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When Government Gets Into Our Online Lives

Posted by on Apr 19, 2011

As many of you know, I love playing poker. I love going to the casino when I can and I love playing online as well at Pokerstars. One of the best things about playing online was that I didn’t have to have any money to play, and if I played well I could actually earn real money, which I did if you remember the post where I compared blogging to poker.

Recently I won my way into what’s called a satellite tournament which gave me another nice opportunity to win money, and relatively big money. It wasn’t scheduled to start until May, which shows you how big a deal it is because smaller tournaments start pretty much days after you win your way into one. However, I’m not going to get a chance to play now.

That’s because the U.S. government, via the FBI, did a major raid last week and basically froze the accounts of 3 major online poker sites, as well as confiscated their domain names. Immediately afterwards the site I play at banned all U.S. players from participating in anything that could earn them real money. In essence, even if they were free games that gave you a shot at earning money but you weren’t going to earn any money at that time, they banned you from those games as well, which kind of makes sense since we’re not allowed to earn money from them, but it’s irksome.

Frankly, I’m not saying the government was wrong in this big bust they did because these companies found a way around U.S. laws in tricking credit card companies to process payments geared towards getting around the law. What I’m mad at is that the law was passed in the first place.

In essence, the law was attached as a rider to a bigger law in 2006 that was to help protect our borders at waterways. Since we’re still conscious of terrorism at all ports (except at Mexican borders, but I digress) there wasn’t a politician that wanted to be seen as not voting for this bill. This is how government works in this country unfortunately; things get added to good bills all the time that make no sense and aren’t fair, and then it’s left up to someone to make a major decision as to what’s more important at the time.

I think this all stinks, yet it shows that the U.S. government isn’t all that far removed from other governments we heard about over the past few months that have tried to stifle the internet so that “rebels” could tell the world what was going on in countries such as Egypt, Yemen, China and Iran. Many people said at the time that the U.S. could never do such a thing and wouldn’t even try doing something like that; it hadn’t occurred to me at the time that they already had, just in a small dose.

So, until this law is changed, it looks like I won’t be playing poker online anymore. I never paid for any of it, but that’s not the point. With the government confiscating their domain name it pretty much emasculates much of the online game in all ways. And it’s not that I didn’t play some games that were totally free for “play money”; one would think I’d still enjoy that.

But not having the option to take a chance, to see what I’m made of in competing for actual money… something about that has sapped the steam out of my wanting to play online right now. There’s an action committee that’s being spearheaded by a former senator, oddly enough someone who probably would have voted for the bill when he was a senator because it would have made his particular constituency happy. It’s so funny that Republicans say they want to leave people alone and get government out of our hair, and in this case they decided to make the government the ultimate police in protecting those poor souls that had no control over themselves and spent themselves bankrupt.

Yeah, I’m irked; it stinks. And this type of thing should have us all looking over our shoulders; what will the government take away from us next?

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9 Comments »

Jessica Sieghart:

As an avid online poker player myself, I think it’s ridiculous. I can go to the racetrack and bet on horses or spend my paycheck on lottery tickets (which requires no skill or thought whatsoever) and that’s ok, but I can’t decide for myself if I want to spend $5.00 on a game of poker? Four years ago, I put $50 on my Full Tilt account and I’ve been playing off my winnings from that ever since. Never cashed out and it’s up and down because I only play for low buy-in tournaments, anyway. I dont like the free Games because when theres nothing to lose, theres a lot of crazy, erratic play. Regardless, its a game. I don’t mean to sound coldhearted but if people can’t control themselves, that’s their problem. I’d bet (haha) that the vast majority of players are not gambling addicts.

April 19th, 2011 | 8:49 PM

I remember seeing that article about the online poker. I can understand why so many people are so irritated by it, too. The sneaky piggybacking of small bills on the backs of larger bills should be illegal.

I’m not so sure it isn’t. Wasn’t there talk of just that sort of controversy a few years ago?

Delena

April 20th, 2011 | 5:05 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Delena, it’s been that way for decades. It’s the art of negotiating, and how there’s always this talk about politicians building “pork” into bills for their home districts. Earlier this year there was something I believe one of the Republican congressmen tried to build into a bill for his own district and was embarrassed when the Tea Party folks complained about it and had to take it back out. But it’s not illegal, unfortunately.

April 20th, 2011 | 11:24 AM

Mitch,

I know FIRST-HAND that the IT government security people are into many aspects of our lives. The information I’ve been given is frightening. You know those spy conventions they have every year in Vegas I think? Well, FBI folks disguise themselves to “snoop” into what’s out there and what people are up to.

Someone you and I know well uses his job to keep people from hacking into government systems so you know the opposite must also be true.

April 22nd, 2011 | 12:11 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Oh yeah, Bev, I don’t doubt it one bit. I don’t doubt that the government is using some sort of system to monitor all transmissions for certain types of words and conversations, even though it’s illegal to do so.

April 22nd, 2011 | 1:09 PM

Hi Mitch,

Like you, I’m avid poker player. I enjoy playing live much more than online. Unfortunately, we don’t have any legal poker room close by here in Texas .. so I also play online. I did have a few bucks in my PokerStars account, but not enough to get stressed over. I know plenty of people who did have enough in their account to be worried though. In the end, I think they’ll get their money back. And ironically, I also think that this raid was really the first (and probably a necessary) step to getting a bill passed that fully legitimizes online poker in the future. It may be another year or two, but eventually we’ll be able to play again … and without having to worry about how many hoops we might have to jump through to withdraw our winnings.

April 22nd, 2011 | 4:08 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Todd, supposedly folks with money there will have their accounts unfrozen, although I’m not quite sure what that means. I also like playing live better, but at 11PM in the evening and wanting to play last minute, online is great. lol I hope they change this bill and soon.

April 22nd, 2011 | 6:37 PM

Can’t non-US players continue to play on the sites? Or is down for the world?

April 25th, 2011 | 10:31 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Ari, they can play if they either have already downloaded the software or signed up on one of the non-dotcom sites. And they can all still play for money; only those of us in the U.S. can’t do that. They’ve even removed all the commercials for poker over here.

April 25th, 2011 | 10:54 AM