tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-8594119504977671452016-09-29T14:43:29.227-07:00Online Casino RecommendationsThis is a blog about online casinos and the online casino industry. We provide extensive analysis of and articles about business, economics, foreign and domestic policy, and technology.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.comBlogger77125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-76458616306953866452014-03-06T21:05:00.000-08:002014-03-06T21:05:29.815-08:00Dear Governments, I understand.<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EQv56Y0VY28/UwvydIqMd5I/AAAAAAAAAkc/WkVqWxz9AsI/s1600/online_gambling_regulations_political_comic.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EQv56Y0VY28/UwvydIqMd5I/AAAAAAAAAkc/WkVqWxz9AsI/s1600/online_gambling_regulations_political_comic.jpg" height="586" width="640" /></a></div>Dear governments,<br /><br />I understand the difficultly of your situation. I do. I may rant and rave about your corruption and your greed, and to a great degree those rants ring true, but I also understand that many in your corpus are not corrupt. They are simply timid. They simply want to survive in an environment that is as unforgiving of them as it is of the rest of us.<br /><br />I understand that gambling revenue is an easy tax. It is a <i>voluntary</i>&nbsp;tax. If you took all those who lost money in the year gambling, and collected taxes from them in the same amount that they lost, they would be angry. The end result is the same (they lost money), but the reaction is different.<br /><br />This is arguably a form of stupidity. Different interpretations of the same end result. But these very same stupid people are also your constituents. They can <i>vote you out</i>. I understand how this can breed a sense of contempt for them. If they are so goddamned stupid to be taken in by charlatans of chips and cards, then so be it. Let them. Let them wallow in the prison they built themselves.<br /><br />But remember, just as they see through different lenses, so do you. They are <i>not</i>&nbsp;stupid. They live a very different life than you. Their decisions seem stupid, but all people make good decisions in a moment. They always make the decision that seems the best, because that is what we do! We are decision machines. We spend every waking moment weighing and deciding. How can any of us righteously judge another person when we know that they make the best decision that they can. No human willingly makes a bad decision.<br /><br />They do what feels good, what feels right, what feels pertinent, just as you do.<br /><br />I understand that the system does not make this easy. Modern government, especially government on a national scale, is seemingly designed to encourage politicians who do not fight. It encourages politicians who say what the public wants to hear as opposed to what it needs to hear. It encourages politicians who trick the people and then justify that duplicity by hating them for their gullibility.<br /><br />You must make your case and make it well, all while other politicians feed these people lie upon lie. But that is why this is a courageous endeavor. That is why this is something that requires <i>leadership</i>.<br /><br />It is difficult. It is very difficult. I understand.<br /><br />But we <i>need</i>&nbsp;leaders. We need people who are willing to be courageous and fight for common sense even when lies are so easily made tempting and attractive. Good leadership on a large scale is always a fight. And in this day and age, that makes it more valuable than ever.<br /><br />The online casino industry needs regulation. Badly. But it needs regulation to protect people, not simply attach another parasite onto their backs. Please, governments, do that for us.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-89190480575609551772014-01-01T13:21:00.001-08:002014-01-02T18:35:51.869-08:00Why Accurate Virtual Games Are Important (Or Why Virtual Lottery Terminals Are Crap)<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AZdHXhjslOs/UsRxJ33Fb9I/AAAAAAAAAjo/PBv7Pzh3J9g/s1600/gems_of_isis.jpg" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="398" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AZdHXhjslOs/UsRxJ33Fb9I/AAAAAAAAAjo/PBv7Pzh3J9g/s640/gems_of_isis.jpg" width="640" /></a></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span>n <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/04/what-is-return-to-player-rtp.html" target="_blank">an earlier post</a>, I mentioned how a true variable RTP in a game is based on the mechanics of the game, not an artificial variable that does nothing but affect the RTP. A true variable RTP is blackjack, where player choices affect the cards in the shoe that the dealer can then draw from. This puts restrictions on how a game plays. If there are no restrictions, it boils down to a player going to a casino, giving the casino money, and then asking if they will get any money back. The casino then decides, <i>arbitrarily</i>, whether that will happen.<br /><br />Online casinos don't want you to think that way, though, regardless of the reality. They rely on our cultural history with physical casinos to provide people with a <i>context</i>&nbsp;through which they will view games. Physical casinos were, and mostly still are, restricted by mechanical processes. There is no easy way to dynamically alter the payout of a card game or mechanical slot. And any process by which that happens is almost universally accepted as cheating. If a casino slips cards into and out of a deck secretly, that's cheating.<br /><br />That is why genuine representation of game parts is important. It's why most regulatory jurisdictions require that a game virtually represent actual game parts. If there are cards on screen, those cards must come from a virtual deck, with a set number of cards in them. Everyone is coming into online casinos with assumptions created by physical games. Artificial, or arbitrary is perhaps a better term, RTPs have no such restriction. They are a breeding ground for corruption.<br /><br />An artificial RTP is like a slot that increases the RTP the longer you play. This could be changed in any number of ways, such as the addition or subtraction of symbols, changes to the pay table, or bonus games that provide guaranteed wins. When a casino <i>tells</i>&nbsp;you about this, they are not technically being dishonest. They are obfuscating the game's nature, though, and I have a problem with this.<br /><br />The more that a casino plays around with the RTP, the less that one can easily understand his or her chances. This is bad. Casinos will, and do, take advantage of this situation to provide poor returns, while hiding those poor returns behind abstruse mathematics. Furthermore, it makes casinos think that they don't even need to be honest. If there is no inherent reality understood to be operating behind the games, casinos can do whatever they damn well please.<br /><br />The recent Spielo/G2/Gtech/Betfred blow-up that played out on Casinomeister earlier last year revealed casinos doing just that, using the excuse that having cards does not mean that they are cards. The visual appearance of the game and the game itself have no connection. Obviously, this <i>was</i>&nbsp;cheating because they lied about the nature of the games and went to great pains to keep those lies hidden, because again, they don't want players understanding how their proverbial sausage is made.<br /><br />And even if they hadn't lied, it was still bad. As I mentioned above, casinos rely on people entering the casino with preexisting ideas about how casino games work. Cards are cards. Slots are slots. Dice are dice. People&nbsp;<i>assume</i>&nbsp;that the games work a particular way. Having a game behave in a different way is inherently dishonest.<br /><br />This sort of trickery is not restricted to online casinos, though. Many casinos operate with games that <i>appear</i> to be slots or video poker but are, in fact, <i>Video Lottery Terminals</i>. As far as the user is concerned, there's little visible difference, but there is no virtual machine taking place. It is the casino arbitrarily deciding "yes, you will receive money."<br /><br />This is an incredibly obtuse distinction, so I hope I can make it clear. <br /><br />Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs, are a form of <i>fixed odds</i>&nbsp;betting. This is, as you could guess from the name, similar to a lottery ticket, where the company issuing the tickets knows precisely how many people are going to win what. There is no chance involved. It is all planned.<br /><br />A way to demonstrate this is with video poker on a VLT. In real video poker, with a virtual deck, if you are dealt a full house and draw five cards, you will get five new cards from the virtual deck. In a video poker VLT, if you draw a full house then draw five new cards... you will get another full house. You have been <i>chosen</i>&nbsp;to get that full house, and there is nothing that you can do to not get it.<br /><br />There is actually a way to "scam" these machines. Since a... seasoned?... Can anyone actually be seasoned with this sort of thing? Regardless, since a seasoned player knows how these machines work, he or she can camp out by a stand-alone machine and wait for a person to lose a bunch of money. They then know that the machine will need to pay something out soon to make its fixed odds.<br /><br />The machine needs to be a stand-alone system, since most large operations link all of their machines together to maintain a house RTP as opposed to a per-terminal RTP. A camper would need to somehow camp out an entire casino floor.<br /><br />Since things are very similar from the player perspective, why am I upset?<br /><br />First, this is a semi-moral issue for me. Casinos are parasites. They are shiny and have lots of cool stuff, but at their core, they are parasites. They provide no value to society and yet generate truly garagantuan profits. One of the "payments" that casinos must make to be morally allowed into this position is that they are prisoners of their mathematics. Sometimes, a casino will lose money at the end of the month. That is simply going to happen.<br /><br />If a casino is loaded with VLTs, they always know how much they will have. They will never lose money. They will always, forever, have a percentage of money at the end of the month. Many online casinos try to argue that their slots are real slots while actually running rigged games that effectively turn the slot into a VLT.<br /><br />No. No. If you are not willing to lose some money now and then, you are now allowed to be a casino. You are not allowed to be that parasite.<br /><br />Second, the differences to the player can actually be massive from the perspective of an omniscient third party. For example, let's say that you go into a casino that runs slots with virtual reels spinning. You could pull the lever and net three sevens immediately. There is a non-zero chance of that happening, and that <i>will</i>&nbsp;happen now and then. That's how casinos can lose big over a month. One person wanders in, hits it big, then leaves, never to return.<br /><br />But if that casino is running VLTs, until you lose some money or until someone else loses some money, that "slot" machine will never pay out. The chances of you pulling three sevens <i>is zero</i>. So while the player may be none the wiser, the players as a collective are worse off.<br /><br />Another way is to look at lottery tickets. Since all winners and losers are pre-determined, if someone buys the grand prize ticket on day one, there is <i>zero</i>&nbsp;chance that you could win that grand prize until all of the tickets are sold and a new run is printed. For a true slot machine, five players could win grand prizes in a row. The chances of this are low, but it <i>could</i>&nbsp;happen.<br /><br />For most physical casinos in legitimate jurisdictions, if the game is a VLT, that must be said somewhere on the machine. That's why "Fruities" in the United Kingdom are commonly known as FOBTs, or Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. Everyone knows how they work. Nothing is hidden.<br /><br /><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-kIlzrWggBmg/UsSGaWIcRuI/AAAAAAAAAj4/8IRBmH03OE8/s1600/Slot_machine.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="212" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-kIlzrWggBmg/UsSGaWIcRuI/AAAAAAAAAj4/8IRBmH03OE8/s320/Slot_machine.jpg" width="320" /></a>To me, though, that doesn't change anything from a moral perspective. Casinos should be able to lose money. They must feel <i>risk</i>. I don't have enough room or data to go into this fully, but the UK again provides a good example. FOBTs are propagating across the island like a bacteria. This would not be happening if there was a chance of losing money. This is happening purely because they are money-printing machines. A no-risk parasite, increasing in size and reach, as it feeds off of the population.<br /><br />Or for a historical example, let's look at Las Vegas in the early days. Back then, everyone had slot machines. Gas stations, soda fountains, libraries: slot machines were, again, propagating across the state like a bacteria. They were, of course, all rigged. The mob was good at that. And by rigged, I mean that they never lost money at the end of the month. They <i>always</i>&nbsp;made money... just like FOBTs. And just like online casinos, people assumed they knew how the game functioned when they made a bet.<br /><br />Once that rigging, once that guarantee, was gone, so too went all of the slot machines. Money-printing machines with no risk produce a surfeit of those machines, and in the case of gambling, place an unnatural strain on society. Taking part in the economy needs to involve risk, otherwise a pure parasite is formed.<br /><br />So, in that roundabout way, I hope that I have explained why having games that represent some virtual mechanism are so important. Only through the guarantees of the math is risk created. Only through the protection of the math does the player stand a real chance.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-89877280145213791862013-12-28T11:40:00.000-08:002014-01-01T13:27:59.034-08:00Son of a!... Nordicbet Pulls Out of Nearly Everything<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zsQRWLzc3RU/Ur8m7wy7a4I/AAAAAAAAAjY/MkbObkgbo4s/s1600/nordicbet_leaves_world.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="474" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zsQRWLzc3RU/Ur8m7wy7a4I/AAAAAAAAAjY/MkbObkgbo4s/s640/nordicbet_leaves_world.png" width="640" /></a></div><br /><div style="text-align: center;">It just gets worse and worse.</div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">N</span>ordicbet, our famous #2 choice for online casino gaming, is pulling out of every market but Scandinavia. This is an epic blow to those who want to play games online. If it had been a standalone event, that would be one thing, but it's not; we have already lost Galewind at Pinnacle and seen it replaced with a crap product. We didn't need the loss of another good casino provider.<br /><br />I am very close to just saying <i>fuck it</i>&nbsp;and stopping all online play. Honestly, one of the things that stops me is knowing that that is precisely what our governments want us to do. If I believed for <i>one second</i>&nbsp;that they wanted me to stop gambling for my own good, I would have no problems with this. Afterall, they care about me!<br /><br />But we all know that it has nothing to do with that. My government, your government, anyone's government doesn't give a shit about anybody's well being. Well, ironically, the Scandinavian countries probably care... as does Switzerland... and Canada. Actually, Australia seems to care, too, at least somewhat.<br /><br />So, I guess, what I'm saying is that the United States and United Kingdom don't care. Unfortunately they are the biggies when it comes to online gaming. And all they care about is that if I gamble, I gamble in the places where <i>they get a piece of the pie</i>. As long as they are getting their cut, they don't care if I gamble myself into oblivion.<br /><br />That avarice... that greed... that corruption... it drive me into an epic fury. To better visualize this fury, Donald Duck comes close to showing how I act. Fast forward to 1:00.<br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5Fz12QfwdMA" width="640"></iframe><br /><br />I've been beating this drum since we created the website. Gambling is a very bad thing in many ways. I'm healthy with my behavior, but many others are not. Gambling is not a simple entertainment like movies, just as alcohol is not a simple commodity like bread. It <i>should</i> be regulated. It <i>should</i> be controlled. It <i>should</i> be taxed. But all of these activities should be done with an eye toward the public good.<br /><br />Instead, we have governments who use gambling and lotteries as a way to generate revenue without raising taxes. But gambling disproportionately affects the lower socioeconomic classes. There's a joke saying that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. That's partially true. It's actually a tax on people who are receptive to the manipulations of gambling marketing: poor people who wish for better days.<br /><br />So what do our governments do? They attach yet another leach onto this population, sucking away a bit more of the blood they can ill afford to lose.<br /><br />Tax gambling. By all means, do it. But one-hundred percent — I don't mean <i>most</i>&nbsp;or <i>some</i>&nbsp;or eighty or ninety; I mean one-hundred percent — of all tax revenue generated by gambling should go toward public enrichment. It should go toward the services that lift people out of the lifestyle that makes them receptive to gambling marketing. All of the money should go toward job development, Head Start and other educational initiatives, food banks, neighborhood construction, and adult education.<br /><br />But no. The money goes into the general fund to fuel corrupt politicians and their cronies for one more fiscal year. It. Is. Disgusting.<br /><br />It is thus an absurd state of affairs in which I find myself. I want to stop gambling, but the attempts of governments to make me do precisely that are what goad me into continuing my activity! I want to stick it to the proverbial man by not stopping my play. There's a part of me that feels bad because my behavior seems so similar to those who indignantly continue to smoke in spite of increased regulation and taxation. But at least in that regard, the last thing many governments actually want is for people to quit smoking. So one would <i>actually</i>&nbsp;damn the man by <i>quitting</i>.<br /><br />In my situation, I damn the man by funneling more of their precious money out of the country and into other countries. This is something that major corporations get to do with abandon, but the instant us normal people do it, the hammer comes down!<br /><br />Well fuck you, governments. I'm going to continue doing precisely what you don't want. I'm going to keep playing. I will find new casinos. I will find new companies. I will follow Galewind, really, wherever they go. You will not stop me. You will never stop me.<br /><br />That's the wonder of this brave, new, modern age: you have been stripped of some of your power, and I am going to revel in it.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-44765087553432361032013-12-16T19:18:00.002-08:002013-12-16T23:07:32.641-08:00How Online Casinos And Cell Phone Companies Are Similar<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9TeXyVVcPEI/Uq--pcXPt2I/AAAAAAAAAjI/kV0IpDqWd0Y/s1600/playtech_att_logo.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="136" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9TeXyVVcPEI/Uq--pcXPt2I/AAAAAAAAAjI/kV0IpDqWd0Y/s640/playtech_att_logo.png" width="640" /></a></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span> get Google+ messages from readers every now and then asking about bonuses. I'm not surprised. I have been a vocal critic of bonuses yet they are the very foundation of the online casino industry. Most people want to know whether a specific bonus is a good deal. Some people want to know if I have any tips on how to beat bonuses. A few people want to know what the best bonuses are.<br /><br />Well let me say in no uncertain terms that bonuses are bullshit. Say it with me, bonuses are bullshit!<br /><br />Now how does this apply to cell phone companies? Because both industries are utterly built upon a trick. For cell phones, it is the $200, or $100, or <i>free</i>&nbsp;phone that you get at the beginning of your contract. The contract is critical but we'll get to that in a moment.<br /><br />Have you ever looked up the price of your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy on Ebay or some other website that isn't affiliated with a carrier such as Verizon or AT&amp;T? If you have, you'll have noticed that the iPhone that you get for $200 is selling for $700.<br /><br />Where did that $500 go?<br /><br />It went into the carrier subsidy. Basically, the carrier sells you the phone for $200. They are losing hundreds of dollars in this act. Their goal is to make their money back and then some over the course of your payments to them. And as you would expect from this arrangement, after the two years are up, they get far more than what they gave you on the phone. <i>They rip you off</i>.<br /><br />That is why there are contracts. This guarantees the cell phone company your monthly payment for two years. This has become so popular that until T-Mobile began its Uncarrier initiative, you <i>could not start</i>&nbsp;service with AT&amp;T or Verizon without a 2-year contract. They would only offer you their pre-paid phones which are crappy and have inferior plans. The only way to get all of the features of AT&amp;T and Verizon was to sign your life away for two, goddamned years.<br /><br />And what happens if you try to leave? Why they charge you huge amounts of money, of course! And there's nothing you can do about it because the devil's bargain that people made for cheap phones reduced the markets to only a few major players. They use this monopoly to squeeze profits from people while providing terrible service and customer support.<br /><br />Online casino bonuses are basically the same thing. Long ago, users made a devil's bargain for bonuses. This handed an immense amount of power over to affiliates and locks users to a specific casino for a period of time and money. The terms are shorter than for your average cell phone contract, but the end result is the same: the casino gets all your munneez.<br /><br />And just as with a cell phone, the casino is getting far more than they otherwise would. Most bonuses are locked to rollover requirements, meaning that you have to gamble a certain amount before you can take any money out, and these rollover requirements are usually tied to specific games. You usually cannot play blackjack or craps, because the RTP on those is too high.<br /><br />Oh no. They won't have that! You must only play certain slots, meaning that in the end, the casino actually gets more from you then they otherwise would.<br /><br />How is that possible, you may ask. Remember, when you spend money, you aren't just spending money, you are spending the <i>opportunity</i>&nbsp;to spend that money on other things. This is called the <i>ooportunity cost</i>&nbsp;in Econ-101 parlance. Basically, if I spend $5 on a move ticket, I also spending the sandwich that I <i>could have bought</i>&nbsp;on that movie ticket.<br /><br />If you are forced to only play low-RTP slot machines, you are not only spending your money, you are spending the opportunity to play high-RTP games and are thus spending the opportunity to <i>win</i>&nbsp;at those games. The casino gets your money and gets it at a lower risk than they otherwise would if you were able to play high-RTP games. Just as with the cell phone companies, <i>you are getting ripped off</i>.<br /><br />As I mentioned, the contract is a very important part of this comparison. Go read the legal agreement that you sign when getting your cell phone through AT&amp;T or Verizon. It is a gazillion pages long and loaded with enough legalese to make the Supreme Court shit bricks. These contracts were humorously parodied in the South Park episode, <a href="http://beta.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad" target="_blank">"Human CentiPad</a>."<br /><br />These contracts are used to screw you like there is no tomorrow. Not only does the cell phone company get may more than they otherwise would in the end, if you step out of line, they are used as a legal cudgel to charge you huge fees.<br /><br />Every now and then, these fees are <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/dad-gets-22-000-data-roaming-shock-from-fido-1.1333067" target="_blank">comical</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/cell-phone-company-slaps-_n_1764505.html" target="_blank">enough</a> to <a href="http://consumerist.com/2011/10/18/t-mobile-customer-runs-up-201000-phone-bill/" target="_blank">make news</a>, but as some people have pointed out, with these contracts, the cell phone companies are under no legal obligation to cut the bills. The only thing that forces them to do so is the fact that charging someone $200,000 in cell phone charges would result in enough bad PR to destroy a company.<br /><br />But for every person who gets charged $50,000, imagine the number who are overcharged by only a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand. The amount of hidden injustice is undoubtedly alarming.<br /><br />Now, is this sounding familiar at all? Is this sounding a lot like, oh, I dunno'... <i>terms &amp; conditions</i>?<br /><br />That's because this is precisely like terms &amp; conditions. It is the same, goddamned thing. The only reason why cell phone companies step out of line less often is because they are larger, more visible, and have much more to lose if people turn against their brand.<br /><br />Online casinos, if their brand gets destroyed, they simply re-brand their casino, send new links out to all of their affiliates, and start anew! This is why the reality of the online casino industry is obscured by the illusion of competition. There is no competition. There are only a few major companies, producing poor products for an undiscerning market.<br /><br />Also unlike the cell phone companies, online casino companies have the benefit of being seen as somewhat seedy. This means that they can, and <i>always do</i>, rely on the time-tested strategy of smearing their accuser. That is why we have clauses about robots, pattern betting, and cheating in casino T&amp;C's. These are nothing more than tools for a greedy casino to smear their victim.