Collateral Damage in the War on Poker

by , Aug 12, 2011 | 1:02 pm

For whatever reason, don’t ask me to explain, I’ve started looking back through some of the 300-or-so unpublished posts in Pokerati’s drafts folder. LOL. I found the one pasted below, from early ’07 as I got caught up in the Neteller money grab. No clue why I never pressed publish … I think it was because I wanted to do more research to support a theory about CIA interest in the Muslim-world’s gold-backed e-dinar and/or find a picture of a cartoon terrorist.

But really, takes you back, doesn’t it? I would, of course, get my $520 before year-end — no interest though from the Feds for holding it. And the return of Neteller money back in ’07 is a reason many give for their confidence in some day getting repaid by Full Tilt. But when I look back at that case — though Neteller was in many ways the opening salvo in the US fight to shut down the online poker industry — I frankly see why the current round of money seizures are very different, and thus why repayment via Full Tilt is far less likely than the government’s eventual release of Neteller funds.

Looking back at this post, and the original article it was gonna link to, does remind me about issues of virtual currency that the world is still trying to resolve. We couldn’t know it at the time, but what we’re seeing now started out with poker players getting caught up in something that was about way more than poker:

Collateral Damage in the War on Poker
Feb 2, 2007

The carefulest of readers may have noticed that Pokerati has shied away from the [tag]War on Poker[/tag] tag, opting instead for the more cooperative [tag]Poker Law Review[/tag]. After all, we’re just trying to come up with a win-win solution for political interests and poker players alike, right? Maybe. But this is really turning into a fight … and I think I’ve been hit!

Apparently the Feds have frozen funds from US Neteller accounts. Huh-wah? That’s what a non-poker blog that tracks the emerging digital finance economy tells me. But is he sure it’s the FBI, and not the DOJ? So I went and checked — no new special notice from Neteller. From there I checked my account, and double-checked with my bank, and sure enough, there’s about $520 stuck in some sort of limbo, legal or otherwise. Word is that my e-cash is now “evidence.”

I’m not sure how my transactions specifically fit into the convergence of the the Wire Act, the Patriot Act, and the UIGEA — particularly as they apply to the case(s) against Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre — but they do reflect three bigger questions that presumably will have to be answered — my guess — by the Supreme Court.

Where does internet jurisdiction end and begin?

The $300 you see deposited on Jan. 13, I put in there straight from my checking account. Interestingly enough, it was for a gambling debt, but not an online one. I owed Adam a little money after a raucous home game, and we had agreed that I would send it to him via Neteller — quick and easy. Well it never got to Adam, so I tried to send it back to my bank. Was told it would take a few business days — that’s standard … but not showing up within 10 days is abnormal.

(My account has also been switched from “certified” to “uncertified,” which also seems a bit odd.)

Now I gotta think that the $220 from Sami ain’t gonna show up either. At least not anytime soon. And that sorta transaction is one that raises a lot of important internet questions — specifically, What constitutes a criminal link?

This money was a straight-up ad deal for something called Rakeback pages. Sari hopes you click it, but really, he is paying for some brand impression and SEO value. I was happy to ablige.

So a link clearly has to be informational. But what about a link with an affiliate code? And what about a link to someone with affiliate codes? Surely if I had an informational website giving you addresses to all the crack houses, that would be legal. Because hey, I have the right to tell you to stay away from there! But if I had a deal with the crack houses to get a little kickback for any new customers I send your way … OK, maybe that’s a little more sketchy.

But is it really? The Dallas Observer makes money selling ads to legally questionable “massage parlors” — which we all know are the dot-net versions of whorehouses. So then the question becomes how many degrees of separation are necessary? Again, I don’t have an affiliate relationship online … but I do have a relationship with someone who does have a relationship. And as far as I know this guy isn’t breaking any laws of the United States — operating completely out of its jurisdiction. But he is clearly doing business with people who stand to get arrested for something that is legal elsewhere.

As for my $520 … I want it back, but I’ll let it sit for now. But that begs a third question … is there such a thing as “virtual evidence”? Or perhaps what constitutes real money?

When the cops raid a poker room, they walk out with a bunch of cash. It is physical evidence to show money is being transacted. But with online money, there is no actual currency. There’s just an ethereal electronic idea of it. Does the US have any less evidence if they let this money back onto US soil?

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