The Enemy of my Enemy is…How Does That Go Again?

Monday, November 10th, 2008, 6:17 pm

From Pokerati we learn that President Bush, not content with his Administration’s record-breaking level of suck, is working to finalize regulations that would allow the Treasury Department to enforce the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The press release that Dan quotes from says that the regulations, "will be finalized at the last minute before they can be stopped by the Obama Administration".

Now, that really doesn’t make sense. The Obama Administration doesn’t begin until the Bush Administration ends. There’s no overlap. George W. Bush is President until Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office on January 20th, at which point I and I’m sure many other Americans will crack open a bottle of the good stuff and toast our good fortune. Seriously, I’m getting faced that day.

But if President Bush wants to enact those regulations on January 19th, that’s his perogative. Just as it will be President Obama’s perogative to put forth what policies he sees fit on the 20th. And from what we’ve been hearing, the President-elect plans to move quickly to overturn a number of Bush’s policies, from closing Guantanamo Bay to removing the ban on federal funding of stem cell research.

So what does this have to do with the UIGEA and online poker? If these regulations are put into effect, they’ll be regulations proposed at the last second by a lame-duck President reviled by a goodly portion of the population. The theme of Barack Obama’s campaign was "Change". And what did he propose to change? The policies of President Bush and his ilk. Anything Bush does in the dying days of his Presidency will be looked at askance by an electorate that wishes him already gone. Anything Bush does from here on could become a de facto opportunity for Obama to give concrete examples that he can get things done in Washington.

Why would the Obama Administration care about repealing the UIGEA when there are so many pressing issues that need to be addressed? Because repealing the UIGEA won’t be about poker. It’ll be about…reducing unnecessary burdens on financial services companies. Hey, these banks are having enough trouble keeping their balance sheets above water–now we want them spying on their customers to make sure they aren’t playing cards online? Is this something that these banks–and the Treasury Department–should be worried about? Shouldn’t they be focused on keeping the financial crisis from getting worse? Shouldn’t they be looking for ways to grow their businesses and return to profitability, instead of micromanaging their customers’ spending?

The global financial meltdown made the tent bigger for people opposed to the UIGEA. Companies that were century-old institutions disappeared overnight. The American auto industry is in dire straits. Unemployment is rising and the federal deficit is up around ten trillion dollars–and the President-elect wants to cut income taxes for 95% of Americans. The federal government has already pledged to spend $700 billion to shore up the financial services industry and most likely they’re going to spend hundreds of billions more on additional economic stimulus plans. And President Bush is spending his last days in office trying to come up with burdensome regulations to stop people from gambling online?

That’s how a bill repealing the UIGEA could be pitched. Bill Frist introduced it and got it passed when congressional Republicans were rubbing Democrats’ faces into the dirt. President Bush signed it. The regulations weren’t formalized when the law was passed and at the height of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, THAT’S when Bush decided that they HAD to get these regulations codified. Regulations that banks say are onerus and unenforcable. Regulations that restrict the rights of Americans to spend their hard-earned money as they see fit. Not to mention that if online game WAS made legal, that could mean billions of revenue coming into the government’s coffers.

This could be the perfect storm we’ve been waiting for. A repeal of the UIGEA would be an extended middle finger to President Bush and Congressional Republicans, a popular gesture these days. It could be seen as lifting a burden from financial institutions so they can focus on their knitting. A Democratic President and Congress would be repealing a law that restricts the rights of its citizens–tell me if that isn’t a change from the last eight years. And, last but not least, repealing the UIGEA would bring in billions of dollars at a time when the federal government is struggling to deal with a breathtaking federal deficit, one buoyed by the four or five trillion dollars in debt accumulated during the Bush Administration.

To my admittedly biased mind, this is an easy bill to sell. Whether it gains traction in Congress after January 20th (whether Bush enacts the UIGEA regs or not) remains to be seen. Too bad it took a comprehensive global economic catastrophe to give online poker players a glimmer of hope.

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One Response to “The Enemy of my Enemy is…How Does That Go Again?”

  1. Darcy Says:

    I hope that your game becomes legal. Your points are all excellent. Alcohol is legal, why shouldn’t poker be, too? I think people can do a lot more damage to themselves with other things besides poker. Fingers crossed for you.

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