<br /><br />If cell phone companies could, they would do the same thing. But they can't, so they don't.<br /><br />I make this comparison because cell phone companies are an excellent example of online casino greed and evil writ large. Cell phone companies are horrible creations and regularly make it to the top of Consumerist's <i><a href="http://consumerist.com/tag/worst-company-in-america/" target="_blank">Worst Company in America</a></i>&nbsp;list. But in those companies, which are forced by exposure and legal fights to be somewhat upstanding, we have lessons that we can apply to the online casino industry.<br /><br />We need to force major casinos into the light. We need governments to finally set aside their greed for taxes and regulate online casinos in the best ways they can. Current casino regulations are nothing more than a money-grab by corrupt politicians who want to avoid raising taxes on their rich buddies. We need to vote with our dollars and stop having twenty accounts and twenty shitty little casinos. We need to focus on those who uphold the highest ideals of good business.<br /><br />We had one in Galewind, <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/11/whoa-pinnacle-sports-loses-galewind.html" target="_blank">but they're now down</a>. Who knows if or when they will reappear. So we're left with the other ugly children from which to choose. Good god, it's an ugly lot, but some of them stand out a bit, and we need to reward that. It is imperative that we reward that. If we don't, the next Galewind will simply appear then disappear, drowned out by corruption and noise.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-15778103075120609122013-12-05T11:42:00.000-08:002013-12-05T11:42:14.945-08:00China Bans Bitcoin<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-c6NxNmKWyps/UqDTQllOBzI/AAAAAAAAAio/m-qsjAdqcSE/s1600/china_bitcoin.jpg" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="390" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-c6NxNmKWyps/UqDTQllOBzI/AAAAAAAAAio/m-qsjAdqcSE/s640/china_bitcoin.jpg" width="640" /></a></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">A</span>s I mentioned <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/11/the-reality-of-new-borderless-digital.html" target="_blank">in my earlier article</a>, the Internet has changed a large number of things. For the purposes of this discussion, it has changed the nature of borders and the nature of systemic control. To wit, it has weakened them — substantially in many ways Now, let's think about this for a moment; who would be most threatened by a loss of border and systemic control?<br /><br />Oh right! Governments!<br /><br />The first volleys in this Quixotic war were thrown by totalitarian governments many years ago after the rise of wireless radio communication. Those same governments then followed that up with things like China's Great Firewall. But for the Western World, the most visible example of this behavior is without doubt <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/the-end-of-uigea.html" target="_blank">the UIGEA</a>. With that, the United States tried to clamp down on the <i>system</i>&nbsp;through which money flowed.<br /><br />Bitcoin has invalidated that power. When money is an abstract mathematical construct that exists without regards to borders and systems, <i>boom</i>, there goes governmental power. In my earlier article I said,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">"Governments will of course fight this development. They will tilt against the windmill until their efforts just disintegrate entirely. They will ignore the writing on the proverbial wall for years, perhaps decades, as they puff up their chests in the face of an enemy that they don't understand. It is contemptible, really."</blockquote>I like to be correct, but rarely am I correct just a week later.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/business/international/china-bars-banks-from-using-bitcoin.html?_r=0" target="_blank">China has banned Bitcoin</a>.<br /><br />Oh, they are of course couching this in the excuse of protection and whatnot, which is total horseshit. I'm not even sure why China bothers saying it. Everyone out here knows that it is a lie, and everyone in China knows that it is a lie. So why lie? I dunno'. Perhaps it makes them feel better about it or something.<br /><br />One statement that Chinese authorities made was of special interest to me.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">The notice said that Bitcoin was “not a currency in the real meaning of the word” but was rather a “virtual commodity that does not share the same legal status of a currency. Nor can, or should, it be circulated or used in the marketplace as a currency.” </blockquote>Not only does this ignore that all major nations rely on what's called <i>Fiat Currency</i> and as such no currency is truly "legitimate" in the sense that it is backed by anything other than a system as equally ephemeral as Bitcoin, it also uses all of those principles that we were previously discussing! They call it a "virtual" commodity, implying that unless money is physically printed, by a government of course, it's not real. They then say that it does not share the same legal status! Laws?! That's the point of all this! To side-step laws!<br /><br />Laws exist only when borders exist. And as I mentioned, borders are much weaker now than they were.<br /><br />There are two causes for real concern in all this. First is the possible use of this borderless money in illegal activities. That is indeed a problem. But just as the truth will set you free, the loss of lie can imprison you. Many laws are lies, predicated on dogma, fear, and ignorance. The loss of control forces a government to face its bad laws.<br /><br />Second is that a financial system that is by its very nature unregulated will be an unstable financial system. That's why every major nation has things like FOREX, commodity, and equity laws. And if Bitcoin becomes widely accepted, a Bitcoin boom and bust could take many countries with it.<br /><br />But regardless of these concerns, <i>this is the reality</i>. Our society and our legal structures have many things that are wrong with them, and the only reason why we have not been hitherto <i>forced</i>&nbsp;to make changes is because the old systems of control allowed society to stumble along like some drunk.<br /><br />We are losing control, meaning that society can no longer stumble along. We need to fix our problems, otherwise these unstoppable social and technological changes will cause the destabilization of our entire, God-forsaken edifice. While that sounds exciting, it's certainly something that we do not want.<br /><br />It is time for our politicians to stop being <i>so goddamned stupid</i>, stand up, educate themselves, understand the way the world is and where it is going, and pass good laws. No longer can they be utterly beholden to special interests and blind, dogmatic beliefs. Every party, every politician, and every nation is guilty of these activities in some way. It is truly bipartisan and global.<br /><br />The Internet is here. The world is one. Deal with it.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-66786795984401361102013-11-28T11:41:00.000-08:002013-11-28T11:41:13.639-08:00Whoa. Pinnacle Sports Loses Galewind<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Qt7VEE44Mf4/UpeTSNEcpOI/AAAAAAAAAh4/z1kZbp1POgE/s1600/pinnacle_galewind_split.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="280" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Qt7VEE44Mf4/UpeTSNEcpOI/AAAAAAAAAh4/z1kZbp1POgE/s640/pinnacle_galewind_split.png" width="640" /></a></div><br /><div style="text-align: center;">Pinnacle Casino, our number-one pick, no longer runs the Galewind Casino.<br /><br /></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span> really can't stress how big this is. Galewind has been, time and again, shown to be one of the few good guys. It may seem extreme to say it, but I sometimes feel that they are the <i>only</i>&nbsp;good guy. I know that's an exaggeration, but in an industry that is so utterly overrun with tricksters, fake names, shell companies, and other general scumbags, well... you start to appreciate the upstanding ones.<br /><br />Pinnacle has switched over to a live dealer casino package, which blows my mind. I <i>hate</i>&nbsp;live dealer. Has anyone actually had a good experience with live dealer casinos? I mean that as an honest question to anyone who reads this. All I know is my limited time with two or three packages, and they have been awful. They're slow, buggy, boring.<br /><br />I heard tell, and I really have no way of confirming this, that live dealer is very popular in Eastern markets. Over there, it's actually <i>expected</i>&nbsp;for gambling houses to be crooked, so players all demand certain things to try to combat this. One of those mechanisms is to <i>see</i>&nbsp;the cards being dealt.<br /><br />The downside, though, is brutal, unrelenting slowness.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="11" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s320/divider_flourish.png" width="320" /></div><br /><br />They are running a product from a company that I have hitherto never heard of: Global Gaming Labs. According to a WhoIs lookup, they've been around since early 2009. The WhoIs is not anonymous, which is a good sign, but there's no other information beyond that. No street address and the phone number provided is a cell phone.<br /><br />Pinnacle's new slot and table game providers are equally anonymous. They are "based" in The Isle of Man, but according to their business address, they are obviously a "phone on a desk" sort of operation. And considering that their web domain is registered in Costa Rica, something tells me that that is where their operation is <i>actually</i>&nbsp;based.<br /><br />That's a big deal because Costa Rica is about as low as you can go on the totem pole of reputable countries for online gambling. Costa Rican law regulates gambling <i>at the location where the wager is placed</i>. That means that running an online casino within their borders is entirely unregulated. As long as the company pays for its business license and bandwidth fees, it can do almost anything that it wants.<br /><br />The blowup with Gibraltar and Gtech/Spielo G2 has shown that most countries that purport to regulate their casinos don't actually do so. Gibraltar pretty obviously doesn't (and is corrupt as hell, to boot), and I think it safe to assume that most others do not as well. So think about that. If countries that supposedly regulate their casinos are not actually regulating their casinos, what about the jurisdictions that <i>don't even claim</i>&nbsp;to regulate their casinos?!<br /><br />That's why if you see an operation out of Costa Rica, you do not gamble there. Both of the companies with which Pinnacle has partnered are now out of Costa Rica. It literally pains me to say this, but you should no longer play Pinnacle's casino. I can say nothing about their sportsbook. I'm assuming that those operations are still 100% in curacao. But their casino is now a <i>casino non grata</i>.<br /><br />One of the things about Galewind that is great is that they are an actual company, with actual people, with actual telephone numbers. When you do a search on Galewind, you find, shockingly, <i>Galewind</i>. I suppose that you have to be involved in the industry to some degree to understand how amazing that is. I may act all high-'n'-mighty, but I'm not a part of the industry; I'm just an observer. But if anything, that only drives home how corrupt everything is: someone like <i>me</i>&nbsp;can know the score. Everyone has an alias; no one is who they say they are; there are shell companies wrapped inside shell companies. It's a mess.<br /><br />Even major players like IGT, Microgaming, Playtech: it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find out who owns what and where. They're all based in tax havens with no regulation and owned by silent partners. This is to say nothing of the casinos themselves. Paddy Power, Virgin Casino, 32Red: who owns them? Who knows!<br /><br />This is partially understandable. Governments love to suck blood from the gambling industry, and they get angry when others come to suck blood from their chattle. And by chattle, I of course mean the citizens of these governments. As such, governments will start doing things like <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/03/the-strange-case-of-robert-stuart.html" target="_blank">arrest people with no legal justification</a>, arrest <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Carruthers" target="_blank"><i>more</i>&nbsp;people with not legal justification</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/antigua-duke-ferdinand-and-world-war.html" target="_blank">violate international treaties</a>, and <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/the-end-of-uigea.html" target="_blank">invent bad laws</a>. If governments are just as bad as the worst casinos, and I owned a casino, I would want to be invisible, too.<br /><br />Unfortunately, that creates a world where scum thrives. When governments push stuff into the shadows with their own bad behavior, things get bad and get bad quickly. Look at the drug "war." Oh yeah. That's been a rousing success. Mexico <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/Ciudad-Juarez-passes-2-000-homicides-in-09-1593554.php" target="_blank">is almost literally a war zone</a>.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="11" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s320/divider_flourish.png" width="320" /></div><br /><br />Now we are left with a rather large question, and one that will likely never be answered: did Pinnacle dump Galewind or did Galewind dump Pinnacle?<br /><br />Pinnacle's decision to go with a surprisingly shady company makes me wonder about the future of Pinnacle itself.<br /><br />Three of Pinnacle's owners were arrested in a multi-state sting in the U.S. late last year. According to some industry scuttlebutt, these guys were not involved with the day-to-day operations of the company, but what they were doing did funnel down to Pinnacle. This lends credence to the idea that Galewind dumped Pinnacle to preserve their good reputation.<br /><br />But even if Pinnacle went rogue, the damage would be on Pinnacle, not Galewind. And it would seem foolish to drop a client as large as Pinnacle, this lends credence to the idea that Pinnacle dumped Galewind. But then, we're left to wonder why Pinnacle would do something so stupid. Galewind has arguably the best reputation of all major companies in the online casino world. Did something simply go down between the two companies? Did someone sleep with someone else?<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="11" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s320/divider_flourish.png" width="320" /></div><br /><br />The two major differences between the new casino and the Galewind casino are the live dealers and the large selection of slots.<br /><br />The large slot selection is the domain of penny slot players, and these are not Pinnacle's target demographic. Are they hoping to get more of them? That seems unlikely because Pinnacle doesn't offer bonuses, which are basically a requirement for the penny slot crowd. Perhaps this is an indication of Pinnacle's intent to <i>start</i>&nbsp;offering bonuses. But again, that would be odd since Galewind has a bonus casino which we all saw, briefly, during the now-infamous debacle with Hero's Casino.<br /><br />Perhaps they plan on starting an affiliate network for their casino. Based on the musing of Galewind's president, they appear to be opposed to affiliates because of the continuing damage they cause to the industry, *cough*Casinomeister!*cough*. But affiliate calculations would all take place on the financial side, not on the casino side. Pinnacle could have just bolted an affiliate system on top of the casino.<br /><br />The live dealers may have been the key element, but I've only ever heard bad things about them. Dedicated online players like speed and that is something live dealers really, truly, horribly do not have. As I mentioned, live dealers are, I've heard, popular outside of Western markets. But again, and for this I have actual supporting data, online gambling is almost non-existent in Eastern countries. Physical gambling is everywhere, but online, not so much.<br /><br />There is a third, more subtle difference, as well: the RTP of the games. The Wizard of Odds is famous for loving video poker. He's also famous for saying that no one should play games for money, since it's always a losing bet, so to speak. But the hard-core video poker players care more about RTP than almost any other group of players on the Internet, which is why Galewind's video poker games, even though they never had the much-beloved multi-hand games, were held in such high regard.<br /><br />The RTP of the new video poker games is far lower than Galewind's. That cannot be a coincidence, but what it signifies is still a mystery.<br /><br />For example:<br /><br /><u><b>Deuces Wild</b></u><br />New Casino: 96.77%<br />Galewind: &nbsp;98.91%<br />Difference: 2.14%<br /><br /><u><b>Joker Poker</b></u><br />New Casino: 97.47%<br />Galewind: 98.94%<br />Difference: 1.47%<br /><br />Those differences are massive. That's the difference between a place where people will want to play video poker, and a place where they won't.<br /><br />So we now have another possibility. Did Pinnacle dump Galewind because they wanted to lower their RTPs but Galewind said no?<br /><br />First, lowering the RTPs is horrible business. They are stupid if that was their motivation. But even then, I can't imagine Galewind saying no to that sort of request. Adjusting RTPs for clients is a common practice in the industry. This answers nothing!<br /><br />And the final difference, which is arguably subjective, is that the quality of their new games sucks. The slots are slow and their table games are truly awful. They look and play like products from online casinos of many, many years ago.&nbsp;<i>Archaic</i>&nbsp;is a good word to describe them. Galewind's games were never the prettiest, but they are goddamned super-models in comparison to some of these new games. This is especially true of games like blackjack. Their new casino <i>does</i>&nbsp;have multi-hand blackjack, and that is good, but I dislike everything else about their design and interface.<br /><br />I've posted a comparison of Baccarat. Not only does the Galewind product look loads better, the Multislot version has this horrific voice over that babbles at you with each hand telling you the results of the game. I'm not deaf. I can see the cards. What in the bloody-hell were they thinking? Did someone's wife just want to be involved?<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UXvDuxNgF00/UpeaWQiXouI/AAAAAAAAAiI/u7Y9DFPe-Ek/s1600/galewind_multislot_baccarat.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="640" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UXvDuxNgF00/UpeaWQiXouI/AAAAAAAAAiI/u7Y9DFPe-Ek/s640/galewind_multislot_baccarat.jpg" width="504" /></a></div><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="11" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s320/divider_flourish.png" width="320" /></div><br /><br />Everything about this is puzzling and disappointing. I'm not a high-roller by any means, so Pinnacle doesn't much care about me, but I <i>only</i>&nbsp;played at their casino. I list Nordicbet and 3Dice, because I did and do like them well enough, but when I voted with my wallet, every vote went to Pinnacle. And now, without a Galewind casino anywhere else, <i>I have nowhere to play!</i><br /><i><br /></i>All I can say is that I hope Pinnacle either reopens their Galewind casino or Galewind opens a new casino somewhere. Because as I'm sure you can figure out from my reduced blogging, I haven't played much recently. But that doesn't mean I don't <i>want</i>&nbsp;to in the future.<br /><br />This is all so disappointing.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com10tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-10985467789887311962013-11-21T14:24:00.001-08:002013-11-21T14:24:17.337-08:00The Reality Of The New, Borderless, Digital Age<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2C0S8j-btHE/Uo6HXltYmuI/AAAAAAAAAhY/FGqtYSrEu7k/s1600/casinos_without_borders.gif" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="204" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2C0S8j-btHE/Uo6HXltYmuI/AAAAAAAAAhY/FGqtYSrEu7k/s640/casinos_without_borders.gif" width="640" /></a></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">O</span>nline gambling has landed with a thud in the United States. There are so many hands in the pot I'm amazed that there's any actual stew in it. We have some companies hoping to jump on the money train, we have other companies that are fighting it, we have some states that are hoping to tax it, while other states hope to stop it, and still other states that condemn it while still planning to offer it. It is, and this is a scientific term, a fucking mess.<br /><br />Lost in the hullabaloo is the reality of what is going on: the breakdown of old legal structures in the digital age. Laws are nothing more than rules, enforced with threat of action, on a societal scale. If everyone played Monopoly all day, and anyone who broke the rules would be jailed, than the rules of Monopoly would be called laws.<br /><br />One of the primary, if not <i>the</i>&nbsp;primary, forms of control is control over an area of land. Basically, law is structured by physical borders. When a person passes a border, they are subject to a set of rules that are grandiosely referred to as <i>the law of the land</i>. If you do something wrong, you can be physically chased, captured, and imprisoned for violating those rules. These are really the oldest forms of laws, since they are the simplest.<br /><br />Another aspect of control comes in the form of <i>systemic control</i>. Regardless of what Ayn Rand fanatics would like to think, there is no such thing as a "free" market. All markets are social constructions with systems and rules in place that facilitate transfer of value between people. Those social constructions can be designed such that certain actions are impossible or difficult. This usually comes in the form of control over <i>avenues</i>. For example, the UIGEA. What the law did was block the flow of money from American financial institutions. Without the institutions, which control the avenues by which money can travel, it was difficult for money to go from a person's bank account to a casino's bank account.<br /><br />The digital age is bearing down on both of these forms of control. The fear that this is triggering can be most visibly seen in the firewalls that exist around totalitarian states such as China, Iran, and Russia, the decade-long freakout about online file sharing, and with the recent revelations about U.S. spying and the NSA. Those who benefited from the old forms of control are scared. They are smart enough to see that there will come a point in the future when their efforts will be for naught. Control will be lost.<br /><br />As such, a wise legal system recognizes that the system has changed, thus the laws <i>and the mode in which the laws exist</i>&nbsp;must also change. Is gambling good? No. But just as drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes are not good but will always exist, so will gambling. The law must accommodate the realities of the world.<br /><br />Sadly, facing reality has never been a strong suit of politicians and moral crusaders.<br /><br />Countries have been semi-successful in handling the border problem. As I mentioned, totalitarian states have massive firewalls that are semi-successful at blocking certain information. It has not been fully effective, never will be, and will likely completely fail at some point in the future, but many politicians (because, again, politicians really <i>are</i>&nbsp;that stupid) feel that they have the issue well in hand.<br /><br />The UIGEA may seem to have been a huge success, but it was actually a total failure. As with so many laws that squeeze behavior out of legitimate circles, all that happened is that the financial transfers were pushed into the "dark alleys" of the Internet. The amount of money being gambled online in the U.S. hasn't changed much, but it's all going to the seediest casinos. For example, if I want to gamble at Pinnacle/Galewind, I have to use my Canadian bank account and go through a proxy. But there are many other casinos that simply <i>ignore</i>&nbsp;the UIGEA entirely!<br /><br />But even if the UIGEA persists. Even if nothing legal changes. Yet another form of control is crumbling: money.<br /><br />Previously, money relied on a government backing it on a global exchange. With Bitcoin, that is no longer the case. I was initially doubtful of Bitcoin, and still am, but that's not why I'm interested in it. I'm interested in Bitcoin because it represents a possible future direction. As the Internet becomes a "nation" unto itself, a currency for that nation that obeys no borders or laws could arise. This makes some things difficult, such as where does one turn in case of a dispute or theft, and I can see no solution. The likely just means that no matter how big this hypothetical online "money" gets, there will always be a place for national currencies.<br /><br />Governments will of course fight this development. They will <i>tilt against the windmill</i>&nbsp;until their efforts just disintegrate entirely. They will ignore the writing on the proverbial wall for years, perhaps decades, as they puff up their chests in the face of an enemy that they don't understand. It is contemptible, really.<br /><br />People like to gamble. I like to gamble. Gambling is fun. It will always be here. The Internet has broken down two of the most important systems by which governments can control behavior, meaning that online gambling will always be here. Is that good? Is that bad? <i style="font-weight: bold;">It doesn't matter</i>. It's here, and we have to deal with it intelligently. We have to allow people who want to gamble to gamble, and we have to protect those who are at risk of hurting themselves and the fabric of society. Because, I'm sorry, society is never going to be perfect. There will be things that some of us wish others wouldn't do, like drugs, gambling, unprotected sex, and watching Fox News. But guess what? It's going to happen. We cannot deny it. We accept the world <i>as we find it</i>, and figure out how to make the best world that we can.<br /><br />Unfortunately, as is so frequently the case, taking this path — <u style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">the correct, logical, rational, not-goddamned-stupid path</u>&nbsp;— allows neither moral grandstanding nor tax collection.