US Congress

New Reid-Kyl Online Poker Text Released, Bill’s Stink Remains

The latest version of the much-discussed Reid-Kyl online poker bill was leaked this weekend by several sources, with proponents of the bill again suggesting that the bill was a 50/50 proposition to pass during the 2012 post-election, lame-duck Congressional session.

While that scenario, largely served up by representatives of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is wildly optimistic, the bill itself is worth discussing.

This latest version of Reid-Kyl was first published within the poker world by Marco Valerio at Quadjacks, though it appeared on several other online sites at about the same time, including Politico.com, suggesting a coordinated leak of the bill’s contents.

One of the first people to offer an analysis was OnlinePokerReport’s Chris Grove, in a pair of guest pieces appearing at Quadjacks and pokerfuse, respectively.  Given the speed with which the two pieces appeared and Grove’s previous stance as a staunch backer of the PPA, it’s possible that Grove and the PPA are trying to get out in front of the topic and flood the poker world with favorable discussion of the bill’s specifics.

One great example of this comes from Grove’s pokerfuse piece, and I write this with a very open disclaimer: I write for the fuse myself, and consider it one of poker’s best news outlets.  That said, I’ve had prior differences of opinion with both the PPA and Grove on some of these same issues, and that’s unlikely to change.

Readers who are generally up on poker news know that a summary of an earlier version of Reid-Kyl was circulated a couple of months back.  That three-page summary included something that was anathema for online poker players: a clause that called for criminal penalties for players who chose to play on unlicensed, offshore sites.

Given the late 2011 legal opinion by US Attorney General Eric Holder that the playing of online poker by Americans has never been illegal, what this bill would have done in its original form was to criminalize players, and all under the guise of a bill which has been actively backed by the PPA.

Pretty easy to see why a lot of players were pissed.  This writer was among them.

This latest version of Reid-Kyl is a good news / bad news tale.  The good news?  The clause calling for criminal penalties against players has seemingly been removed.

The bad news?  Here’s how the bill’s Section 204 has been expanded (the new info is part “I”:

SEC. 204. BETTOR FORFEITURE

(H) Any property, real or personal, involved in a violation or
attempted violation, or which constitutes or is derived from proceeds
traceable to a violation, of section 2339C of this title.

(I) Any property, real or personal, involved in a transaction or
attempted transaction in violation of section 103 of the Internet
Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA
Act of 2012, or any property traceable to such property.”

The Section 2339C” tag refers to money laundering connected to terrorism, with the connection being that with this language in the bill, if the feds can identify player funds or transfers to and from sites, they can just call it terrorism-connected money laundering, seize the money, and not have to refund the players.

This is not quite as awful as online players facing prison time, but it’s only one step lessened.  It’s also terrible news for the hundreds of US high-stakes online grinders who moved to other countries after Black Friday, because by my read of this, 100% of their income could be seized upon their eventual return to the States.

Since this information was released, the PPA’s people have been busy posting on various forums and in story comments their unproven interpretations that the government is actually unlikely to go about seizing players’ bankrolls.  That might be true or might not, but it avoids answering the question of why this stuff is in Reid-Kyl in the first place.

And make no mistake about it.  The PPA desperately wants Reid-Kyl to pass, no matter what its form, as a means of justifying its own existence.

Now let’s hop back to Grove’s piece at pokerfuse, where some sleight of hand exists.  Here’s Grove, a writer who once Tweeted that he believed that playing online poker was illegal under US law (which is flat-out wrong), purportedly talking about the absence of those criminal penalties and why this bill is good:

Many read this to mean that any and all US player funds at unlicensed online poker sites would be under constant threat of seizure from the government.

Muny asserted that this language is now completely absent from the current bill draft. “It’s very clear and explicit that there are no criminal penalties for players,” Muny said. “They knew we would likely oppose a bill with player penalties and were willing to answer us on that.”

 

Instead, Muny explained, the bill draft contains language that simply prohibits players from seeking restitution from the federal government if the government seizes funds from unlicensed sites or associated payment processors.

The “Many read this to mean” wordage was hyperlinked to a discussion of the implications of the Section 204 player forfeiture language, which Grove then immediately ignores.  The funds forfeitures and the probably-removed criminal penalties from the earlier bill are two different, distinct things, and Grove is trying to pretend — or simply does not understand — that Muny’s quote is referring to the forfeitures and not the prison time, when the opposite is true.

That’s what we writerly types call a shuck; intentional or not, readers are being presented with false information.

It’s all just agenda-driven garbage by people who want Reid-Kyl to pass, when the truth is that even though it’s less awful than it was, it’s still a lousy bill.  Fortunately the PPA’s “50-50 chances” pimpage is also out of whack; various watchdog groups give Reid-Kyl’s immediate progenitor, the 2011, similarly titled Barton Bill, about a 10% chance at passage.  That’s still an active bill, and it’s hard to see how that one rates at 10% while this one, not even formally introduced, would check in as better than a coin flip.

Right now, the PPA is attempting to scare players into accepting the devil they know (meaning this version of Reid-Kyl), versus the devil they don’t.  That ought to be a red flag.

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