Monday, January 22, 2007

The sky, it's a falling


Effective Immediately

Due to recent US legislative changes and events, effective immediately, US members are no longer able to transfer funds to or from any online gambling sites.

All US members will continue to be able to use their NETELLER e-wallet account to safely transfer funds to and from non-gambling merchants and are not required to close their account or withdraw their funds.

I received several e-mails from many of the online casinos I played at last summer, plus e-mail from FullTilt[1] and PokerStars. In short, without sending a check or money order, it's going to be difficult to get money into our out of online gambling sites.

Wil Wheaton comments at thusly at CardSquad: this is the beginning of the end:

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

Wil refers to Bill Rini's article, in which Bill accurately points out that the sky is indeed falling:

The problem is, IMHO, people like Amy who tell people that the sky isn’t falling. It gives credit to those saying this is some sort of isolated incident. Just like Firepay[2] was an isolated incident, Party[3] leaving the US was an isolated incident, Paradise[4] leaving the US was an isolated incident, yadda, yadda, yadda. People need to wake up and realize the US government has come to the playing field with their A-Game. We’re bumbling around arguing about whether there’s even a game today or not. The sky IS falling! How can you watch these multi-billion dollar a year companies bolting out of the US faster than you move your hand off a hot stove and think this is something that’s going to easily pass?

If you have even one iota of knowledge about how money moves around in this business the goals of the UIGEA[5] should have sent cold shivers down your spine. The guys who wrote the bill either by design or by complete fluke figured out how to best kill an online poker company; starve it to death.

What's going to happen? Well, for me, I've got about $150 sitting in PokerStars, and a few bucks either at FullTilt or BoDog. Those few bucks will need to grow to at least $50 to make a permissible withdrawl. The $150 will have to be the basis for my entire future play, which will need to be pretty much exclusively at PokerStars, unless I want to go through the multi-week process of getting a withdrawl, cashing the check, and writing a new check to another source. (Western Union fees make using them prohibitive.)

Assuming everyone's in a similar spot, the way I see it playing out is like this: very few new players will be sending checks to put money into their accounts. It's too time consuming, and most casual players probably made their first deposit on a whim. This means that, for the most part, the only money in play will be money that people had in their accounts on January 18.

Generally, the weakest players will lose their bankrolls first. Few new players will sign up to take their spots. PokerStars, who has had 40,000-80,000 players at a time each evening, will see these numbers drop as the better players take the money from the fish. As the numbers drop, the caliber of the average player increases. The medium sized fish, who have eaten all the small fish, become the small fish. I'm guessing that I'm one of these medium sized fish.

A smart fish (I'm an example of this, I hope) will play until they're in the lower half of the skill level of the remaining players. The smart thing to do is to play until this point, then withdraw all funds. The tough part is determining what this point is. Maybe I'm already there. At that point, the pool of players gets smaller and smaller, until it's a small handful of very good US players, and middle-to-good players from outside the US.

At least I can drive a mile and visit a local B&M casino. This has to really suck for people who live in places like Dallas or Salt Lake City, where the nearest card room is several hours away (or available in the warehouse district only if you use the secret knock and password).


[1] From an e-mail from FullTilt: "As you may be aware, NETeller has announced that it will no longer accept transfer requests from U.S. customers to online poker sites or allow withdrawals from online poker sites to your NETeller account, effective immediately."

[2] Firepay was an online payment processor, like Neteller and PayPal. PayPal pulled out of the online gambling market a couple years ago, when they were getting dinged with too many chargebacks.

[3], [4] PartyPoker and Paradise pulled out in October, with a slew of other sites.

[5] The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This is the party of smaller government?

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