<br /><br />Moral mandates and tax collection rely on the same two forms of control, borders and systems, as laws do. Thus, when those two forms of control are degraded as is happening now, the two favorite things of government are degraded. Politicians can't get on their soap box and make classist and racist statements about the dregs of society and they can't squeeze tax revenue from the process. And seeing as politicians are almost universally complete and utter scum, it's no surprise that they don't have much interest in doing what is <i>actually correct</i>.<br /><br />But as I hope has been communicated in this somewhat rambling post, it doesn't matter. As technology progresses and leaves behind the old forms of control that we as a species have relied upon since our days of living in caves and eating mammoth steaks, those who fight this progress will simply be pushed by the wayside. This future isn't specifically <i>imminent</i>, but it's much closer than most people thing. Within the next one-hundred years, our entire conception of laws will be upended, gambling and all.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-74750388107616887542013-06-24T21:43:00.001-07:002013-06-24T21:43:11.434-07:00On The Degradation of the Industry<img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mW1-WE3TvY8/USUxFtw_VQI/AAAAAAAAAOo/QwpnWgX6VT4/s1600/betfred_jaguar_scam.png" height="244" width="640" /><br /><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">C</span>hris Colby, the president of Galewind Software, the company currently providing our #1 recommended casino, recently made a post over at The Wizard of Vegas. It's concerning a long-running disaster involving the government of Gibraltar and its "regulation" of the gambling industry, Betfred, Finsoft, GTech, and Casinomeister. If you don't know what's going on, sit tight. I will have a post on the subject up soon. For now, all you need to know is that what was revealed by this debacle comes very close to confirming the worst fears of the most paranoid people alive. It's honestly that bad.<br /><br />I'm posting this because, one, I think more people should read it, and two, I hope that the honesty presented and the respect afforded him gives everyone an idea as to why Pinnacle's casino is our #1 pick. In an industry with so few good guys, we as consumers really need to support the good guys. It's the only way we're going to get <i>more</i> good guys.<br /><br /><br /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;"><span class="b" style="font-weight: bold !important; margin: 0px; padding: 0px;">My Closing Thoughts</span></span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">As we all know ... For so many years (think back to 2000 and the formation of the Online Players Association) the primary source of "regulation" that has been applied in controlling runaway casinos (and software providers, and affiliates) has been the pressure arising from, and/or applied by, the various casino/affiliate forums - "bad press" appearing in a Google search, the threat of being "blacklisted", a voluntary "behind closed doors" mediation process, and so forth. (BTW - think back to 2002 and the death of the Online Players Association.)</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">Time after time it became obvious that this whole mechanism was one leaky boat. The "damage value" of being blacklisted was determined by the casinos themselves - if the casinos didn't care, the damage value was zero. The mediation process had to be "behind closed doors" because (apparently) this was the only way that the casinos would cooperate. Most of the time the only data available for these "secret discussions" was the data that the casinos wanted to disclose (or admit to).</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">Although all of this was happening "behind closed doors", occasionally the data, the discussion, and the criteria became available to the public. This exposure showed that the parties involved in this mediation process all too frequently did not possess the knowledge (technical or otherwise), the experience, the data, or the criteria to make an accurate decision regarding many of the problems with which they dealt. "Robot users", "pattern bettors", "bonus abusers" all became nothing more than dumping grounds for "we don't want to pay". The "mediation services" transformed into marketing tools.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">In my opinion, a "case in point" example is<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.casinomeister.com/forums/online-casinos/27977-resolved-casino-club-robot-no-bot.html" rel="nofollow" style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: #000099; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: bold; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-decoration: underline; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" target="_blank">the following forum thread</a><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">. The ONLY thing that saved this particular player's ass (and their many thousands of Euros) was the PUBLIC presentation of the otherwise "secret data" on another forum, and the PUBLIC exposure that the "secret analysis" of this "secret data" was so completely wrong. In my opinion, every leak in the boat was exposed here.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">(My reference example occurred several years ago. In the interim there have been many, far too many, other examples.)</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">"Player Advocacy" (the Wizard and a few others excluded) wound up becoming a network of people (an "old boys' club") who were making "secret decisions", using "secret data", possessing inadequate knowledge, applying ill-defined criteria - all of this affecting tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands? more?) of player's dollars/euros/pounds. In addition, once the decision exited the "closed back room", that was it. There was no appeal process.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">So yes, there was pressure on the casinos, but the casinos exercised 90% of the control over the result of any dispute. In general, there never was a lot of real horsepower in that engine.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">Over time, one simply became hardened to the reality that the inmates were running the asylum. Acceptance of mediocrity became the norm. Although publicly ridiculed, the "silent membership" of the "tin foil hat club" began to grow.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">When this Betfred/Finsoft/GGC issue first presented itself, and the subsequent data (hard data, clean data, reproducible data) began to really pile up, I became excited at the possibility that one of the "major" online regulatory agencies would finally show some teeth. At that time I simply did not see anywhere for the casino(s), the software provider(s) or the regulatory authority to hide.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">I became excited at the possibility that not only would we not have a leaky boat anymore, but that the solution was NOT to patch the leaks but to buy a new boat. I became excited at the possibility of some quantitative, positive, and lasting change happening here. I also considered the ripple effect that would arise as other regulatory organizations began to follow the example. The size of the opportunity for positive change here was, in my experience, unique.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">And I don't think that I was alone - I think that a lot of people who had been hardened by the industry's history of failure in dealing with these problems also let down their guard a bit and allowed themselves to become hopeful.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">And then ... days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Hope faded. What little hope remained was smashed on the rocks by the recent "so bad they do not even rise to the level of wrong" publications of the GGC.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">Fundamental change was pushed off even further into the future. Membership in the "tin foil hat club" continues to grow. The expectations of those hardened members of the online community became, if anything, even more hardened. The magnitude of what the software providers, and the casinos, and the regulatory agencies simply got away with here is really stunning.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">That, to me, is probably the worst aspect in all of this - a truly unique opportunity for implementing lasting change in the effective management of the online casino industry, an opportunity that does not come along all that often, was completely wasted.</span><br /><br style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; margin: 0px; orphans: auto; padding: 0px; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;" /><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: white; color: black; display: inline !important; float: none; font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: left; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">Chris</span>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-27608677484269816712013-05-02T11:59:00.000-07:002013-05-02T11:59:27.864-07:00The UIGEA May Torpedo America’s Preferred Head of The WTO<table align="left" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-SFFDFqot-9Q/UYH3U0-I-3I/AAAAAAAAAec/ld0Gy39m7tE/s1600/roberto_azevedo.jpg" height="360" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="640" /></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Roberto Azevedo prepares to pick his friend’s nose.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">T</span>he long and arduous process of choosing a new head for the WTO has <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/30/the_next_head_of_the_wto_choose_wisely" target="_blank">reached its final stages</a>. No matter how this turns out, it is going to be a significant event. For the first time, well, <i>ever</i>, a citizen of a non-first-world nation will lead the WTO. The first candidate, Herminio Blanco Mendoza, is Mexican, while the second candidate, Roberto Azevedo, hails from Brazil.<br /><br />Azevedo has been mentioned on these pages many times before mainly because Brazil is one of the few non-Western nations to successfully go up against the U.S. in trade disputes and actually come out on top (no small achievement). Brazil is also the largest nation that has expressed full support for Antigua's efforts to fight the United States.<br /><br />The two candidates are quite different. Azevedo has never been <i>officially</i> positioned as a trade minister, whereas Blanco Mendoza is well-versed in finance. Blanco Mendoza has been out of public life for many years, whereas Azevedo has disregarded professional titles and is utterly involved with the day-to-day operations of the WTO. He is a widely respected leader and has fulfilled the role of finance minister in practice, if not in name.<br /><br />But that’s all to be expected. Hotly contested races for an official position always have dichotomies between the candidates. What makes this interesting is that the winner may be chosen not by some weighing and measuring of his credentials, but whether the United States wants him or not. That is to say that whoever the U.S. wants is likely to <i>not</i> get elected. On a grander scale, this election may in fact signal the end of American economic hegemony.<br /><br />That may seem like a sweeping statement, but bear with me. Blanco Mendoza was educated at the University of Chicago, meaning that his economic theory is doubtless rooted in libertarian and Austrian wing-nuttery. That means that he is going to be very popular among the conservative groups in American politics. This also means that he is going to be the chosen one for the major Western powers who are currently gumming up the WTO, namely the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.<br /><br />This framing of his character and position is precisely the framing that voters in the WTO have taken. Blanco Mendoza is seen as the sort of “old order” candidate who would just as happily see everything stay the same (an accurate portrayal seeing as he was one of the architects of the abominable NAFTA). Because of that, the nations that want to see the exact opposite of that are rousing opposition to his appointment. And this is working wonders for Azevedo, who now appears to be the frontrunner.<br /><br />I want to reiterate this point because it is just so critical: <b>Roberto Azevedo is very likely to get the nomination precisely because the U.S. wants Blanco Mendoza to get the nomination, which makes nearly every third and second-world nation on the planet <i>not</i> want Blanco Mendoza.</b> Could there be a greater condemnation of America? I doubt it.<br /><br />I mentioned the UIGEA in my headline, and I’ll finally get around to addressing it here. The UIGEA is much bigger news in other countries than it is in the U.S. Indeed, in America, most people aren’t even aware that the law was ever passed, much less are they aware of the conflict that it is causing.<br /><br />The significance of the UIGEA has been amplified by ongoing frustrations of the the Doha Talks and the global economic downturn. Briefly, the Doha Round of WTO trade talks was/is an attempt to update international trade rules for our wonderful, modern age. The WTO, like the GATT (General Agreement on Taxes and Tariffs) before it, was originally formulated for the benefit of powerful first world nations.<br /><br />Well, one interesting element of this wonderful, modern age in which we live is that smaller nations are demanding a larger part of the global pie. This is irking the larger nations, so countries like the U.S. and the U.K. torpedoed the Doha Talks because they refused to back down. This torpedoing continues to this day, and it is well-understood in the international community that it is being caused by the <i>infuriatingly selfish</i> and arrogant behavior of the U.S. and her allies.<br /><br />Throw into this mess the UIGEA, which is a law that Antigua fought in the WTO <i>and won</i>. They won multiple times. The response of the U.S. is exactly what one would expect of a giant baby: they ignored it and threw a tantrum. They continue to ignore it to this day and nigh-on refuse to even talk with Antigua.<br /><br />It’s like the straw that broke the camel's back. All of the Caribbean, Brazil, and dozens of other nations have stood with Antigua in this conflict. The UIGEA has acted as a locus, around which nations are rallying against the United States.<br /><br />This has essentially destroyed the chances of America’s chosen one to win the election. And rightfully so! The United States' history of international bullheadedness is a shameful history indeed. Moreover, it is a history that was literally destined to end. Because <i>eventually</i> other nations were going to demand to be heard. I mean, like, duh! Unfortunately, just because other nations rising to power is an inevitability doesn't mean that the U.S. is going to take this all sitting down — oh, no!<br /><br />Regardless of that, though, this is destiny. It is going to happen. It <i>is</i> happening. And the ascendance of Azevedo to the WTO seems to signal the beginning of this great transitional period.<br /><br />That said, America shouldn’t be <i>too</i> afraid of Azevedo. While he is definitely not their friend, he is also not their enemy. Currently, many in the international community see the WTO at a crossroads of either being supportive of U.S. interests or supportive of third world interests, and that these interests are mutually exclusive. As such, the U.S. is throwing a hissy fit when they don’t get what they want and the third world is working to muscle the U.S. out of the WTO.<br /><br />Azevedo does not want this, and he has said as much. He still sees the WTO as a viable <i>cooperative</i> body, where the interests of all nations are taken into account. As such, while the U.S. would no longer be able to use the WTO as its plaything, the U.S. is still one of the largest, most powerful nations on Earth. Their concerns would be heard well.<br /><br />But that subject is beyond the scope of this article. For my purposes, the important and noteworthy point is that the UIGEA — a law aimed at our tiny, little corner of the global economy — is a catalyst for gargantuan, global, economic policy.<br /><br />There is something almost funny about that.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-47265081415191069542013-04-25T22:16:00.000-07:002013-05-08T22:05:32.387-07:00U.S. Online Gambling Revenue is WILDLY Overestimated<img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-tilFjXQ5oXQ/UXoHM78o4CI/AAAAAAAAAds/5I0m3Af5jXc/s1600/chris_christy_gambling.jpg" /><br /><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">W</span>ell well, less than two weeks after I published my article about the online gambling industry in the U.S. being a "gold rush," we have a study released that shows that the estimates on which the state governments are relying are, like, totally out of whack. Before we get to it, though, a few points I'd like to go over.<br /><br />One of the more egregiously stupid aspects of the gambling gold rush that I forgot to mention in my magnum opus on the subject is who is providing the numbers for analysis. It's not industry specialists. It's not casino companies, even though they would be just as likely to lie. It's not anyone you would expect.<br /><br />It's the banks. The very financial institutions that stand to earn buckets of money implementing all of the financial infrastructure necessary and all of the underwriting are the ones producing the studies. Oh yes. They're completely trustworthy.<br /><br />In my previous article, I said that "gold rush" was an apt term to describe this hullabaloo because like the California Gold Rush, it will be defined by a small number of people earning lots of money while the vast majority of people will be left poorer than they started. It now appears that the ones who will end up on top will be the casino technology companies and the financial companies. In retrospect, I should have guessed that the banks would have been included in the group of winners.<br /><br />But that's beside the point. This article is about studies, and about studies I shall write! We saw some pretty optimistic numbers in that infographic I posted a few weeks ago, although even that wasn't as optimistic as this recent study. Also noteworthy, the graphic specified numbers for <i>social</i> online gambling, but I still don't know what that means.<br /><br />But what about these recent studies? So what are the number, eh? What's the 411? Well I'll tell you.<br /><br />The entire house of cards that is online gambling in the U.S. is built <a href="http://www.northjersey.com/news/204224801_Studies_see_far_less_from_online_betting_than_state_predicts.html?page=all" target="_blank">on a study released in January</a> of this year. It was composed by Wells Fargo and predicted that the online gambling market in New Jersey could grow to $1.5 billion within the first five years. The treasurer for New Jersey, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, ran with this, stating that the <i>first year</i> revenues for New Jersey's market would be $1.2 billion.<br /><br />This study is in direct conflict with a study done in 2010 done by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association. The iMega, as they refer to themselves, is basically a lobbying group for online casinos. The study was produced to motivate the U.S. to re-open its borders to online gambling, which means that it was already optimistic! Keep that in mind when reading the numbers.<br /><br />The iMega study estimated between $210 and $260 million in overall revenue, giving $32 to $39 million in tax revenue. Considering that New Jersey's budget deficit is $11 <i>billion</i>, this number doesn't even count as a drop in the bucket. It's more like putting a bucket in a humid room.<br /><br />The authors of that study claim that the study was being conservative, since it was intended to support the New Jersey initiative, which began back in 2010. They feared an optimistic study would be a hard pill to swallow. Obviously, their usage of the word "conservative" is what the rest of us would call "realistic." Also, can I just say how stupid I find that statement. Fearing that politicians would be unreceptive to an "optimistic" study is like saying a starving dog would be unreceptive to a pork chop.<br /><br />I understand that iMega is in a difficult position. They want online gambling to expand across the U.S., so they must now support a study that goes against their own study while simultaneously saying that their study still has merit. In service of this goal, they are talking up Wells Fargo by saying that <i>their</i> estimates must <i>also</i> be conservative, because Wells Fargo is conservative.<br /><br />First, Wells Fargo? Conservative? There wasn't a bank in America that could be called conservative. The old days of stodgy old bankers doing boring stuff with money are looooong dead. Wells Fargo is just like every other bank — a massive complex of aggressive, risky investments designed to generate as much short-term revenue as possible. They're conservative like I'm the Queen. Of maybe just the band Queen. Or maybe the Queen of Hearts.<br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/HhBkFsdSwtk" width="640"></iframe> <br /><br />Second, if iMega's estimates were conservative at $210 million, and Wells Fargo's estimates are conservative at over six times that number, iMega is incompetent. The only way to explain their numbers is that they mixed up the online gambling numbers with those for the snack cake market. The industry can't have it both ways. One study is correct, and the other is wrong. If only we had a way of choosing between the two. Like, say, another study. If only... if only....<br /><br />Oh right! We have another study. And guess on which side of the argument it falls. That's right Timmy, this study finds a number almost identical to the iMega study of $260 million.<br /><br />This newest study was released by Gambling Data, an industry research firm. While I think that almost everyone in the industry is lying, an independent research firm is least likely to lie, so their numbers are probably the most trustworthy. That being said, $260 million in taxable revenue would still be very high in my opinion.<br /><br />I look to some of the best publicly available data —the Spanish study <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/07/good-public-data-about-online-casino.html" target="_blank">I wrote about some time ago</a> — runs counter to this.In that Spanish study, all of Spain's online gambling industry, which includes revenue from throughout the Eurozone, was only $873 million. Even if these revenues came <i>only</i> from Spain, Spain's population is nearly fifty million. New Jersey's population is nine million&nbsp; — over five times the population. And remember that lovely chart <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/04/why-recent-online-gambling-gold-rush-is.html" target="_blank">in my earlier article</a>: Spain gambles quite a bit more per person than the U.S. does.<br /><br />Based on that Spanish data, what numbers can New Jersey expect? Well, if we divide Spain's revenues by five, we get a number of $174 million. <u><b><i>I want to go on the record here and say that I predict that New Jersey's annual online gambling revenue will be around $174 million</i></b></u>.<br /><br />Well, that's enough babbling and ranting. The ultimate point is that the estimate that proponents are parading around is nonsense. Atlantic City generated slightly over <a href="http://gaming.unlv.edu/reports/ac_hist.pdf" target="_blank">$3 billion in profits in 2012</a>. The idea that online gambling that can currently <i>only serve New Jersey residents</i> would generate half of that is just balls-to-the-wall insane.<br /><br />But then again, this is gambling and politics. Anyone who expected a reasoned, level-headed process is just as nuts.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-70333319869656361962013-04-23T17:19:00.000-07:002013-04-23T17:19:14.644-07:00What Is Return to Player (RTP)?<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-dvqRH864qEM/UXDabKKOP2I/AAAAAAAAAdc/6tX7zHk27do/s1600/gil_elvgren_jackpot.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-dvqRH864qEM/UXDabKKOP2I/AAAAAAAAAdc/6tX7zHk27do/s1600/gil_elvgren_jackpot.jpg" height="320" width="248" /></a></div><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">G</span>ambling lingo is some of the most confusing lingo in business. Making matters worse is that with the split between online casinos and physical casinos, the lingo has likewise split. While we could spend hours discussing differences between edges, holds, and takes, it would provide little help to those who actually need help: the customer — the player.<br /><br />From the player perspective, there are few concepts more important than <i>Return to Player</i>, also known as RTP. You'll hear it discussed ad nauseum in online forums, and if Casinomeister is any indication, many of the people involved don't understand it at all. But in the grand tradition of online dialog, that doesn't stop them from making their thoughts heard.<br /><br />In its most basic formulation, RTP is the percentage of money put into a machine that is then later returned, unsurprisingly, to players. Whatever is not returned is the profit of the casino. So for example, if a total of $100 is put into a slot machine, if the slot machine has an RTP of 95%, it will return $95 to players.<br /><br />The 5% not returned is generally referred to as <i>house edge</i>. This is the flipside of the RTP coin. There is some extra complexity involved with determining the true house edge, what with jackpots and other rewards, but this doesn't much concern the player. For the players, all they want to know is how much of what goes in, eventually comes back out.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="11" width="320" /></div><br /><br />In discussions online, RTP is usually associated with discussions about <i>variance</i>. This is a surprisingly difficult term to nail down. Chris Colby, president of Galewind, tried this in a thread on Casinomeister. Even with many intelligent contributions, a definitive, quantitative definition remained elusive.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mY6LfcOEObY/T8kMeh01aYI/AAAAAAAAACo/4cEty5kWkag/s1600/a_better_RTP_chart_return_to_player.