U.S. Online Gamblers Can Access Their Accounts

Ars Technica reports that federal government is allowing U.S. poker players to withdraw their accounts with the gambling websites targeted in last week’s indictment:

The government today announced an agreement with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker under which it will return their domain names temporarily—so long as they agree not to allow US-based IP addresses to gamble for real money, and so long as they don’t allow any further US-based deposits.

Last night I had dinner with a friend who plays poker online.  He wondered how easy it would be to use a non-U.S. IP address to access poker sites–the indictments target the companies’ U.S. gambling operations, not their legitimate operations in other countries.  Ars Technica describes one U.S. player’s plan to evade the law by establishing a non-U.S. bank account and routing gambling access through non-U.S. channels. It’s not easy, and requires serious commitment to online poker.

Going too far

A few weeks ago Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of the state of New York, announced that Verizon, Time Warner, and Sprint would “shut down major sources of child pornography.”  California chimed in with a similar plan a week later.  That sounds worthwhile, until you examine how the ISPs are accomplishing the shutdown:  by curbing customer access to part or al of Usenet, the venerable (almost 30 year old) online discussion system.  Time Warner is cutting off Usenet access entirely, Sprint is eliminating access to alt* groups, and Verizon is barring alt* and “tens of thousands” of others.  Cuomo’s office identified only 88 Usenet groups containing child pornography so the ISPs’ announced actions will disable the access of untold numbers of Usenet users to thousands of legitimate news groups.  Were Cuomo compelling the ISPs by force of law to so limit Usenet access then a First Amendment challenge on overbreadth grounds should be a slam dunk, but he is stupid. He is using the power of his office to engage in moral suasion, painting the ISPs as child-porn enablers if they do not go along.  It’s as if Home Depot and Lowe’s agreed no longer to sell lumber because a miniscule percentage contained termites.  This is a breathtaking and insidious display of regulatory over-reaching effected through non-governmental actors.