada Bill Jones story, about being told that a Faro game he was playing was crooked. “Yeah, but it's the only game in town!"  As long as online poker players can play online poker, they will continue to be less-than-enthusiastic (apathetic, lazy, and don’t give a shit) about joining the fight for legal, safe, regulated online USA poker.

I am very pleased that many of my poker friends do a great job in “converting” the unwilling and/or ignorant masses.  We need every voice to shout in unison that Uncle Shelly’s shills are on the wrong track.  Prohibition is not the answer.  Regulation is.

And abstinence is still my game plan.  For now.  I understand the desire (and the need) to continue to play online.  I've still got FullFlush loaded on the laptop, and I play for fun on several sites (including PokerStars just to be nostalgic).  But I've been "poker celibate" for quite some time, and I think I will continue to be that way until I can play legally somewhere in the USA.

And I will continue to fight like a bastard to get legal, safe, regulated online poker again.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cutting the Cord

We did a Lorena Bobbitt on our subscription

I cannot think of a better day to announce this.  On a day when one-third of the country will be glued to one event on the television for 3-4 hours (depending on the competitiveness of the game, cuteness of the ads, and whether Katy Perry had a wardrobe malfunction), we proudly announce that we no longer have television.  As we once knew it, I mean.

We live at the end of the earth, 500 yards from the Pacific Ocean, and 90 miles from metro Portland, so “free TV” (via antenna) is not possible; hence, the need for cable.  We endured Charter for five years before switching to Dish.  Now, we have nothing, and aren’t sorry a bit.

A bit of backstory.

For a long time our television viewing habits have been adjusting, so much so that we hardly ever turn on the set.  The average American watches what – 5 hours or more per day, and as we age we’re supposed to watch more.  Despite this, we found little to turn the set on for.  Many of our 120 channels are shopping channels and religious, and many of the others have repeats of shows that we didn’t watch in the first place when they were on 10-20-30 (or more) years ago. 

We barely watch two shows a week, so…after much consideration, and despite the new season of Downton Abbey (one of the shows we watched with some regularity), we decided to cut the cord.  We figured we could entertain ourselves as we had been – DVDs, radio, newspapers (kids – ask your parents), and, of course, the internet, which is where we got most of our news and entertainment, anyway.  As I mentioned above, we had DISH, and unfortunately for us, we decided to cancel our subscription at the height of their feud with FOX NEWS about two weeks ago.  That’s when things went downhill, fast.

When I called to cancel, I told them we didn’t watch hardly ANY TV, so we didn’t see the value in shelling out $60 per month just to watch a couple of programs and the news.  They didn’t believe me.  They thought we wanted out because they no longer carried FOX NEWS.  They made me call a special number where I was put on hold for 11 minutes (after entering all of my account info via phone, beep-beep-boop-pe-be-beep-etc.).  I went through the clerk’s questions, pointedly telling her why we wanted to stop our subscription.  She asked me for all of the info I had already entered.  I complied.  And after…she said nothing.  Finally, after two minutes, she said, “Please wait a moment.”  We waited two minutes more.  Silence.  Finally, I asked, “What are we waiting for now?” 

She said, “                                                                        .”

Two more minutes.  She said, again, “Please wait a moment.”  We waited another two minutes in silence (I really think they hope you’ll hang up and not quit them).  She came back to tell me I qualified to get my subscription for about 60% LESS for the next 10 months if I stayed with them.  No, I said, I wish to discontinue.  Another minute.  She told me they could extend the discount for 18 months.  Still, no.

After another minute, she told me how to return my equipment and what it would cost (her tone went from stony to icy…if that’s possible).  After a grand total of 35 minutes, we were done.  And I mean DONE.  Except that, two weeks later, I have yet to receive the box in which I’m supposed to send the receiver and remote back to them (and get charged for the privilege).

I wasn’t pissed at DISH before I decided to end my subscription.  But I was now.

So eager to get me as a customer, but once I decide to end the relationship, I’m treated like this?  I’ve had college girlfriends who dumped me a lot nicer than this.  Early in the conservation I did ask the DISH clerk about potential re-connection if we changed our minds later, but after all this – no way. 

Next day, I got two emails imploring me to come back (and offering all those discounts).  Then two mailings in three days, and then another couple of emails.  “We want you back!  Save $$$ (same shitty programming, of course).”  By this time, they had restored their relationship with FOX NEWS (not that I cared), and they made certain that I knew this in all of their communication (speaking of shitty programming). 

And now I hear about “Sling TV,” a new service that streams specific programming to your computer or device.  Lots of sports and many channels that we actually thought had decent stuff.  It sounded good at $20 until I heard who was behind it – DISH.  Not gonna happen.

There is a revolution coming, and the way we entertain/inform ourselves will be dramatically different in the years to come.  For us, we can wait a while.