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mY6LfcOEObY/T8kMeh01aYI/AAAAAAAAACo/4cEty5kWkag/s1600/a_better_RTP_chart_return_to_player.png" height="195" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A chart representing a zero variance game</td></tr></tbody></table>Colloquially, variance is used to describe how often big wins happen in comparison to small wins, or to put it another way, how many times must a player bet before something happens. A high variance slot machine would therefore have very few small wins, but big wins every now and then, thus requiring a player to make many bets before anything happened. This is why variance is so important when determining the "nature" of a slot game.<br /><br />A game of zero variance and 95% RTP would simply return 95% of whatever you put in, every time. Very boring. Also, impossible to win anything. The goal of a slot player it to hope for some degree of variance, such that other players put money in that they do not get back. This builds up a “pile” of money inside the slot machine that is eventually dumped out in some big win, thus ensuring that 95% of all money is returned. Because remember, when it says that 95% of money put in is returned to player, it doesn't say <i>which</i> player gets the money.<br /><br />This is the reason why a game's RTP may not be seen until a sufficient number of games have been played. If a game is a <i>high</i> variance game, players could conceivably pump thousands of bets into the game until it produces a big win. Until that big win happens, the game's RTP <i>seems</i> very low. This is also the reason why the only hope to “win” at a slot machine is to go in, bet high over a short period of games, and <i>then walk away</i>. The longer you play, the more likely you are to follow the RTP. <br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="11" width="320" /></div><br /><br />There is a distinction that has bizarrely sprouted up in some forums online whereby people differentiate between <i>theoretical</i> RTP and <i>observed</i> RTP. This is stupid. There is only one RTP and it is a mathematical construct determined by the design of the game. I suspect that this distinction was created by casino reps who were trying to cloud the issue of what RTP is and why it is important.<br /><br />That's not the only obfuscation that defenders of online casinos will use. Conversations in online message boards, especially those that have representatives of casinos in them, will try to lead you away from RTP entirely, be it theoretical or observed. They will try to get you to focus on variance. They do this because RTP is the most important number for them as well as you. It's the number that affects their profit sheet at the end of the month. That means that any wiggle room in player comprehension of RTP is wiggle room in which they can try to squeeze more profits.<br /><br />To disarm any statements that these represenatatives may make — yes, variance is important in a game. Different variance models is the reason we have so freaking many different casino games. All of them do the same thing — slowly take away your money — they merely do so in different patterns.<br /><br />That said, all casino games have good variance. <b><i>All of them</i></b>. That's why they are in casinos. If they had awful variance models, no one would play them and they would understandably never be carried by any casinos. As such, you can rest relatively assured that any game you play is going to be a good game. Variance is thus an unimportant variable to consider. All you want to know is the RTP.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="11" width="320" /></div><br /><br />Hitherto, I have been discussing slots, but the importance of RTP applies to all games <br /><br />Some games, like blackjack, have set RTPs <i>based on perfect play</i>. Player strategy has an affect on the RTP since player choices directly affect the way the game transpires. RTP is, if anything, more important for these games since it is here where players who are suitably inclined can reduce the house edge to an absolute sliver. Many online casinos have blackjack RTPs of over 99%.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-T44OOAv14nE/UXDSqn9uy4I/AAAAAAAAAdU/-ZiRAWtGSLw/s1600/baccarat.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-T44OOAv14nE/UXDSqn9uy4I/AAAAAAAAAdU/-ZiRAWtGSLw/s1600/baccarat.png" height="199" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A baccarat table</td></tr></tbody></table>Other games are in fact a wide variety of RTPs contained within a single rule structure. Baccarat, for example, is essentially three slot machines in one game. Player, banker, and tie all have set RTPs, and the user can place bets on any of them, but the user cannot affect the outcome of each round of play. The same goes for craps and roulette. The various bets on the table all have set RTPs because the outcome of a round is unaffected by player decisions.<br /><br />Still other games have artificially variable RTPs. A true variable RTP should change its RTP based on the mechanics of the game's parts. For example, blackjack has a variable RTP because if a player hits, that card <i>is no longer available</i> for the dealer. Many game designers, dishonestly in my opinion, attach a mechanism to the RTP that isn't required by the game.<br /><br />This mechanism can be found in slots that alter their RTP based on how long a player plays. There is nothing about the design of the slot, such as number of reels, stops, and pay table, that necessitates this. It is a feature that is bolted on to an otherwise complete game. This is sometimes touted as a "feature," it it's actually just a way for a casino to squeeze a bit more cash from you.<br /><br />Other ways that this variable RTP could be achieved are even more nefarious than the above mentioned method. And these methods can apply to card games like blackjack. Indeed, my associate Lincoln has gone over these strategies in detail (<a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/09/a-warts-opinion-do-online-casino-games.html" target="_blank">Part 1</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/11/a-warts-opinion-do-online-casino-games.html" target="_blank">Part 2</a>), calling them, I think appropriately, <i>cheating.</i> They are also incredibly difficult to spot.<br /><br />For example, let's say that you are playing blackjack. The game decides that you are winning too much money and selectively removes certain cards from the virtual deck, thus reducing your RTP because the mechanics of the game have been altered. If a customer's willful and knowledgable action alters a game's RTP, that is fine. But when RTP is altered secretly or by some arbitary method, it is <i>always bad</i>. In my opinion, even if the the casino lets you know it is happening, as with game time-dependent slots that I mentioned, it is bad.<br /><br />RTP is a mathematical result that springs forth from the <b><i>rigid</i></b> mechanics of the game. The RTP of a slot is determined by the number of stops, the number of reels, and the pay table. The RTP of a card game is based on the pay table and a virtual deck of cards. Anything else is an invitation for funny business on the part of the casino.<br /><br />This again reinforced the fact that as far as the math of the casino games are concerned, RTP is the most important number there is for you, the player. It doesn't matter what the variance is; it doesn't matter what the design is; you must always seek out games with the highest RTPs. A general rule of thumb that I follow is that anything below 95% is crap. Any companies that refuse to divulge their RTPs are worse than crap. They are scams waiting to happen, if they haven't already.<br /><br />That's why I play blackjack — sweet, sweet, 99% RTP. Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-1308612602066487012013-04-16T13:32:00.002-07:002013-04-16T13:32:52.446-07:00Why The Recent Online Gambling Gold Rush Is Mostly Noise<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zMt-XPAdJsw/UUPrBcTaaLI/AAAAAAAAAUk/JtVvCWmhkyo/s1600/gold.gif" /></div><br /><div style="text-align: center;">There’s gold in them thar servers!</div><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="6" width="200" /></div><br /><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span> n case you slept through history class, the gold rush was a period of time in California in the mid 1800’s when people believed that gold was literally flowing out of the Earth. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world poured into the state on a quest to <i>strike it big</i>. Most earned little, many died, still others became dejected and simply left, and a scant few earned fortunes. The foundations of modern California were laid then, made with bricks of blood, sweat, and broken dreams. From this chaos, the term “gold rush” has now come to indicate any mad rush for easy money, usually in a pejorative sense, with little hope for actual reward.<br /><br />Well, a new gold rush is upon us, one which will likely end just the same as the first. I am of course speaking about online gambling. Texas is the most recent state to make a move toward legalizing Internet casinos, following in the footsteps of New Jersey’s recent, well-publicized efforts to legalize online gambling for a period of ten years. Nevada and Delaware legalized it last year, both with the intention of being first out the gate, to use a gambling phrase. More states are readying initiatives to allow it, with more still beginning to discuss the issue.<br /><br />The race is on.<br /><br />As is usually the case when governments attempt something for the first time, they are almost guaranteed to fail. The problem isn’t legal, operational, or even really political. The problem is a shocking lack of business perspective, both from government and from the companies with whom they work.<br /><br />Basically, states all see online gambling as a lottery. Many states have long since been disabused of the notion that <i>all</i> gambling is a lottery — and thus see physical casinos as different, but persist in seeing <i>online</i> casinos as somehow different. In a sense, I can’t blame them. The sky-high tax revenue from lotteries acts as a powerful motivator for wishful thinking. So, with wishful thoughts well in hand, we have many a legislature charging blindly forward on online gambling plans with their hearts set on sixty percent tax rates.<br /><br />To be fair, there are some jurisdictions who do not seem to suffer from such a greedy notion, such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The problem there is that, instead of being crippled by tax-hungry politicians, these plans are crippled by “managers” who are “in” a “business.” <br /><br />What I’m trying to say with that flurry of quotes is that businesspeople have a tendency to see themselves in a particular business and that business includes certain heuristics and ideas. Thus, they will try to apply those heuristics to anything that they see as falling within the realm of their business. In the specific case of online casinos, the jurisdictions and corporations will try to shoehorn online casinos into the same regulatory model as real casinos, and this is doomed to fail just the same as those states who try to tax online casinos at some insane level.<br /><br />Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised by this lack of vision. Afterall, governmental agents aren’t businesspeople. They rely <i>on</i> businesspeople to provide the relevant data for a project. This is the very definition of <i>the blind leading the blind</i> considering that the landed casinos <i>themselves</i> seem to see online gambling as a direct competitor to physical gaming. Everyone seems to think that the two types of casinos are in the same business. It takes <i>one nanosecond</i> of analysis to see that just because motorcycles and cars get you from point A to point B, does not mean that they are the same.<br /><br />Let’s set aside that analysis for now. I want to instead look at the failures of vision that have <i>already</i> happened that may provide a good augur from which to predict how this current gold rush is going to turn out.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br /><a href="http://www.twinriver.com/" target="_blank">Twin River Casino</a> in Rhode Island isn’t much of a casino. It’s small, unprofitable, and more a spit-shine over the notoriously unsavory Lincoln Park than anything else. It’s notable as a casino without table games, operating in a state that “doesn’t have” gambling, and doing so with what may be the tightest integration between gambling business and government in, well, anywhere. It’s also notable for being less than an hour away from Connecticut’s twin gambling goliaths, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.<br /><br />Twin River is explicitly classified as a lottery in Rhode Island’s tax code, thus explaining why politicians there insisted they didn’t have casinos, and is taxed accordingly.<sup>1</sup> Twin River, and the other gambling location in The Ocean State, Newport Grand, have their revenue from video slots taxed at the utterly <a href="http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/SenateFinance/special_reports/revenue%20report%202011.pdf" target="_blank">jaw-dropping rate of 61.69 percent</a>. This massive tax has kept Twin River, and Lincoln Park before it, in a state of almost constant financial instability.<sup>2</sup><br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NqrPt7D_mM8/UW2yYLpmBOI/AAAAAAAAAc0/AcnW6f2Qajw/s1600/Foxwood_Casino.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin: 5px auto 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NqrPt7D_mM8/UW2yYLpmBOI/AAAAAAAAAc0/AcnW6f2Qajw/s1600/Foxwood_Casino.JPG" height="150" width="200" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Foxwoods Casino</td></tr></tbody></table>Don’t think that Rhode Island is alone. Connecticut collects twenty-five percent of both Foxwoods’ and Mohegan Sun’s slot profits. This equals tens of millions of dollars every month.<sup>3</sup> Massachusetts just recently allowed gambling in general, and with it casino taxes of twenty-five percent and slot taxes of fifty-five percent. Travel a bit farther afield and you’ll find similar numbers. Pennsylvania taxes slot revenue in their casinos to the tune of fifty-five percent, generating over a billion dollars in tax revenue every year — the highest in the nation. Macau, the recently-crowned gambling capital of the world, collects atax of thirty-nine percent.<br /><br />Between Twin River and Newport Grand, $350 million in taxes are generated — over one-third of all tax revenue for Rhode Island. The state would literally collapse without gambling. And yet, despite this, those in the state continue to say they don’t have casinos and will fight further gambling developments! Indeed, the story of gambling in Rhode Island is a tale told at the intersection of reasonable revenue, greed, ethics, and puritanical zeal —the very same intersection at which the entire country now finds itself.<br /><br />The state wants <i>and needs</i> insane gambling revenue, and while this is generally compatible with most governments, Rhode Island’s nearly century-long, slow-moving train wreck that is Lincoln Park/Twin River proves that even this isn’t a guaranteed formula. With these data in hand, do you think that an online casino based in Rhode Island would succeed? Or do you think it more likely that it would simply collapse?<br /><br />Again, this problem is not exclusive to Rhode Island. The intransigence may be a bit more extreme there than other places, but it’s mostly the same. When a heavily-taxed gambling system is exposed to competition, it fails.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br />Antigua has been much in the news of late. They have taken the United States to the WTO on multiple occasions (<i>and won every time</i>) to fight the UIGEA and its predecessors. They rallied the whole of the Caribbean behind their cause. They have even revealed further cracks in the WTO itself that may cause its very disintegration.<br /><br />But before all that, Antigua was the first jurisdiction to set up a specific system for managing online casinos. In 1994, they instituted a “free trade zone” where operations could be set up, tax-free, just as the provisions of the WTO were beginning to take effect. This was initially done to manage sports betting, with the first bets taken over the phone. They expanded into online casino gambling and were the first country to accept a real-money bet in 1996.<br /><br />During this time, online gambling grew exponentially, especially in the U.S. Even though there were dozens upon dozens of other jurisdictions all competing to become popular hosting sites for casinos, Antigua commanded nearly fifty percent of the market. Times were incredibly fat.<br /><br />In response to increasing corruption and calls for regulation from other countries, Antigua declared that they would be instituting regulations and, crucially, dissolving the free trade zone to allow a new two percent tax on profits. The market responded by slicing Antigua’s market share in half.<br /><br />Unfortunately, one of the reasons for Antigua’s massive market loss was the regulation itself. In 2000, when the regulations were announced, online gambling was about as scummy as it is now. Legislation and protection was desperately needed. Sadly, with so many jurisdictions willing to provide whatever a casino wanted, when Antigua threatened to put actual teeth behind its regulations, the casinos ran.<br /><br />The countries to which the casinos moved technically had regulations, but they were and are utterly toothless. Even today, repeated violations of regulations in countries like Gibraltar are met with no response.<br /><br />Antigua would eventually react by doing what many other jurisdictions would do: putting a cap on tax revenue. In the case of Antigua, this cap was $600,000 per year. Higher than some other jurisdictions, but not high enough that it would drive away casinos. Antigua would also remain lax with its regulations, just as most other jurisdictions, but I remain convinced that it was the capless two percent tax that was the primary driver behind the exodus. It is <i>the</i> reason for the rush of casinos out of the United Kingdom and into Gibraltar: dodging taxes. A tax of <b><i>two percent</i></b> was enough to drive dozens of casinos out of the country and into the arms of other countries.<br /><br />If two percent is enough to repel business, what about three, or six, or as with New Jersey, fifteen percent?<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-955WPqKHnxY/UW21Tp2ILvI/AAAAAAAAAdE/k3HNdcA0P4I/s1600/george_osborne_casinos_gambling.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-955WPqKHnxY/UW21Tp2ILvI/AAAAAAAAAdE/k3HNdcA0P4I/s1600/george_osborne_casinos_gambling.jpg" height="236" width="320" /></a></div>Lucky for us, we have an answer to that question. As I mentioned, the UK suffered a massive loss of online casinos to Gibraltar after the institution of new taxes in 2005. These new taxes raised the effective rate on online casino revenue to, conveniently, fifteen percent. Quite literally every major casino pulled up stakes and departed for other countries, with some, like the Isle of Man, tantalizingly close.<br /><br />Much like Antigua, the UK has since backed off its taxes. Late last year, George Osborne, <i>Looooord</i> of the Treasury, all but confirmed that the UK <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2245302/Online-gambling-Companies-tax-cuts-lure-UK-protests-erupt-tax-avoidance-schemes-Starbucks-Google-Amazon.html" target="_blank">is readying a one-third cut</a> to their online gambling tax in an attempt to lure back casinos. This is a significant admission of defeat, if that’s the correct word to describe it. Even still, going from fifteen to ten percent won’t be enough when competing nations are offering rates that are an order of magnitude lower.<br /><br />I would wager that this will change nothing.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="8" width="320" /></div><br /><br />Not all jurisdictions in developed countries are milking casinos like a dairy cow. Nevada’s tax rate, and thus the tax rate of Vegas, is super-low, at 6.75 percent. New Jersey, famous for Atlantic City, charges a scant eight percent. In both cases, though, we find the seeds of poor business sense. For example, in Vegas, just as the city is facing its worst slump in twenty years, they are talking about raising the tax rate to eight percent. The greed that motivates such a decision is the same greed that motivates Rhode Island to charge over sixty percent in taxes. It’s the same greed that motivated the UK in their catastrophic fifteen percent tax.<br /><br />As I said, though, greed isn’t the only problem here. It may not even be the biggest problem. New Jersey provides perhaps the best example of the manifold misconceptions that now motivate jurisdiction after jurisdiction to charge headlong into the jaws of failure.<br /><br />They charge eight percent on landed casino profits, and even in their earlier rejected propositions, they were going to charge ten percent on online profits. The governor of New Jersey, the bipedal planetoid Chris Christy, specifically rejected the bill <i>unless</i> the tax revenue was raised to fifteen percent. If anything, they should be charging a <i>lower</i> tax on online revenue. But no. Here, they appear to recognize that online gambling and landed gambling are different, but then reach the <i>opposite</i> conclusion that they should.<br /><br />I stress that this failure of analysis isn’t unexpected, nor should those in power be exclusively blamed. Afterall, their primary experience with gambling is one that makes the business seem amenable to high taxes. Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Macau all have <i>very</i> high taxrates, but it obviously works.<sup>4</sup>&nbsp; As such, a jurisdiction is free to tax like crazy. For someone only vaguely informed on the business, this makes perfect sense.<br /><br />When this faulty perspective is applied to the highly competitive online gambling world, though, it becomes crippling. Just like the casinos contained therein, <i>jurisdictions</i> must compete with one another. With that in mind, Nevada is going to charge $500,000 per year just for the license. Atlantic City hasn’t announced its price yet, but it’s sure to be similar. Compare this to jurisdictions like Curacao which charge $10,000 ANG per year, whichworks out to about $5,700 USD. And that’s only for the first two years. After that, the license holder can negotiate a lower amount. In short, one <i>one-hundredth</i> the cost.<br /><br />Let’s take a tour through the tax rates of the countries that are almost completely dominating the online casino industry:<br /><ul><li>Gibraltar, 1%, max. £425,000 GBP</li><li>Malta, 5%, max. £466,000 GBP</li><li>Alderney, 0%</li><li>Antigua, 3%, max $600,000 USD</li><li>Isle of Man: Between 0.1%-1.5%</li></ul>There is only one conclusion to be drawn from these numbers: the Western jurisdictions are going to fail.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="8" width="320" /></div><br /><br />The primary disconnect, multifaceted as the problem may be, is that just as with so many industries, the big Western gambling jurisdictions don’t seem to grasp that the Internet breaks down barriers. Jurisdictions, be they countries or states, are able to charge the taxes they charge because of natural barriers. Without them, the value of the jurisdiction drops to near zero. That low value is represented in the numbers above.<br /><br />Again, it’s almost alarming that the casinos and governments don’t seem to grasp this. It’s basic economics. The more competition there is, the lower the price is going to be. A landed casino can only operate within a small area, and are onlyreally competing with those within that area: low competition, high prices. Online casinos mustcompete with everyone, everywhere, all the time: high competition, low prices.<br /><br />The root mechanism that drives these valuations, and thus makes the perceptual disconnect so damaging, is what’s known as <i>customer attrition</i>. How fast and how often does a business lose customers, and what variables affect these numbers? For landed operations, there are three variables of greatest importance: location, location, and location. As Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association, points out <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/mike-sokolove-foxwood-casinos.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">in an interview</a> for The New York Times,<br /><blockquote><i>Farhrenkopf [sic] acknowledged that when the market does decide, it can have adverse consequences — in Atlantic City, for example, where casino revenue is down 37 percent since 2006 and the city’s future as a gambling mecca is very much in doubt. Rooms at hotel casinos have been going for as little as $19 a night. At least four casinos have been in bankruptcy, and people are no longer crowding onto buses to head south down the Atlantic City Expressway. “The Pennsylvania casinos are killing Atlantic City,” he said. “That’s where the Philadelphia market used to go, but now they can stay home.”</i></blockquote>The moral of the story is that<i><b> landed casinos attract the population around them</b></i>. Yes, Las Vegas attracts people in droves from all over the planet, but not because of the casinos. Vegas attracts customers because <i>it</i><i>’s Vegas</i>. It is a legitimate destination, different from other destinations. But a standard casino just sitting outside of a major city? It’s exactly the same as <i>any</i> casino sitting outside a major city. People just want to go to the closest casino. As such, casinos that are near major cities can survive higher taxes and charges because the value of proximity is higher for gamblers than any savings they might achieve at a lower-taxed casino. Similarly, there is value in being a landed casino within a particular country that may outweigh any taxes incurred.<br /><br />Online casinos have none of these concerns. Players are exactly the same distance from one casino as from another. Assuming that the experiences are the same (with many using the same products, casinos can be literally identical), players will jump ship with even the slightest motivation, and this behavior has come to very much define the online gambling industry. It’s why we have <i>thousands</i> of online casinos, many owned by the same companies. It’s why so many online casinos open, stay around for a time, then close down only to “open” again with a completely new brand and design. With no inherent “qualitative gravity” attracting players, they are free to wander about like rogue comets, flying into and out of casinos like ADD-afflicted sailors on shore leave.<br /><br />And you better believe that players take advantage of this! It is very common for players to maintain accounts <i>at dozens</i> of online casinos, play a bit at one, then move on to the next after their favorite game goes “cold.” There is no way for a casino to control for this. A player can enter, not like the feeling, and leave, maintaining a balance just large enough to allow this behavior. Landed casinos, even those that are situated <i>directly adjacent</i> to other casinos, have a degree of protection from this behavior. It is difficult for a person to get up, cash in any money, leave, walk to another casino, and set up camp. In essence, landed casinos have a captive audience, one which is incredibly easy to capture. All the casinos have to do is set up shop as close to their audience as possible, and <i>bam</i>, instant guaranteed casino revenue.<br /><br />The Internet is a brave new world for an industry accustomed to this situation. The principle of <i>build it and they will come</i> no longer flies. And since the financial and governmental machine built up around this principle is so entrenched, they will need to spend many years facing total failure before their ideas change. <i><b>It is the race to realize that everyone is wrong that is the real gold rush.</b></i><br /><br />Vegas has the best shot at a functional online gambling industry within U.S. borders. Perhaps because they are working so hard to overcome the drive of gamblers to choose the nearest casino, they are already most emblematic of competitive behavior vis-a-vis a global market. While the overall process of epiphany is going to be slow, Vegas is probably best-positioned to weather this process of awareness.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3DjXNKcPP4s/UW201NyBHrI/AAAAAAAAAc8/udLa-gmL7qo/s1600/las_vegas_strip.jpg" height="436" width="640" /></div><br />Vegas taxes are already low,&nbsp; the environment is filled withoptions, so the casinos understand proximate competition, and as such, the Return to Player at those businesses <a href="http://gaming.nv.gov/index.aspx?page=149" target="_blank">is very high</a>: usually ninety-five percent or more. Compare that to <a href="http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/pdf/gaming/mosltweb.pdf" target="_blank">Mohegan Sun</a> and <a href="http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/pdf/gaming/fosltweb.pdf" target="_blank">Foxwoods</a>, which exist in a high-tax environment with little direct competition, and they have payouts of 91-92 percent. That may seem inconsequential, but for a serious gambler, nothing could be further from the truth. 3-4 percent can be the difference between losing everything in an hour or having a night of fun.<sup>5</sup><br /><br />Moreover, those numbers are more than enough for a seasoned player to detect. One percent? Alright. Most players would probably not detect that. Two percent, I think there are many who would “feel” the difference. Three percent? By then, almost everyone will feel it. The situation will thus be a number of “official,” online, American casinos with poor player returns, and a large number of “unofficial” casinos that are offering good returns. Compare the average Foxwoods slot return of ninety-one percent to the average return of a slot at Pinnacle Casino: 97.5 percent. There is no comparison.<br /><br />This palpable disparity will cause American gamblers to flee from American casinos, and will cause customers in other countries to look upon American casinos with disdain. In short, total failure. But what, you ask, if the American casinos raise their returns? I doubt that this will happen, at least initially. While landed casinos have guaranteed revenue and can generate it in multiple ways, online casinos revenue is not guaranteed and can only be generated in one way:the way that gets hammered by taxes. With other jurisdictions accustomed to fifty percent tax rates, Vegas will be the only game in town.<br /><br />At this point, we enter a very strange place. As I discussed in <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/03/the-other-shoe-cometh-us-casinos-push.html" target="_blank">an earlier article</a>, one of the primary goals of American online casinos is to increase <i>liquidity</i>. “Liquidity” is a fancy, casino business term for the amount of money available to be gambled from the population. The logical first step, and the one on every American casino executive’s mind, is to engage gamblers in other states. To further this, states will sign agreements, which will immediately drive all online casinos into the state with the lowest taxes, which will cause the other states to either lower their taxes or renege on their agreement. It would become the U.S. vs. Antigua in miniature. While the possibility of the various American jurisdictions suddenly accepting this situation and lowering their taxes is real, it is fleetingly small. Going from a fifty percent tax down to a one percent tax is something that no one in the U.S. will accept.<br /><br />There is only one way to forcibly construct a market that is amenable to the desired taxes: <i>protectionist policies</i>. These can come in form of subsidies, tariffs, taxes, or outright bans. I could write an entire book on protectionist polices throughout history — indeed, people have — but I won’t open that can of worms. For thepurposes of this article, we have a single, shining example of protectionism: the UIGEA.<br /><br />I’ve been picking on the U.S. for the UIGEA since I learned of it. It’s a colossal failure — an embarrassment of a law. The U.S. isn’t the only country to attempt such laws, though. The United Kingdom tried something similar in 2011, only to face even greater resistance for violations of trade treaties. Again, Western nations throwing a hissy-fit because laws that were meant to be used for <i>their benefit</i> are, of all the nerve, being used <i>against them</i>! Good heavens! The world doesn’t work that way!<br /><br />Of course, the world does work that way. The free market is constantly worming itself into economic processes. And while the right-wing myth of the free market isn’t as straightforward as they would like to think, free market principles have an undeniable affect on markets and competition. If protectionist policies slam up against a free market reality too hard, the policies will fail. Again, looking at the UIGEA, all the law did was force major operators out of the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of the gambling activity <a href="http://www.americangaming.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/final_online_gambling_white_paper_5-18-11.pdf" target="_blank">continued unabated</a>, only it was going to smaller, less scrupulous casinos and bookies.<br /><br />Will we see protectionist behavior between states? Absolutely yes. The only variable is how far the states go toward increasing “liquidity.” If they actually open their borders to one another, and there’s no guarantee they will even make it to that point, then the protectionist behavior will come when states bicker and fight over tax rates until the agreements collapse. The more likely course of events is the states setting into motion the process of increasing liquidity, and in that process begin to realize what would happen in the diverse market that would result. They would then refuse to open their borders, and the entire quest to increase liquidity would fail before it began.<br /><br />Either way, failure is the almost guaranteed conclusion.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br />I described these slowly unfolding events as a gold rush, and it’s about as close to a perfect descriptor as I think I can manage. The hullabaloo that New Jersey’s legislation kicked into high gear is fueled by misinformation and confusion. It is blinding people with visions of riches, and will make a small number of people very wealthy and ruin everyone else. Someone, somewhere is going to make a fortune as the various U.S. states desperately try to catch up to the 21st century. It’s not going to be the casinos, and it’s sure as hell not going to be the states. The only players who stand a chance of earning money are the software companies who will net huge paydays engineering all of the specialized software that is going to be necessary to indulge the state governments.<br /><br />I know that I keep playing Devil’s advocate in response to my own merciless assaults, but it bears repeating; there are underlying aspects of this that almost make one appreciate the actions of the states and casinos. Most notably, in this case, is the sheer size of the U.S. gambling market. It’s <i>enormous</i>. It is far and away the number-one gambling market on the planet. We may not spend the most per capita, there are many countries ahead of us, but the United States population is fifty percent larger than every country above it <i>combined.</i> As a function of raw dollars, no one gambles like Americans. Currently, landed casinos are the only ones feeding off of this, which is why they worked so hard to block online casinos. They want to protect their chattel.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-7pKj0z-8LnE/UV4Z-btHUqI/AAAAAAAAAZc/eskvSBaEAyY/s1600/gambling_per_capita_country_chart.gif" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-7pKj0z-8LnE/UV4Z-btHUqI/AAAAAAAAAZc/eskvSBaEAyY/s1600/gambling_per_capita_country_chart.gif" /></a></div><br />And indeed, the government wants to protect its money, as well. The last thing the United States needs is yet another industry that does nothing but funnel U.S. money out of the country. Make no mistake, I can very much appreciate that.<br /><br />I can also appreciate the moral perspective. While I may lampoon and lament the efforts of the American government to regulate online gambling, I am not necessarily against it. I may have been opposed initially, but the corruption in the online gambling world has made me come to believe that strong regulation is in fact critical. But I have stated <i>time and time again</i> that the regulatory region cannot be used as a tax grab. It needs to be financially identical to competitors overseas. <i>It needs to be competitive</i>, but also needs to provide strong regulation. <b><i>This is the reality of the Internet</i></b>.<br /><br />Gambling has changed.<br /><br />Until the various states and, hopefully, the U.S. on the whole recognize that reality, their efforts to enact online gambling will fail — fail to generate revenue, fail to generate jobs, fail to protect consumers —and fail miserably. It is irritating, certainly, but it is also sad. Because there is a reasonable system to be had in this mess. There is a way for everyone to be happy. It is sad that everyone involved has been blinded by a glistening pile of phantom gold, forever on the horizon.<br /><br />Indeed, in many ways, calling this a gold rush may not fully capture its nature. A gold rush implies that there is actual gold to be had. In this case, the gold is illusory; it doesn't exist. Perhaps a better description of this is a stampede, hurtling through the desert, in pursuit of a mirage. Eventually, everyone is going to die. All that's left to do, is watch. <br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tgvQlZ0R75s/UTAHb0WPlOI/AAAAAAAAAS4/P2xAI3wYbmg/s1600/citation_flourish.png" /></div><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 10px;">1: The games at Twin River are also all classified as Video Lottery Terminals. From the user perspective, the slots are identical, but the way that the game results are determined is different. Thus, they are not actually slots. It’s a strange distinction. The video poker terminals are also VLTs, and this does affect the game; it’s not actually video poker. It all seems too odd, but there is a key difference from the business’ perspective: there is no chance that they will lose money. The payouts are fixed at some percentage and this is what controls the game results. Probability has nothing to do with it.<br /><br />2: The founder and original owner of Twin River, at the time named Lincoln Downs, shut down and eventually sold the operation in 1976 after saying that the taxes levied by the state made in essentially impossible to turn a profit. It would be bought by Taunton Greyhound, which itself would suffer from financial problems until selling the track after fewer than five years to a duo of investors, who would themselves have trouble turning a profit. After shuttering their second race track, the duo sold the Lincoln track to a joint venture of Wembley Stadum and United Tote Inc. This new corporation would <i>also</i> have a hard time turning a profit, especially in the face of the recently-opened Foxwoods, thus bringing about the era of video slots. This stumbled along for a while, until a bribery scandal forced Wembley to sell itself to <i>another</i> joint venture corporation, which bought all of Wembley’s U.S. tracks for $455 million. This venture invested $220 million into Lincoln Park, rechristening it Twin River in 2007. They then promptly declared bankruptcy in mid-2009, selling the casino to creditors. This ridiculous, self-defeating arrangement would be <i>utterly destroyed</i> in a truly competitive market.<br /><br />3: Granted, those are not officially taxes, since both casinos operate onNative American tribal land. The money is intended to smooth over anyresentment from not having the huge casinos officially be part of thetax base. Tax or not, it is money going from casino to state in anagreement that no one seems willing to break.<br /><br />4: Their financial situations are currently poor, butthat’s not because of competition. It’s because the global economy isin the toilet.<br /><br />5: This says nothing of other states with lesser-known gambling operations. Some of them allow for slot returns of eighty percent. Few casinos actually go down that low, but some get close, with a number of penny slots dropping to eighty-five percent. <a href="http://www.americancasinoguide.com/slot-machine-payback-statistics.html" target="_blank">http://www.americancasinoguide.com/slot-machine-payback-statistics.html&nbsp;</a></span><br /><br /><br />Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-56218215226218519132013-04-06T12:29:00.000-07:002013-04-06T12:39:54.182-07:00Online Gambling Industry InfographicThe player statistics only have a sample size of 500, so that may explain some of the conflict with what I already know. To wit, that the majority of female online gamblers spend most of their time in slots. Moreover, what does this chart mean by <i>social</i> online casinos?<br /><br />If we assume that the word "social" means little, and this is just about online casinos, then the growth numbers are amazingly optimistic. Even assuming that the American market opens completely, a 100% increase over five years is, frankly, out of the question.<br /><br />Make sure <a href="https://plus.google.com/photos/102512704375401475906/albums/5863817302927049313/5863817303574075410?authkey=COvU-ZvA1cnBgQE" target="_blank">to click here</a> to see the full size picture. Blogger won't let me post it at full resolution... for some reason. *angry face* <br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-81yOa7YQXHs/UWB2xQ9SWBI/AAAAAAAAAa0/C_CM-5nBbko/s1600/online_gambling_info_graphic.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-81yOa7YQXHs/UWB2xQ9SWBI/AAAAAAAAAa0/C_CM-5nBbko/s1600/online_gambling_info_graphic.jpg" /></a></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><br />Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-58297302652231167362013-04-04T15:09:00.000-07:002013-04-04T15:09:02.721-07:00Antigua’s Line In The Sand<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ppUFUm-FvU4/USrLYdLzcbI/AAAAAAAAAQY/7CnczsvFM7s/s1600/usa_caricom_antigua_uigea.gif" height="411" width="640" /></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">A</span>ntigua has offered up what it is calling its final offer to U.S. negotiators. The statement <a href="http://www.thedominican.net/2013/04/dominica-warns-us-at-wto.html" target="_blank">was made by Dominica</a>, currently representing Antigua and the whole of CARICOM at the WTO in Switzerland, on March 26th. This may signal the end of over a <i>decade</i> of arguing and negotiation between the United States an Antigua about the UIGEA. As we’ve covered ad nauseum, this is casting the United States in an awful, if not unsurprising, light.<br /><br />Obviously, statements of this kind have been bandied back and forth for the entire duration of the conflict. What makes this recent pronouncement different and noteworthy is the added weight behind it. Unlike before, where Antigua was the only nation making noise, this is an official declaration on the part of CARICOM that negotiations are going nowhere. Previously, when it was just Antigua making claims of intransigence, it was a “he said/she said” situation. Now, it is a “he said/<u><i>they</i></u> said” situation where the U.S. is being accused of, to use a term that the young folk like, <i>being an asshole</i>. From the report:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>Antigua and Barbuda had not seen any substantial progress on the part of the United States to comply with the DSB</i><i>’s recommendations and rulings nor to reach a settlement with Antigua and Barbuda. </i></blockquote>In essence, this is Antigua and CARICOM playing their last card. It is a threat, more or less. It is, ironically, the very same threat that the U.S. gave to Antigua a few months ago, triggering the support of CARICOM. Namely, Antigua is telling the U.S. to back down to avoid “consequences.” Unlike the U.S. to Antigua, though, Antigua can’t threaten injury to America’s reputation since the U.S. already has a horrible reputation. It really can’t get any worse.<br /><br />Antigua is angling to <a href="http://www.caribarena.com/antigua/news/latest/103327-un-can-sanction-wto-ruling.html" target="_blank">give further weight</a> to their threat by way of the U.N. The U.N. representative-type-guys stationed in Antigua have made a statement before the broader U.N. saying that they could, and should, endorse Antigua’s case. It must be sanctioned by the General Assembly, which is a process to be sure, but even the possibility is something that the U.S. will want to avoid at all costs. They know that they would lose, and probably lose badly.<br /><br />The reasons for a near-guaranteed failure are of course manifold, and <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/the-end-of-uigea.html" target="_blank">well-discussed</a> <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/03/crimes-of-american-empire.html" target="_blank">on this website</a>. Perhaps the most significant reason is that the WTO, much like the GATT before it, are tools for American hegemony and the U.S. <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/07/27/idINIndia-50441920100727" target="_blank">has</a> <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2006/jul/24/wto.politics" target="_blank">been</a> <a href="http://www.bio.org/media/press-release/canada-and-european-communities-end-wto-biotech-dispute" target="_blank">using</a> <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/09/29-3" target="_blank">them</a> as such. Back in the day — and by day, I mean post World War II — the rest of the world was so weak that they just sorta’ rolled over. Today, though, the world is mighty pissed and not so willing to simply go along to get along.<br /><br />Not only has the U.S. outright ignored the WTO in the Antigua case, they have a long-running habit of doing this in <i>all</i> cases, which is fomenting an undercurrent of toxic anger among its partners. A surprising case goes all the way back to the late 1990’s, where, <i>yet again</i>, a clause was surreptitiously placed into a bill, late at night, to deny copyright recognition to rum being sold out of Cuba.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/bacardi-havana-club-rum_n_1592027.html" target="_blank">It’s an odd story</a>, where Cuba sells <i>Havana Club</i> rum, a famous rum. In the U.S., Bacardi sells <i>Havana Club</i> rum that is essentially stealing the trademark from the Cuban/French distiller. The U.S. has refused to recognize the trademark for over a decade, which has, like a cancer, slowly spread throughout the WTO until what is a seemingly esoteric case has managed to piss off <a href="http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/26/united-states-chided-as-trips-scofflaw-at-wto/" target="_blank">almost every other country on the planet</a>. <br /><br />Considering our history of such bald-faced belligerence and intransigence, it is not surprising that negotiations with Antigua continue to fail. And do not think for a moment that anyone is falling for America’s claims of being the actual wronged party. Nearly <i>every</i> other country in the WTO is siding with Antigua, albeit in an unofficial manner. I would imagine that the only countries that would officially side with the U.S. are its usual partners in international crime, Canada and the U.K. And I know that I rant about this, but I feel that it bears repeating: <b><i>the U.S. bribed both Canada and the U.K. to stay quiet about the UIGEA and Antigua</i></b><b><i>’s WTO suit!</i></b> <br /><br />It is amazing the amount of pressure that Antigua is managing to conjure in its battle with the States. It is also encouraging, because it reveals how much sway a tiny nation can have over a bigger one, and hints that the days of American domination of the global economy are truly at an end. All that we have to do now is, well, wait. More activity has happened in the last three months than the previous five years. <i>Something</i> is in the offing. I just hope that it’s not simply more of the same.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-89608946196012809682013-03-25T13:36:00.002-07:002013-04-01T14:56:18.066-07:00The Other Shoe Cometh: U.S. Casinos Push For International Access<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-KuyDiSai6nM/UVC0bS4_OjI/AAAAAAAAAX0/HXG6ZYuishY/s1600/nevada_online_casino_law.jpg" height="361" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="640" /></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signs Assembly Bill 114, the online gaming bill, on Feb. 21, 2013 / AP</td></tr></tbody></table><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"></div><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">A</span>nd the hypocrisy is complete. After seven years of violating international treaties, ignoring the WTO, and bullying other countries and companies, casinos in the U.S. now want access to gamblers in other countries. As <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ed5a14be-947b-11e2-b822-00144feabdc0.html" target="_blank">this article</a> from The Financial Times states (<b>you can't read it from this link because the Times are idiots. You have to Google search the title and get to it through that</b>),<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>Nevada also passed a law legalising online gambling: casino companies in the state are pushing for a provision allowing for “international compacts” to be added to the law in the current legislative session, according to people familiar with the situation.</i><br /><i><br /></i><i>Agreements between US states and countries such as the UK – which has a regulated online gaming market – would be the first step towards a regulated global gaming industry which could transform the fortunes of operators on both sides of the Atlantic. </i></blockquote>This is disgusting, infuriating, maddening. I can't conjure adjectives strong enough. They use the U.K. as an example for a possible partner. For one thing, the U.K. is one of the countries that was <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071219/165450.shtml" target="_blank"><i>freaking bribed</i></a> by the U.S. to keep quiet over the UIGEA. For another thing, the U.K. itself <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/leisure/9436762/William-Hill-prepares-to-challenge-UK-online-gaming-tax.html" target="_blank">is embroiled in legal problems</a> with casinos that service its own "regulated" market for trying to block access, in blatant violation of free trade agreements. This would be two countries, neither of which has their house in order, joining forces in a business that neither seems to understand. Oh yes. <i>Nothing</i> can go wrong with that.<br /><br />The article continues,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>Compacts between states and other countries would greatly expand the number of potential players and solve “the liquidity problem” caused by limiting play to residents of a particular state. “Liquidity in a state like Nevada is irrelevant unless you have compact capability,” said one Las Vegas-based casino operator, which is pushing for legalisation. </i></blockquote>My mind is blown. Liquidity problem? They have no comprehension whatsoever of the consequences of opening one's business to a broadly competitive marketplace. Their tax and regulatory system works <i>only because it is limited to those within their borders</i>. This isn't a liquidity problem, it is a liquidity state. By that, I mean that the liquidity (money) available to them in this particular arrangement of variables only works because of that arrangement. Changing one variable (size of the market/ease of access) necessarily has an effect on all other variables, thus destroying the financial equilibrium. The block-headedness of the companies and politicians is amazing. <br /><br />Even if the agreements discussed are only between U.S. states, whichever state has the lowest tax will automatically get <i>all of the casinos</i>. This will piss off the other states in the agreement, and they will either lower their taxes (not very popular with the voters), or they will reneg on the pact... which is precisely what the U.S. <i><b>has already done</b></i> with the UIGEA and the WTO.<br /><br />We appear to find ourselves in the same, damned situation all over again. I'm glad to see that we are learning from the past. It really gives me hope for the future.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-5662387872795136802013-03-25T09:41:00.001-07:002013-03-25T09:41:48.048-07:00Crimes Of The American Empire<div style="margin: 100px 35px 0px 35px;"><i><span style="font-family: Georgia,&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,serif; font-size: 19px; text-shadow: 2px 2px 2px #aaaaaa;">The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.</span></i><br /><div style="margin-right: 20px; text-align: right;">- Woodrow Wilson</div></div><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Ja2In4Bj8j8/UU8qsz18AQI/AAAAAAAAAVU/79JpGKCP5DM/s1600/vector_flourish.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Ja2In4Bj8j8/UU8qsz18AQI/AAAAAAAAAVU/79JpGKCP5DM/s1600/vector_flourish.png" height="64" width="200" /></a></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><br /><br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YniXNMROfXs/UT4i5Xb4xJI/AAAAAAAAAUE/7llyADy0xp8/s1600/Puck_cover_american_imperialism.jpg" height="400" width="285" /></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">On the cover of Puck published on April 6, 1901, in<br />the wake of gainful victory in the Spanish–American<br />War, Columbia – the National personification of the<br />U.S. – preens herself with an Easter bonnet in the<br />form of a warship bearing the words “World Power”<br />and the word “Expansion” on the smoke coming<br />out of its stack.</td></tr></tbody></table><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span> briefly mentioned it in <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/03/the-strange-case-of-robert-stuart.html" target="_blank">my earlier article</a> on Robert Stuart, and it’s a point that seems apt to focus on now. To wit, the Stuart case seems less like the overreach of a single state and more like the continuing opinion of the entirety of the United States: <i>we can do whatever the fuck we want</i>.<br /><br />The Obama Administration (and the Bush Administration before it) has made plainly clear that the U.S.Government will be violent, belligerent, and break any law it sees fitin the pursuit of <i>whatever</i>. Is something legal in your country? We don’t care! If we don’t like it, we will go after it. This is why the WTO, NAFTA, and every other “free” trade agreement is an increasingly bad joke. We will go after your citizens. We will go after your businesses. We will go after <i>you</i>.<br /><br />What I think infuriates me more than any other element of this is the immense history that the U.S., and indeed all powerful nations, have regarding this sort of behavior. It started with the rise of colonialism and was passed down to its children: Industrial America and Japan. It is what Noam Chomsky refers to as “<a href="http://www.chomsky.info/talks/19960413.htm" target="_blank">really existing free-market principles</a>.” By that he means the principle that free market responsibility only applies to the weak. Those who already have power manipulate the world to ensure that they never take responsibility for their actions. When the weak get uppity and demand actual equality, the strong will use “laws” to legitimate actions intended to again oppress the weak. This is The American Story.<br /><br />So just as with Antigua and the WTO, what we have with New York is a judiciary acting as the enforcement arm for an industry that doesn’t want to have to actually compete on a level ground.<sup>1</sup> Thus, the competition is being labeled as <i>illicit</i>, and as such must be stamped out. Online gambling? That’s <u><b><i>wrong</i></b></u>. Landed gambling? That’s fine. Online Keno? That’s <b><u><i>wrong</i></u></b>. Keno in a gas station? That’s fine. Online slots with a Return to Player (RTP) of 98%? That’s <b><u><i>wrong</i></u></b>. Lotteries with an RTP of 40%? That’s fine.<br /><br />The hypocrisy inherent to this situation is enough to make my soul bleed. Oh sure, the U.S. will claim that they are “defending its citizens” from those who would take advantage of them, but that assertion doesn’t withstand even the slightest analysis. And even if we assume that we don’t know that excuse to be a pile of horseshit, it is still nauseatingly hypocritical. How many operations in the U.S. are feeding off of the populations of other countries, with nary a peep from U.S. officials? Of course, we don’t actually know, because U.S. officials aren’t making a peep. As <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138823/peter-andreas/gangsters-paradise?cid=rss-rss_xml-gangsters_paradise-000000" target="_blank">this article at Foreign Policy Magazine</a> explains:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>As the world’s leading antidrug campaigner, the United States has spent tens of billions of dollars in recent decades trying to stop the smuggling of drugs into the country (<u><b>even while doing relatively little to stop the flow of guns smuggled out</b></u>). </i>(Emphasis added)</blockquote>Guns leaving the country? Who caaaares?! That’s not our problem, man. Marijuana coming in, though? For that, we need to throw more people than <i>every other Western nation combined</i> into jail. Pirated DVDs? We need to go on a multi-billion-dollar crusade across the entire planet. Online gambling? We need to violate international treaties and threaten small countries. When we are wronged, the world must stop. When others are wronged, too bad.<br /><br />To say the least, this is going to be vexing for those on the wrong end of the exchange. But it goes much further than that. It is both the wellspring of much of our behavior, and also the salt in the wounds of other nations. America suffers from a pathological inability to appreciate the perspectives of others.<br /><br />People in the United States have spent the past many generations being essentially shielded from history.<sup>2</sup> This is especially true for the elites of our country. To be fair, we have some fine little narratives of heroism and valor, and we have certainly known pain. But even our moments of greatest sadness pale in comparison to similar moments from <i>most</i> other countries. We don’t know that, though. Regardless of what Clinton said, we do <i>not</i> feel their pain.<br /><br />We feel <i>our</i> pain. Nothing else. And we feel it intensely, regardless of how it sits in the grander scheme -- regardless of how our pain compares to the pain of others. To see this effect in action, look at how Pearl Harbor continues to define a large element of our national narrative. It will continue to do so long after all of the veterans of World War II are dead. And yet a key part of it is <i>victory</i>. It hurt, but American triumphed. We were <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isoroku_Yamamoto%27s_sleeping_giant_quote" target="_blank">the sleeping giant, awoken</a>.<sup>3</sup> <br /><br />The closest the U.S. has come to failure in the past one-hundred years is the Vietnam War. It’s a poor example, though, because it was the very definition of tilting against a windmill. As history’s vision gets ever-closer to 20/20, it is apparent that it would have been impossible to “win” Vietnam. Even then, <i>people still rant and rave about it</i>! We just cannot let that shit go! You can’t watch Fox News for more than an hour without one or another of their talking heads complaining about it. One dreads the coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan in fifty years time.<br /><br />To be fair to our history, America does have a home-grown example of true catastrophe, and it wonderfully illustrates the cultural memory that these events trigger. Look at the ongoing and seemingly immortal obsession of many in the southern states with the Civil War. <i>The South will riiiise again</i>, is the cliched saying. It’s the only thing anyone in the U.S. can remotely call true failure, and it persists <i>one-hundred and fifty years later</i>.<br /><br />We have never known true defeat, and the few things in our history that even approximate defeat are things with which we are obsessed. And just like the myopic and tone-deaf cludge that we are, we are willfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations that define the cultures of other countries -- the things with which <i>they</i> may be obsessed.<br /><br />Imagine yourself in the position of a nation whose narrative contains <i>true</i> failure. Imagine the narrative of China, which went from the world’s largest economy <i>by far</i> in 1820, to a slave of Britain after the Opium Wars. Compare Pearl Harbor to China’s experiences in World War II, where as many as 300,000 helpless people were massacred during <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre" target="_blank">The Rape of Nanking</a>. After which, China received a colossal face-slap when the Rape’s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Yasuhiko_Asaka" target="_blank">principle architect</a> was granted immunity by the Allies. Imagine yourself in the narrative of the Caribbean, where American and British domination begins with Christopher Columbus!<sup>4</sup><br /><br />Now imagine yourself as that nation, with failure and pain a deeply fundamental part of your psycho-social makeup, faced with the greedy demands of the United States. Exacerbating the pain is the fact that much of your narrative is peppered with failures <i>at the hands of the United States</i>! How do you think you would feel? You would be fucking pissed, that’s how you would feel!<sup>5</sup><br /><br />This situation has become toxic for many cultures. It’s why George W. Bush’s “cowboy” diplomacy rubbed so many the wrong way, resulting in Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize <i>for simply not being Bush</i>. It’s why so many Americans are taken aback by the vitriol directed at our nation from countries like South Korea, France, and India. It’s why we, doe-eyed and innocent, cry foul when terrorists attack us. It’s why our free-trade agreements are crumbling.<br /><br />We are utterly dominant and disgustingly oblivious to that fact. We <i>demand</i> that other countries fight our fights. We <i>demand</i> that other countries respect our laws. We <i>demand</i> that our grievances are redressed. What hurts us is most important, and we are legitimately blown away when other nations don’t agree with that. In the resulting conflict of interests, we will simply force other nations to see “rightly.” <i>Everything</i> about America’s crusade against gambling is a gigantic face-slap to our supposedly equal trading partners, and America’s history vis-a-vis the history of other nations is turning this situation into a clusterfuck of truly Brobdingnagian proportions.<br /><br /><br /><div style="margin: 0px 35px 0px 35px;"><i><span style="font-family: Georgia,&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,serif; text-shadow: 2px 2px 2px #aaaaaa;"><span style="font-size: 21px;">To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace.</span></span></i><br /><div style="margin-right: 20px; text-align: right;">- Tacitus</div></div><br /><br />Just because the U.S. has not “walked a mile in another’s shoes” doesn’t make them the bad guys, you might say. Truly, our behavior is almost understandable, if not forgivable, because of our history of never knowing true pain. That is indeed correct. But I don’t rely on mere block-headedness as a foundation for pronouncing the U.S. as an evil empire. For an utter and absolute condemnation of our behavior, one needs to take another short stroll through U.S. history. The United States <i><u><b>became the world’s largest economy by relying on the very things on which it accuses nations like Antigua of relying</b></u></i>.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>Contrary to the conventional wisdom, much of today’s cross-border crime problem is not new. In fact, states have struggled with this precise challenge for centuries. And far from being a passive victim, the United States has fostered as rich a tradition of illicit trade as any other country in the world. Since its founding, the United States has had an intimate relationship with clandestine commerce, and contraband capitalism was integral to the rise of the U.S. economy.</i></blockquote>The author goes on,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>A better understanding of the historical realities of cross-border crime might even reduce the perverse and counterproductive consequences of government crackdowns and redress the chronic lack of attention to the demand side of illicit trade.</i></blockquote>I like this guy. I think that my choice of language would be a bit more maritime, but “perverse” is a more than serviceable descriptor. It is important to note that he is only talking about <i>illegitimate</i> operations.<sup>6</sup>This doesn’t take into account the incalculable damage and oppression done by “legitimate” American operations like our food conglomerates, <i>legal</i> weapons, tobacco, alcohol, etc. Indeed, agreements like the WTO, NAFTA, and the GATT before them were used as tools to legitimize <i>forcing</i> other countries to accept American economic domination. We have always relied, and continue to rely, on methods both “legitimate” and not-so-legitimate to further our goals. We are doing this <b><i>now</i></b>, and then we turn around and have the audacity to castigate other countries for the same behavior.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-aEQmHn0uvBw/UU1GGyaG7SI/AAAAAAAAAU0/fh48SspQQmQ/s1600/illegal_atlantic_trade_map.jpg" height="528" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="640" /></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Look familiar? How quickly we forget.</td></tr></tbody></table><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"></div>If it were America with the online casinos in its borders, the U.S. would be <i>pummeling</i> other countries into submission to allow those casinos to be accessible by their citizens. But since it is the other way around, we have officials ripping up the lives of innocent people and destroying the economies of tiny nations that have little to begin with.<br /><br />So let’s assume that Antigua is indeed a nation of horrible pirates. They are doing something corrupt, illegal, and genuinely damaging to the U.S. Let’s assume that Robert Stuart’s clients are a carnival of freaks frantically sucking away the lifeblood of hardworking Americans. Indeed, let’s assume that everything that American officials say about online casinos is true.<br /><br />It doesn’t change anything. <br /><br />America is complaining about all of the crimes that it has done itself, often gleefully, to the detriment of other nations. The very trade agreements being used against the U.S. were created for that purpose. Screwing other countries has been a <i>central</i> element of America’s rise to global power, and when other nations try to follow the same path, we slap them down and wag our finger at them like some twisted, psychopathic parent.<br /><br />America is a hypocrite, through and through. We casually toss aside laws, oppress other nations, and oppress our own people. We lack any sense of broad narrative, with the near totality of our actions influenced by and predicated on <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism" target="_blank">American Exceptionalism</a>. We do whatever the hell we please and then post-hoc declare it to be justified, rejiggering any laws necessary to support this claim. This case in New York and Arizona, and by extension the UIGEA, is merely the most recent example of this behavior, and we should be ashamed.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tgvQlZ0R75s/UTAHb0WPlOI/AAAAAAAAAS4/P2xAI3wYbmg/s1600/citation_flourish.png" /></div><br /><span style="font-size: 10px;">1: Example, after example, after example can be found of the U.S. government being used as a tool to oppress populations for the benefit of corporations. Perhaps the most glaring recent example <a href="http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/01/01/declassified-us-government-colluded-with-big-banks-to-monitor-disrupt-occupy-protesters-as-criminal-threats/" target="_blank">was the revelation</a> that the F.B.I., instead of actually working to stop criminals, was working with the major banks to infiltrate Occupy Wall Street protestors. So when one reads comments from U.S. negotiators saying </span><span style="font-size: 10px;">“fuck off</span><span style="font-size: 10px;">” regarding Antigua, what we are actually reading is the work of the shadowy hand of a corporation.<br /><br />2: The past one-hundred and twenty years has been the U.S. show. If we look at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_largest_historical_GDP" target="_blank">the historical charts</a> of the world’s largest economy, the U.S. being #1 was almost assumed. In 1960, with the world still reeling from WWII, the U.S. alone represented nearly 2/5 of the <i>global</i> economy.<br /><br />3: Why do you think that quote is so well-known? Partially because it was prescient about Japan’s ultimate fall, but mostly because it glorifies the strength of the United States.<br /><br />4:Indeed, this narrative was the seed that caused CARICOM to recentlyback Antigua in its fight after the U.S. threatened, Mafia-like, thatAntigua would regret its actions. As though life could suck any morethan it already does under the Western thumb.<br /><br />5: How does the U.S. continue its economic hegemony if everyone hates it? It</span><span style="font-size: 10px;">’s one of the great success stories of modern economic hegemony. All a nation has to do is tie its interests to the interests of a wealthy, ruling class. Then, the powerful leaders in an oppressed nation will continue to do the bidding of a larger nation for guaranteed support in their continued superiority. <br /><br />6: “Illegitimate” is a tough word to nail down in this context. “Legitimate” and “illegitimate” are both defined by laws, and laws are nothing more than rules laid down by a group that is recognized by other groups. There is no reason why any behavior is fundamentally legitimate while others are not. I think that the use of the word as meaning “generally recognized as lawful” is useful for the purposes of this discussion. It’s the opening that also allows those in power to manipulate the words by simply forcing everyone to <i>generally accept</i> something different than previous.</span>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-78051075771991610642013-03-23T13:31:00.000-07:002013-03-23T13:31:13.733-07:00Dear God, 888 Gets First U.S. Poker License<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-BApVfIZWgHo/UU4HH63E-_I/AAAAAAAAAVE/Hpd3CHIJO5Q/s1600/888_casino_logo.jpg" height="400" width="640" /></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">O</span>h lord, why? If there is a company on Earth that is going to give online gambling a bad name, it’s 888. Even Casinomeister despises 888, and that is truly saying something. We may as well dig up Meyer Lansky and have him administer our first official online poker efforts.<br /><br />For those of you who are not steeped in the history of online gambling, 888 has been around for some time. They’ve gone by many names, which should give you an idea of how upstanding an operation they are.Founded in 1997, 888 quickly earned a well-deserved reputation for spamming the hell out of the entire planet and for not paying players. And for anyone who spent time on smaller, geek websites back in the late 1990s, they will remember websites overrun with banners for porn and 888. Indeed, because of this, the names 888 and Casino-On-Net (888’s other operation) are in my mind forever associated with breasts and back-door action. 888 became a company built on, around, and for vice in the purest definition of the term. <br /><br />To our continuing harm, from this situation, 888 was integral to the rise of super-affiliates. Indeed, 888 was directly involved with its affiliates’ use of unethical practices to manipulate search rankings, using everything from scraping, link farming, and astroturfing to flat-out spam mailings. Their legacy is our current situation, where a search for “online casino” results in page after page of super-affiliates all hawking their “chosen” casinos... and, conveniently, 888 usually crops up on the first couple of pages.<br /><br />888’s antics did not go unnoticed by regulators, other casinos, and watch dog groups. Starting in 2005, 888 was slammed with warning after warning. They were ostracized by other companies in an attempt to add at least an <i>air</i> of respectability to an industry that had hitherto been predicated on boobs and poker. As you can probably guess, this had little effect. 888 continued spamming like crazy and online casinos are still a cesspool.<br /><br />While the industry may not be substantively different today, things are at least structurally different. We are still dealing with the damage caused by the rise of super-affiliates, but the global gambling landscape is much changed. We have a smattering of laws in major markets like the U.S., U.K., and Australia. We have a few mega-casinos that have eaten up a decent hunk of the market. And we have a small number of jurisdictions that have risen to prominence, meaning that there is at least <i>the impression</i> of regulations.<br /><br />Again, though, the industry remains corrupt and I have seen little to indicate that 888 is any different from the worst of the lot. They are simply bigger. <br /><br />In <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/22/4135094/turns-out-first-online-casino-to-get-a-us-gambling-license-is-big-UK-spammer" target="_blank">an interview</a> with The Verge, PR rep from 888 Andrew Benbow defended 888’s current state.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>888 still has an expensive affiliate marketing program, but the company says it has changed its spammy ways. There was an arms race for brand recognition back when the online gambling industry was still fairly new, said public relations officer Andrew Benbow, but now 888 only engages in </i><i>“very good targeted marketing</i><i>.”</i> <br /><i><br /></i><i><i>“T</i>he 888 back office is generally thought of as being the best in the industry,</i><i>” he told The Verge. </i><i><i>“</i>It</i><i>’s not in the company</i><i>’s benefit anymore to annoy people about the brand name.</i><i><i>”</i> </i></blockquote>I hope that he will excuse me for being skeptical. Not only because I cannot think of a single online casino that is acting in a truly ethical fashion (except maybe Pinnacle), but because 888 <i>continues to benefit from its earlier practices</i>. I just did a Google search for “online casino.” Page one contained links to the expected super-affiliates and Wikipedia, but guess who else was standing on that hallowed ground? 888.<br /><br />888’s presence there has <i>nothing</i> to do with their quality. For over a decade, they were legendary for offering terrible service, glitchy games, and poor payouts. Their presence on the valuable front page of Google’s search is entirely because of their underhanded and corrupt practices from years ago. They are a castle built of ill-gotten bricks, and we continue to reward them for this.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-10301993480436304752013-03-21T13:42:00.000-07:002013-03-21T13:42:29.900-07:00The Strange Case of Robert Stuart<br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-fkmMd18gnH4/UTl9UNj08uI/AAAAAAAAATg/uKvDt64Iajo/s1600/4th+Amendment.gif" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-fkmMd18gnH4/UTl9UNj08uI/AAAAAAAAATg/uKvDt64Iajo/s1600/4th+Amendment.gif" /></a></div><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">O</span>n a cool February morning in 2011, the sun barely over the horizon, police special forces, some wearing full environmental camouflage, descend upon a house. After setting up a perimeter, they squeeze it shut, enveloping the house from all angles, assault weapons drawn. Apparently, they weren’t very good at being sneaky, because there was no need to bust down the door. The homeowner answered the door and let the police in.<br /><br />One would expect that for such a massive operation, the police must be raiding a meth lab, whore house, or, at the very least, a cock fighting ring. That assumption would be completely wrong. Instead of some small-scale Manuel Noriega, the police were there to arrest a computer programmer: Robert Stuart.<br /><br />Surely this programmer had been active in high-level hacking. He must have been instrumental in digital incursions into banks or government agencies. At the very least, he was a member of Anonymous. Again, one would be wrong for assuming that. He made software for online gambling. This could theoretically be illegal, and lord knows, the history of gambling isn’t exactly savory. But as we will see, Stuart isn’t some Meyer Lansky-type character. He and his company made software that in itself was unremarkable and completely legal, and then sold it to companies in countries where online gambling was also completely legal. He wasn’t involved in the gambling, nor did he himself apparently gamble. Obviously, he had to be punished.<br /><br />Welcome to the American legal system, bitches.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" /></div><br /><br />So who is Robert Stuart? He’s a programmer. Specifically, he created the back-end software (the stuff that users don’t usually see, but what determines and manages what the users <i>do</i> see) for online sports books. He is the very definition of mild-mannered. Now, it is generally accepted as wrong to judge a book by its cover in any instance, but in this case, it seems safe to conclude that calling him a criminal in need of a SWAT team is downright stupid.<br /><br />Even if the SWAT invasion was actually appropriate, there was little justification for authorizing the raid in the first place. Stuart’s company, Action Sportsbook International, isn’t an element of the actual mechanism for accepting bets. It’s not affiliated with any casinos. All the software does is organize the data of things <i>on which</i> customers can bet. He is essentiallyoffering database designs tailored to game management.<br /><br />And it gets better! The disconnection is actually two-fold. Not only does his software have nothing to do with placing or accepting online bets, most of his clients are <i>themselves</i> not in the business of placing or accepting bets. ASI’s license allows its clients to modify and sub-license the software to the companies that are actually accepting bets. So, as it stands, we have Stuart, a programmer, whose product is sold to companies who are not doing anything illegal, who then modify it <i>without Stuart</i><i>’s input</i> for other companies that are doing something that is completely legal in their country. No one, it seems, is breaking the law.<br /><br />Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the police aren’t completely lying and one of the companies down the chain is indeed operating illegally in the U.S..<sup>1</sup> That doesn’t change anything. Stuart isn’t involved with them. Stuart doesn’t know them. Stuart is in no way responsible for the actions of these other people. We don’t prosecute gun manufacturers for murders. We don’t prosecute Ferrari for speeding. It is well-understood legal precedent that a legitimate product used for illegitimate purposes does not put responsibility on the manufacturer of that product. It’s also just plain common sense!<br /><br />But seeing as this is the American legal system, that didn’t stop anyone from going forward with the operation.<br /><br />The raid turned out to not have been initiated in Arizona, but New York. Police officials from The Empire State collaborated with Arizona in the operation and apparently used The Copper State as something of a puppet. Why New York is so obsessed with online gambling and Arizona is not has yet to be answered. Perhaps because Arizona is too busy hating Mexicans.<sup>2</sup><br /><br />After the raid, and after all of his computers were hauled away, Stuart wasn’t charged with anything. Instead, he was brought in for questioning the next day. There, without any input from or interaction with a judge, Stuart was pressured to take a plea deal under the threat of having both himself and his wife sent to jail for thirty-five years.<br /><br />The charges against him, which at this time were still unknown, would be dropped if he was willing to install “back doors,” secret access to a computer system, into his software. Thus allowing New York authorities to spy on various companies and gain access to user lists. Their thinking, if one can call it that, was apparently to track possible users in New York who were accessing as-yet unnamed casinos. If that involved stomping all over the rights of an innocent businessman, then so be it!<br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Jysp8OVL7gw/UTun2mj3-sI/AAAAAAAAAT0/yjb5aRJ9fuc/s1600/Bob-Stuart_2.jpg" height="426" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="640" /></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Photo: <a href="http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/coder-charged-for-gambling-software/all/" target="_blank">Ariel Zambelich/Wired</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"></div>Stuart had the equivalent of a “Rent-a-Lawyer,” who provided such excellent legal advice as “just do whatever the police want.” He could have gotten better advice from online forums dedicated to dodging speeding tickets. So he acquiesced, at least initially. After some time, he became uneasy with being used as what amounted to a hacker to spy on the clients who were trusting him.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>“They made it clear that they would do nothing. I was expected to do everything, to modify the system to allow myself to get in to get the information they wanted,” he says. “Their whole intention was for me to retrieve information from those databases that were located in foreign countries…. They were going to use me to get to the clients…. But I’m not a hacker, I’m a software developer.” </i></blockquote>His reneging on the original agreement to be a spy is, according to Stuart, the reason why he is now being charged. He says that New York is retaliating. I suspect that it is less retaliation and more New York charging him because they need to try to save face after being exposed as bullies <b><i>who may actually be breaking the law</i></b>. As Jennifer Granick from Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society points out,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>“Sending something to backdoor people’s systems and to steal customer data would violate the CFAA and would without a doubt be crimes in any country in Europe... Many of these people will not be Americans, and it’s not unlawful for them to gamble, but [authorities] are taking their usernames and passwords. Someone needs to be investigated, but I’m not sure it’s [Stuart]…. If I were his lawyers, I’d be investigating to see where they got the idea that this was okay.”</i></blockquote>Where indeed. Perhaps they are taking their lead from the Federal Government in citing the statute of “whaddaya gunna’ do aboudit?” Regardless, this seems like the more likely reason for the indictment: if they don’t indict him, they are essentially admitting that they were trying to quietly side-step the law. If they admit that, they may run the risk of getting a stern talking to, or worse, a slap on the wrist! It’s so stressful being in a position of almost complete safety.<br /><br />I’m getting ahead of myself with that. Before we begin an analysis of the failings of New York’s police, let's see for what Stuart was actually indicted? After eighteen(!) months from the initial home invasion, he was charged with a <i>single count</i> of promoting gambling. According to New York authorities, Stuart “knowingly advanced and profited from unlawful gambling activity by engaging in bookmaking to the extent that they received and accepted in any one day more than five bets totaling more than five thousand dollars.”<br /><br />That’s not what the initial threats were, though. The greatest charge against Stuart was money laundering in the first degree — used as justification for three decades in jail and to which he initially pleaded guilty — a charge which mysteriously disappeared when he was actually indicted. In fact, more charges may have disappeared, but we don’t know, and may never know. The affidavit used to invade Stuart’s home is sealed. Even Stuart and his lawyer have never seen it. Neither have they been allowed to see which of Stuart’s clients are supposed to be violating New York law. So much for facing one’s accuser.<br /><br />Shockingly, New York has defended its actions and insists that what it did was lawful. Because, haha, <i>obviously</i> they would admit to breaking the law! Police never do anything knowingly wrong, that’s why they’re the police and not the bad guys! And even if they do something wrong, it’s for the greater good. “<i>Truuuuuust us!</i>” they say.<br /><br />In fact, that is the <i>only</i> defense proffered for the raid. Any further explanation would have required, ya’ know, <i>words</i>, and instead of making those words, New York officials took a page from the Federal Government’s playbook and simply refused to discuss the case. When <a href="http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/coder-charged-for-gambling-software/all/" target="_blank">interviewed by Wired Magazine</a>, Daniel Alonso from the Manhattan D.A. was only willing to say,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>“The provision you have questioned is perfectly consistent with the obligations of all law enforcement officials to follow state and federal law to secure evidence of criminal conduct... The staff of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office involved in this case, both prosecutors and investigators, have behaved ethically and consistent with their obligation to seek justice in every case.” </i></blockquote>Stuart’s version of events, if true, casts serious doubt on these claims. Most, if not all, of the companies that would be using ASI software are based outside of the U.S. New York officials would thus be invading the computers of companies under the laws of other countries, likely without the knowledge of officials within those countries. Somehow, that doesn’t seem legal. Probably because, as Granick pointed out earlier, <b><i>it isn’t</i></b>. One has to wonder whether the state department is annoyed by what appears to be significant overreach.<br /><br />As it stands, Stuart’s company has had its revenue more than halved. He is being forced to spend thousands of dollars defending himself in a state that is 2,500 miles away, and the case against him is weak <i>at best</i>. Obviously, New York has thrown down its gauntlet. They cannot turn back now. Their only hope is that Stuart either runs out of money, or some incredibly damning evidence is presented in support of their accusation. Otherwise, I cannot see them winning this case.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="https://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F4.bp.blogspot.com%2F-8whfXduUa-o%2FUS77xUe7nGI%2FAAAAAAAAASg%2FlF1deVGZQHs%2Fs1600%2Fdivider_flourish.png&amp;container=blogger&amp;gadget=a&amp;rewriteMime=image%2F*" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" /></a></div><br /><br />In my opinion, this is a colossal failure of both New York and our entire justice system. It doesn’t matter that Stuart is likely innocent of any wrongdoing; his business is damaged, his reputation is in the toilet, and he has to spend tons of money defending himself. It is a terrible miscarriage of justice and a perfect example of why transparency and oversight are necessary elements of any just society.<br /><br />Moreover, the true criminals are the ones who will never face reprisal: New York authorities. They have smeared a person and a business, violated international treaties and laws, and done so with little concern for ever having to face consequences. They are free to violate rights whenever they please. Calling them the Gestapo is an exaggeration, but we’re getting far closer to it being accurate than we ever, <i>ever</i>, should have.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>The prosecution of a commercial programmer for crimes committed by people who used his software would set a dangerous precedent for other software makers who might be held liable for how their legally licensed software is used, says Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties for the <a href="http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/" target="_blank">Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University</a>.</i><br /><i><br /></i><i>“It’s scary for software distributors, if someone happens to use their software for illegal activity,” she says. “If you know what people could use it for, and didn’t prevent it, did you take enough steps? What level of knowledge you need to have and all of that is not as clear as it should be [under current laws].” </i></blockquote>Obviously, the representative of an organization that is trying to appear measured and professional can’t go as far as someone who is, say, an anonymous, pissed off, type-A, Internet popinjay. <b>This is more than merely dangerous precedent!</b> This is outright flouting of the law that the police supposedly represent. Considering the current state of American enforcement and judiciary, that officials are willfully ignoring the law <i>and international treaties</i> to further oppressive campaigns of pseudo-justice shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose.<br /><br />While I may find hyperbole a better fit for the events, Granick’s more subtle point remains valid. This is a chilling case in the very legal definition of the term. Namely, it chills otherwise legitimate behavior because people are afraid of being attacked by an oppressive government. If a software developer who is not doing, and has never done, anything wrong can simply be hammered in court because some authorities somewhere in the country decide to be oppressive, what is going to happen to economic development? Will it go to another country? Will it even happen at all?<br /><br />It has already had a direct and immediate chilling effect. Stuart’s company had over twenty clients. He now has ten. Ten. He lost over fifty percent of his client base in a matter of weeks because of this. Just think about how startling this must be to his clients! They are buying something legal, from a lawful company, to do something that is legal where they are operating, and now they discover that authorities in another country are trying to illegally strong-arm the company to spy on them. How many companies are going to do business with companies in the United States if they know that authorities here will disregard laws and treaties to spy?<br /><br />I’ll venture a guess. None. None.<br /><br />I am very happy and thankful that Stuart decided to fight the case,because if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t know that this all took place. We wouldn’t know that New York decided to take both interstate and international law enforcement into its own hands. We wouldn't have yet another example of justice failing in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.<br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tgvQlZ0R75s/UTAHb0WPlOI/AAAAAAAAAS4/P2xAI3wYbmg/s1600/citation_flourish.png" /></div><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 10px;">1: </span><span style="font-size: 10px;">I admit, I</span><span style="font-size: 10px;">’m being a bit heavy on the vitriol, but I think that New Yorkdeserves it. In their defense, there are many companies that areserving American gamblers through illegal channels. By that, I mean thatthere are elements of the operations based <i>in the United States</i>. As such, efforts to fight these operations are legitimate.<br /><br />2: Arizona does have some history of this. Aside from noted scumbag Bill Frist, one of the primary supporters of the UIGEA was Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who was instrumental in sneaking the bill through congress without debate. Kyl, because he is also a scumbag, just less-so, would later <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2010/01/08/173079/kyl-treasury-holds/" target="_blank">sabotage government functioning</a> because of his anti-gambling crusade. He has retired from congress and has entered the "revolving door" of politicians becoming lobbyists after accepting positions at the American Enterprise Institute and Covington &amp; Burling.</span>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-40245658445009432682013-03-15T10:01:00.000-07:002013-03-15T10:01:30.683-07:00A Photograph<table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Foh4YDpvQiQ/UUJCLvb4hsI/AAAAAAAAAUU/ZjtAVgspNGA/s1600/playing_slots_at_foxwoods.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Foh4YDpvQiQ/UUJCLvb4hsI/AAAAAAAAAUU/ZjtAVgspNGA/s1600/playing_slots_at_foxwoods.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Mark Peterson/Redux, for The New York Times</td></tr></tbody></table>There is a profound, Diane Arbus-like beauty to this photo. Perfectly chosen for the article. It was perhaps intended to be something of a freak show (lord knows, the NY Times is known for making subtle, condescending digs in its articles), but I think that it is just wonderful. Photograph taken for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/mike-sokolove-foxwood-casinos.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">this article</a>.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-11234342803981915092013-03-14T11:47:00.002-07:002013-03-14T11:47:19.829-07:00Players Finally Receiving Full Tilt Poker Refunds<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OnuEZ21TC0s/URgIsBRa7rI/AAAAAAAAAM8/uOtEeev3xX4/s1600/full-tilt_poker_group.jpg" height="376" width="640" /></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">A</span>fter nearly two years, players who had money tied up in the Full Tilt Poker blow-up are finally <a href="http://www.fulltiltpokerclaims.com/" target="_blank">having their money returned to them</a>. As many of you remember, FTP was a major poker website that was shut down by U.S. officials in April of 2011. How guilty FTP actually was of any infractions is unknown, because the U.S. has a tendency to ignore the law and fabricate trumped-up charges as regards online gambling.<br /><br />The seizing locked up hundreds of millions of dollars in player money with, at least initially, little chance of getting it back. While I’m sure that the government tried to find ways to avoid paying players, they eventually made a deal with PokerStars, FTP’s primary competitor, in such a way as to get money back to players. It’s a little bit convoluted, but basically, PokerStars will buy FTP, brand and all, and receive a pardon of sorts from the U.S. government.<br /><br />Part of the deal involves PokerStars paying the U.S. government $547 million over three years, some of which will be used to pay American players, and paying international players $184 million. The end result of this is that neither FTP or PokerStars must admit any wrongdoing. It’s unknown how much money is in the bank accounts of FTP that would offset these costs.<br /><br />The charges against individuals from FTP and PokerStars, and to a lesser degree PartyPoker, remain. How well they will stand up in court is another thing. I say this because the primary tool, and the tool with the sharpest teeth, was The Wire Act. In 2012, after years of arguing otherwise, the Justice Department finally admitted that The Wire Act <i>does not</i> apply to online poker. The abandonment of The Wire Act was actually something of a necessity, since it says that illegal gambling is only sports betting. If they continue to assert The Wire Act, it could actually act as justification for voiding the UIGEA.<br /><br />With The Wire Act no longer a potential foundation for charges, all they have left is a violation of the UIGEA, which is an unjust pile of nonsense. As columnist Jacob Sullum <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20110723210023/http://www.krla870.com/column.aspx?id=ae495331-0f17-4b6b-8629-321181df90f3" target="_blank">pointed out</a>,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>[New York DA] Preet Bharara seems to be haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere, may be playing poker. Last year, Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, threatened an Australian payment processor with up to 75 years in prison for helping online poker companies do business with their U.S. customers. Last Friday, he announced similar charges against 11 people associated with the three leading poker sites serving American players.</i><br /><i><br /></i><i>If you type in the Web address for PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker or Absolute Poker, you will see a notice that the domain name has been seized by the FBI. The notice cites some impressive-sounding crimes, but the statutory language cannot conceal the legal weakness and moral triviality of Bharara</i><i>’s charges.</i></blockquote>This case is only the second time that the UIGEA has been used. That’s right. For all of the publicity and noise, this is only the second time. What is utterly insane is that everyone knows why this major law has only been exercised twice: it likely wouldn’t stand up in court. I guarantee, <i>guarantee</i>, that New York is desperately trying to get the defendants of FTP to take plea deals. And much like the Robert Stuart case, I hope that they don’t. I hope that they bring this ridiculousness right to the limit. Take it to the Supreme Court. Take it as far as you can!<br /><br />Perhaps the biggest WTF moment out of these recent developments came about a month ago, when PokerStars announced that they would be buying a struggling casino, The Atlantic Club, on the Atlantic City boardwalk... ya’ know, the one that was washed away during Hurricane Sandy. This paves the way for PokerStars to re-enter the U.S. market via a landed operation. This is of course completely acceptable, because sucking the blood of Americans is totally fine just so long as the government is getting a huge cut. Otherwise, it is the deplorable action of criminals. Disgusting. Just disgusting.<br /><br />I shall take this opportunity to again mention that Bill Frist, the man responsible for the UIGEA, is a scumbag of almost inspiring proportions and was rated as the most corrupt person in Washington. Doesn’t it just fill you with faith in government when people like him are creating our laws?Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-47451798304569864532013-03-03T08:49:00.001-08:002013-03-10T18:43:57.316-07:00Noam Chomsky Discusses the WTO<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-y2zWHX2zCd0/UTN-I1MO8EI/AAAAAAAAATI/6UkYsX1Vu8o/s1600/Seattle_WTO_Protest.jpg" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="416" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-y2zWHX2zCd0/UTN-I1MO8EI/AAAAAAAAATI/6UkYsX1Vu8o/s1600/Seattle_WTO_Protest.jpg" width="640" /></a></div><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">I</span>n <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/antigua-duke-ferdinand-and-world-war.html" target="_blank">earlier</a> <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/the-end-of-uigea.html" target="_blank">posts</a>, I have discussed how the World Trade Organization was created specifically to further the interests of the United States. When the U.S. is being catered to, as they were in the Uruguay Round, the talks proceed. But the instant there is something that the U.S. doesn’t like, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doha_Development_Round#Collapse_of_negotiations_2" target="_blank">they will stonewall</a> the proceedings until it simply dies.<br /><br />Even when the laws are written by and for the U.S., they are sometimes used against the US. That’s kinda’ the nature of laws. Of course, this is unacceptable for the U.S.. This was the cause of the shift from GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), to the WTO. GATT was created specifically to take advantage of American power in post-WWII international relations, and as such, it was enormously beneficial to the American market.<br /><br />Technology and society shifted, as it often does, and the benefits of GATT also shifted, from the US to other industrial nations. This obviously couldn’t stand, so Reagan along with his buddy Margaret Thatcher pushed for the creation of the WTO. The first round of talks began in 1986 and the WTO was officially born on January 1, 1995.<br /><br />It’s just a little bit of history repeating, though, and now the WTO is proving problematic for the U.S.. So, yet again, they are trying to rewrite the rules in their favor. Only this time, other nations aren’t the flaming piles that they were post-WWII, or the pliable little minions in the U.S. vs. Russia Cold War. They are actual nations, with actual desires, and they demand to be heard.<br /><br />For your viewing pleasure, I present Noam Chomsky, a man far smarter than I. In his trademark, dulcet tone, he presents a stark, utterly depressing portrait of American economic hegemony. I believe that the video is from a 2003 series of interviews.<br /><br />And just because I mentioned it in my article, afterward you can listen to Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads singing <i>History Repeating</i>. <br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ncXaa57mmRU" width="640"></iframe><br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yzLT6_TQmq8" width="640"></iframe>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-46790825718820181632013-02-28T16:55:00.000-08:002013-03-01T10:08:15.497-08:00Antigua, Duke Ferdinand, and World War $<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ppUFUm-FvU4/USrLYdLzcbI/AAAAAAAAAQY/7CnczsvFM7s/s1600/usa_caricom_antigua_uigea.gif" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ppUFUm-FvU4/USrLYdLzcbI/AAAAAAAAAQY/7CnczsvFM7s/s1600/usa_caricom_antigua_uigea.gif" height="412" width="640" /></a></div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">P</span>erhaps this isn’t news, but the United States is a piss-poor dancing partner. They <i>always</i> lead, whether you like it or not, and if they step all over your feet, they blame you. In that regard, they’re much like that popular, attractive person with whom you tried dancing at that freshman frolic back in high school, just not as drunk or sweaty.<br /><br />So it is with the U.S. and Antigua. The U.S. is stepping all over Antigua’s toes, and Antigua has finally gotten tired of it and is threatening to stop dancing. The principal of the school has now stepped in, and maybe Christian Slater is getting involved... I dunno. I’m tired of the analogy. Did the Christian Slater reference date me?<br /><br />As <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/02/the-end-of-uigea.html" target="_blank">has been documented on this website</a>, Antigua has announced plans to open up a “piracy” website on their island as a form of economic retribution for the UIGEA, which shut out a large and immensely profitable market for Antigua’s online casinos. This would not actually be piracy since piracy requires recognition of copyright laws. Antigua has been given approval to ignore copyright laws, thus making the “piracy” not actual piracy.<br /><br />It was the World Trade Organization (WTO) that gave them clearance to do this after Antigua was victorious in multiple cases against the U.S. regarding the UIGEA. As if to convey beyond any doubt that Americans are a mob of children, the United States has been almost <i>inspiringly</i> intransigent, coming as close to literally putting their fingers in their ears and going “LA LA LA LA!” as I think is possible for an actual country.<br /><br />Because the U.S. prefers reality to be whatever they say it is, they have begun a campaign of misinformation. It hasn’t been going too well, with most industry watchers <a href="http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/US-Antigua-trade-dispute-exposes-global-inequity_13701128" target="_blank">rather firmly on Antigua’s side</a>. But the U.S. persists in their attempts, and is at the very least muddying the waters, which is more success than they deserve.<br /><br />The story out of the States remains as it was during the beginning of this kerfuffle back in late January: namely that Antigua has been belligerent with U.S. negotiators and has repeatedly rejected good-faith offers. Antigua, of course, denies this.<br /><br />There are two primary reasons why I think that the U.S. is, for lack of a better word, <i>lying</i> when they say this. First, what in the history of the United States’ dealings with small nations makes <i>anyone</i> think that they are telling the truth? Their record on international relations is a carnival of terror that few other Western nations can match. Remember, the U.S. has already lied when they <i>claimed to have won</i> a case that they completely, absolutely, totally <b><i>LOST</i></b>. There was no question. They lost. They didn’t even bother to try to spin the story; they simply denied it wholesale!<br /><br />Second, Antigua is well justified in rejecting anything other than the elimination of the UIGEA, <i>because it violates trade agreements</i>. There is no way that Antigua can be the bull-headed party in these negotiations, because all they want is for the U.S. to follow the trade regulations that the U.S. themselves wrote.<br /><br />Just for the sake of argument, let’s posit that Antigua is indeed being as intractable as the U.S. is accusing them of being. What would that conversation look like?<br /><br /><b>Antigua</b>: The UIGEA violates the WTO. We demand that it be revoked.<br /><b>USA</b>: No. We will give you other things.<br /><b>Antigua</b>: We don’t want other things. We want the UIGEA revoked.<br /><b>USA</b>: No. We will give you other things.<br /><b>Antigua</b>: We don’t want other things. We want the UIGEA revoked.<br /><br />Even if we imagine the most inane negotiations possible, Antigua is the one with justice, such as it is, on their side. The U.S. simply cannot avoid reality, and that is coming through in their bizarre reactions to their ever-shrinking position (such as when they claimed to have won their case with the WTO <i>immediately after actually losing</i> their case with the WTO, and their succession of veiled threats to Antigua).<br /><br />On a side note, even if the U.S. successfully bribes Antigua as they did withCanada and the UK, the trade violation remains! That point ultimatelynegates anything and everything the U.S. says. Just because a criminal hasmanaged to placate any aggrieved parties doesn’t change the fact that a law wasbroken. As long as the UIGEA stands, the U.S. remains open to cases brought by any other countries. Will the U.S. bribe <i>every</i> country on Earth?<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8P432HFZLJI/USrjveLmWaI/AAAAAAAAAQs/oqOHVPCQKAM/s1600/CARICOM_members.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8P432HFZLJI/USrjveLmWaI/AAAAAAAAAQs/oqOHVPCQKAM/s1600/CARICOM_members.JPG" height="182" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The members of CARICOM during the meeting at which<br />full support for Antigua was announced.</td></tr></tbody></table>No matter how deserving of disdainful disregard America’s colossal temper tantrum may be, Antigua <a href="http://www.antiguaobserver.com/?p=88296" target="_blank">cannot, and will not, ignore it</a>. Antigua <a href="http://www.caribbean360.com/index.php/business/667037.html" target="_blank">has now enlisted</a> the full support of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_Community" target="_blank">CARICOM</a>, the cooperative of Caribbean nations. This is a significant, if not entirely unexpected, development. I say that it isn’t unexpected because CARICOM has a solid history of collaboration among member states going back to its formation in the early 1970’s (<a href="http://www.speakeasy.org/~peterc/wtow/wto-case.htm#bana" target="_blank">and a history of getting screwed by the U.S.</a>). It remains significant because, even though all of the Caribbean nations combined don’t even equal the population of Florida or the GDP of Nebraska, they represent more of what Antigua needs — more people, more money, and more voices. When in a fight with an overgrown baby, these are the only weapons that work.<br /><br />That said, small nations banding together against a larger nation isn’t of much note aside from recognizing that it happened, and what the events may represent from a policy standpoint — fodder for think tanks and pretty much no one else. What makes the story a whole lot more interesting is the list of member nations of CARICOM.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br /><br />CARICOM is composed of three classes of nations: Members, Associates, and Observing Nations. The three classifications are related to how engaged the nation is with the overall group, and also whether the overall group <i>allows</i> that nation to be engaged. So for example, Observer Nations engage in at least one of the policy committees, but have not yet been accepted as full members. <br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-N_2p8-a2rDw/USvpng0FrKI/AAAAAAAAARY/TEDnoFePKwk/s1600/angry_queen.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-N_2p8-a2rDw/USvpng0FrKI/AAAAAAAAARY/TEDnoFePKwk/s200/angry_queen.jpg" height="153" width="200" /></a></div>Among the full members is the expected collection of small island nations, but also found in that list is Montserrat, a British territory. Britain, of course, is the same nation that was bribed by the United States a few years ago to not make a fuss about the UIGEA. One can only assume that the Queen is none too happy with this turn of events.<br /><br />Of course, Britain can’t get too upset with Montserrat, since the group of Associate Nations is composed <i>entirely</i> of British Territories, including the jewel in their crown: Bermuda. Indeed, the Associate classificationwas specifically created for the various British Territory nations thatwanted to join the party, starting in the early 1990’s. <br /><br />The story gets positively ridiculous when we see that Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the very country that is causing this problem, is an Observing Member! Even more absurd, if that’s possible at this point, the U.S. Virgin Islands have been campaigning hard for the last two years to be allowed into the cooperative. That would put two segments of the United States' socio-political structure in direct opposition to the rest of the United States!<br /><br />The U.S. has been battling itself over the UIGEA in the halls of congress for years (instigated by the alarmingly corrupt Bill Frist). It is now battling itself overseas. What’s next, interplanetary self-conflict? This is far more than the left hand not knowing what the right is doing. This is the left hand actively plotting to kill the right. This is bad comedy.<br /><br />The CARICOM backing is doubly interesting because of the possible effects that it will have on other countries. To see what I mean, let’s look at Brazil. In 2010, Brazil threatened to appeal to the WTO for similar sanctions, totaling $238 million — over ten times Antigua’s total. (To be fair, Antigua initially requested sanctions of over $2 billion.) They haven’t made much noise since then, but CARICOM may be the poke that Brazil needs to re-enter the ring. Two members of CARICOM, Guyana and Suriname, share borders with Brazil. Another Observing Nation, Venezuela, likewise shares a border. Brazil now directly abuts a whole bunch of countries that are making official statements in defiance of the United States.<br /><br />Likewise we have Mexico, the largest Observing member of CARICOM, and suddenly a major player in the U.S./Antigua dispute. Apart from Brazil, Mexico is the only other nation south of the Rio Grande that has any sway on the international stage. As such, while economic relations between the two has sometimes been contentious, Mexico and Brazil are linked in both economic ways, and also philosophical ways vis-a-vis their position in relation to the rest of the world. Whatever Mexico does, Brazil will consider closely. CARICOM’s backing may also portend a full declaration of support from Mexico itself — a nation that has had a tense relationship with the U.S. and NAFTA after the fall of the PRI dictatorship.<sup>1</sup> Mexico weighing in as an independent entity would be even more significant an event than Brazil because of the increasingly close economic ties that connect them with the U.S.<br /><br />While the potential for Mexico to enter the ring is certainly exciting, Brazil remains the most interesting rogue element. For the past year, Brazil has been vociferously arguing that the WTO doesn’t have sharp enough teeth. By that, they believe that the financial and economic tools (including sanctions and tariff limits) that the WTO enforces between nations need to be <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/22/us-brazil-imports-tariff-idUSBRE82L00M20120322" target="_blank">far more significant than they currently are</a>. They are also one of the most vocal countries when it comes to stressing that the WTO <i>needs</i> to show more teeth to affirm that it isn’t some limp noodle of a regulatory body, and to perhaps prevent a complete collapse of the organization.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-K-hbe3dgWhc/USwSGDsbvOI/AAAAAAAAARw/QSG-5owGFPA/s1600/doha_round_comic.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-K-hbe3dgWhc/USwSGDsbvOI/AAAAAAAAARw/QSG-5owGFPA/s1600/doha_round_comic.jpg" /></a></div><br />The most salient situation fueling the cynical perspective with which Brazil now finds itself in conflict is the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/10/wto-candidate-brazil-idUSL1E9CAA1A20130110" target="_blank">failure of the Doha Talks</a>. The WTO is defined by various “talks,”in which policy decisions are made. The Doha Round of talks were meant to be a significant upgrade to the previous Uruguay Talks, which were started in 1986 and laid the groundwork for what would become the WTO. These failures evinced weakness that the U.S. is likely consciously exploiting in its dealings with Antigua, relying on the belief that major nations won’t stand with the rest of the group. Brazil is thus highly motivated to escalate this situation in order to make a point about the WTO having strength enough to remain coherent, and even force the mighty United States to play nice.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Ma7dOpgMDcI/USsDo_NPIVI/AAAAAAAAARA/YC3V00VXqEs/s1600/roberto_azevedo.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Ma7dOpgMDcI/USsDo_NPIVI/AAAAAAAAARA/YC3V00VXqEs/s1600/roberto_azevedo.jpg" height="212" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Azevedo at the United Nations Conference on Trade and<br />Development</td></tr></tbody></table>Moreover, Brazil’s dedication to taking on the U.S. could prove highly beneficial for their nominee for the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, and they aren’t ignorant of this advantage. Brazil has been specifically portarying itself and Azevedo as crusaders against Western (read: American) intransigence in its quest to garner support from other countries.<br /><br />Adding fuel to Brazil’s fire is how little love is lost between the U.S.and pretty much everything to its south. I mentioned the failed Doha Talks, which were supposed to usher in a new era of streamlined free-trade between nations. Guess <a href="http://www.foxbusiness.com/news/2013/02/13/us-must-be-more-reasonable-at-doha-table-mexico-wto-candidate/" target="_blank">which nation</a> was the cause of the failure? I’ll give you a hint: a lot of brave, free people live there.<br /><br />As one would imagine, this has turned the WTO into a bubbling pot of tension. Brazil has already stood toe-to-toe with the U.S. in <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/19/wto-brazil-juice-idUSL1N0BJ5S220130219" target="_blank">a smaller case involving orange juice</a>. If they can do that again on a larger scale, CARICOM won’t be the only ones standing in unity behind them. Indeed, all of Latin America <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/27/us-eu-latinamerica-wto-idUSBRE90Q0FD20130127" target="_blank">seems ready to support</a> a <i>single</i> candidate for the WTO leadership — an unprecedented show of cooperation, and an utter condemnation of <a href="http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/US-Antigua-trade-dispute-exposes-global-inequity_13701128" target="_blank">the bullying</a> these nations are facing at the hands of the U.S.<br /><br />Granted, this bullying is something that the U.S. has done for decades. And indeed, it is not only the U.S. that is making trouble for the WTO. (The Doha Talks failed after India, China, and the U.S. clashed, but <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doha_Development_Round#Collapse_of_negotiations_2" target="_blank">most agree that it was the States’ fault</a> for putting protectionist economic policies over actual benefits for poor countries.) What is perhaps causing the sudden rise in tension and activity on the part of other nations is that it was the United States, under Ronald Reagan and his buddy Margaret Thatcher, who <a href="http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199705--.htm" target="_blank">pushed hard for international free trade</a> agreements. For many countries, these policies had highly negative consequences. Agreements like the WTO were the direct cause of catastrophic collapses of native industries in many small countries who were, indeed, too small to really compete — something with which the gigantic U.S. was little concerned.<br /><br />The one place where they could compete, though, was in the rising tide of technological industries. Many small countries saw huge boosts compliments of the loss of borders and the cheap cost of entry. Again, the U.S. initially wrote trade laws to <i>benefit the U.S</i>. So when these trade laws were being used to the detriment of the U.S., they had a habit of ignoring them, or being outright aggressive. The West pushed for treaties that harmed small countries, and then when the harm may come back around, they reject the treaties. The hypocrisy is just too much to bear, and it is coloring negotiations in the Doha Talks.<br /><br />This disconnect is perhaps unsurprising. It is the reason why there are many in the world who honestly feel that the entire <i>planet</i> should get to vote for the American President — because U.S. actions affect absolutely everyone to a great degree.<sup>3</sup> And while the U.S. isn’t exactly a coruscating example of measured, selfless thought, there are those in government who don’t seem to have drank the Manifest Destiny Kool-Aid. Barney Frank, the same Barney Frank who was <a href="http://www.bluff.com/news/barney-frank-to-introduce-anti-uigea-legislation-in-march-2448/" target="_blank">the loudest voice against the UIGEA</a>, argued that “capitalism works better from every perspective when theeconomic decision makers are forced to share power with those who willbe affected by those decisions.”<br /><br />That is precisely the situation in which we <i>do not</i> find ourselves. Instead, the policy makers are utterly disconnected from the effects of their policies. They are rich, powerful, priviledged — truly the masters of the universe. And in even small cases, such as the Antigua/WTO case, when those who are affected rise up and threaten to visit these effects upon the lords above, those in power balk and fight back. In the American system, power is for the elite. Everyone else must simply get in line.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QT2ravnhdjI/USweopDXAcI/AAAAAAAAASI/C9oOmVvPdk0/s1600/kim_dotcom_raid_press_conference.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QT2ravnhdjI/USweopDXAcI/AAAAAAAAASI/C9oOmVvPdk0/s320/kim_dotcom_raid_press_conference.jpg" height="177" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Kim Dotcom leaving a courthouse after fighting the illegal<br />raid on his house.</td></tr></tbody></table>For an excellent, non-gambling example of this (and amazingly an example that has yet to be mentioned by Noam Chomsky), let’s look at the Megaupload case.<br /><br />Megaupload was a massive file-storage service started in two other small nations: New Zealand and Hong Kong (I count Hong Kong as a separate entity from China). Like Antigua, it rode the wave of technological expansion brought about by the Internet and broadband connections. The service was being used by many for copyright infringement, but the site itself was merely a tool for storing things online. It was also a popular tool, with tens of millions of paying users. Obviously the U.S. didn’t like this, so they seized the domain, shut down the site, and worked with New Zealand authorities to arrest its founder, Kim Dotcom, on what are becoming increasingly apparent as <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130102/17230221553/megaupload-tells-court-that-doj-deliberately-misled-court-getting-warrant.shtml" target="_blank">trumped-up charges</a>.<br /><br />The case again represents the imbalance between small nations and large (and the grotesque power that special interests hold over American foreign policy), with the U.S. applying extreme pressure on New Zealand to acquiesce even <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121203/15572821214/new-zealand-government-admits-that-order-to-suppress-illegal-spying-kim-dotcom-only-such-order-issued-10-years.shtml" target="_blank">in contradiction of its own laws</a>. People there, <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120716/12223419716/nz-judge-dotcom-extradition-case-speaks-out-against-tpp-us-copyright-extremism.shtml" target="_blank">including judges</a>, are beginning to get angry. They are beginning to see the U.S. explicitly as the enemy. They are beginning to realize that just because corruption happens under the auspices of some official agreement, <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130128/02461621804/human-rights-lawyer-explains-why-hes-working-kim-dotcom-exposing-american-corruption.shtml" target="_blank">it is still corruption</a>. This is a catastrophe. When countries follow our lead only because they are afraid of retribution, we become a parasite. It fundamentally undermines our position in the world and our ability to peacefully engage in just about anything.<br /><br />How many Antigua-like cases will be necessary before the U.S. stops behaving like a spoiled child? How many losses at the WTO? How many countries must publicly declare their disgust with U.S. actions? I focus on the UIGEA because this is a gambling website, but it is only one element of a grand infection in U.S. government. It started under Reagan, and ever since, regardless of whether the president was Democrat or Republican, it has only gotten worse.<br /><br />Nations are rightfully becoming frustrated. Indeed, U.S. obstinateness seems to be exacerbating these frustrations to the breaking point. Nations willseek out whatever tools they can to strike back at what they rightfully see as Goliath to their David. The small nations like Antigua succeeded in the post-Reagan era of globalizationby utilizing specific tools. The U.S. then said, “<i>No. You cannot use these tools because we don</i><i>’t like them.</i>” These small nations then looked for tools to fight <i>this</i> fight, and the U.S. responded with “<i>No. You cannot use these tools because we refuse to recognize them.</i>” <br /><br />No matter the rhetoric behind which U.S. representatives try to hide, these events indicate a country that is utterly in the wrong. Moreover, the events represent the tightening noose around the neck of not only the UIGEA, but the selfish behavior of the U.S. Even if the U.S. successfully placates Antigua (quite possible), the illegality of the UIGEA remains, as does the ever-increasing anger and resentment in the hearts of other nations. My greatest concern is that the U.S. has no desire to actually bring the UIGEA case to resolution. Instead they are only interested in stalling Antigua as they execute a longer-term plan. To wit, they successfully negotiate the WTO into a form that negatesAntigua’s position entirely, and thus the position of any future countries that would dare to use the WTO against the U.S. There isn’t even the faintest <i>semblance</i> of justice in such a scenario.<br /><br />Assuming that that does not happen, the potential for larger-scale applications of the WTO’s laws, and significant economic warfare, is what gives the fight with Antigua greater magnitude. As goes Antigua, so may go dozens of other small countries. It is perhaps for this reason that the U.S. refuses to bend, and would instead willingly damage its reputation as it clod-footedly stomps all over another country — if they show weakness, it will be exploited.<br /><br />Regardless of the reason, the status quo is a mess and the U.S. is only making it worse. Antigua is raising the support of all the “also ran” countries who have spent the past fifty years being abused. This is set against the backdrop of a weakened and disintegrating WTO,<sup>2</sup> where Brazil, a possible ally of Antigua, is taking up the banner of savior. And don’t let the U.S. fool you. They also do not want the WTO to collapse, since it is of almost incalculable benefit to American corporations. Thus the U.S. must, for the time being, speak out both sides of their mouth, defending the WTO in one breath, and trying to argue against it in another. One wonders how far they are willing to go in service of this self-defeating policy.<br /><br />So where do we stand?&nbsp; We have NAFTA, the WTO, CARICOM, Brazil, the U.S., territories of the U.S., and little Antigua all at loggerheads in a bizarre web of conflict. Saying that this fight has “sides” belies its complexity. What can be said, though, is that the only people who are satisfied with the current situation are American corporations. Everyone else is getting the short end of at least one stick. There is fundamental tension in this arrangement that cannot persist. It must break. And when it does, it’s going to be intense.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8whfXduUa-o/US77xUe7nGI/AAAAAAAAASg/lF1deVGZQHs/s1600/divider_flourish.png" height="9" width="320" /></div><br /><br /><br />So finally, after an entire post, my title is explained. World War I was started because of a small event (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) which took place inside of a complex network of associations and agreements made among nations all jockeying for position in a global hierarchy —precisely the arrangement in which we find ourselves now. The assassination was not the <i>cause</i>, but it was a spark. It was the tension, anger, and conflict that, once released, caused the disintegration of the status quo and the ushering in of a <i>new</i> status.<br /><br />Obviously, no matter how contentious these proceedings get, they will never reach the level of actual warfare. I don’t think my analogy is off-base, though. World War I was significant because it was the expression of war that no one thought was possible. I feel that there is economic warfare that almost no one thinks is possible just waiting to become manifest. Imagine if China suddenly stopped selling to the U.S., or if the U.S. suddenly stopped buying. It would cause the collapse of the global economy. <i>Everything</i> would crumble.<br /><br />Yes, the people who say that this could never come to pass are probably correct. But in the seminal historical work <i>The Guns of August</i>, author Barbara Tuchman talks about how that very belief is one of the reasons why WWI was allowed to happen: no one thought that it could. Adding credence to the comparison was another dogma of those involved in the war: <i>free trade</i> made war impossible. The tight economic ties among countries made the financial consequences so great as to negate even the possibility of war. Obviously, they were wrong. But what happens when the economic ties <i>are</i> the war?<br /><br />Think about it. What do trade agreements do? They <i>create weapons</i>. They may not have bullets or bombs, but in a world that is economically linked on a massive scale, the economic weapons could be just as significant. This was actually the explicit purpose of agreements like the WTO. If the pressure of conflict could be released in economic warfare instead of physical warfare, so the thinking went, then the world would be a better place.<br /><br />I find this hard to argue with. Someone being poor is better than someone being dead. But the end result is still suffering, and if the combatants are wildly mismatched, like the U.S. vs. <i>almost anyone</i>, then the suffering can be severe. We are already seeing the possible effects of these weapons in nations that produce enough food to feed everyone, but everyone is still starving. Or <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/quinoa-boom-bolivian_n_2724251.html" target="_blank">the strange case of quinoa</a>. As Paola Flores from The Huffington Post reports,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">“Experts fear that trend could harm food stocks in this poor nation where one in five children suffers from chronic malnutrition.<br /><br />And with quinoa now costing three times as much as rice in La Paz markets, it isn’t eaten much by Bolivians. Its consumption averages a little more than a kilogram, (2.2 pounds) per year for each Bolivian.” </blockquote>This situation was not crafted with the intent of being a weapon, nor was the collateral damage to Bolivia’s poor population done on purpose, but there is suffering here nonetheless. It seems that few people understand how powerful these economic weapons are. Even the simple act of their creation caused damage!<i> </i>The smaller nations seem to have no clue, as evidenced by their joining of trade agreements that did not, would not, and <i>could</i> not ever provide a benefit. I suspect that the larger nations are more aware of the dangers. Indeed, assuming that the U.S. is keenly aware of the situation may further help explain their schizophrenic intransigence. They want to defend against the weapons while also maintaining the possibility of their use in the future.<br /><br />Again, much like World War I, I imagine that another large country is the focus of this. In Europe in the early 1900s, it was Britain, France, and Germany playing a bizarre game of Risk, using smaller nations as pawns. Now, it is The European Union, the U.S., and China playing economic Risk, likewise using smaller nations as pawns.<br /><br />Aside from the fact that I see parallels between <i>The Guns of August</i> and our current situation, the most unsettling thing is that the weapons being created do not <i>appear</i> as powerful as they actually are. They may act as a sort of “gateway weapon,” whereby countries deploy them, only to deploy more significant measures in the future. Perhaps all that is needed is some sort of demonstration that the weapons have power. Or perhaps all that is needed is an opportunity to exercise their full potential.<br /><br />I feel that I should close this bit of semi-paranoid prognostication with the qualification that it is <i>highly unlikely</i> that such an extreme level of economic war would ever occur. What worries me is that “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretationprevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”<sup>4</sup> And that power is currently contained within the great ivory towers ofnations so disconnected from the rest of the world, that they believethemselves to be beyond consequence, beyond harm, indeed, beyond <i>truth</i>.<sup>5</sup><br /><br />Right now, someone, somewhere, in a position of power believes that, and will enter into a game of brinkmanship believing that such an extreme end could never come about. As Barbara Tuchman wrote, “war is the unfolding of miscalculations.”<sup>6</sup> Indeed, we may already be past the point of no return. The collapse of the WTO, and indeed of the global economy, is a <i>fait accompli</i>. And the dawn of a new economic era to replace the one birthed by World War II is inevitable. If true, the variables that will become so apparent to historians are now clouded by noise, activity, and ignorance. Because <span style="font-size: 11px;">“</span>in the midst of war and crisis nothing is clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight.”<sup>6</sup><br /><br />The nations of World War I didn’t see it coming. Even after it came, they didn’t think it had. Stupidity, arrogance, belligerence, and greed can go a long way toward destroying an empire. And when I look out over the world’s nations, I see only one empire left.<br /><br />Our Duke Ferdinand may already be dead. All that we await are the sounds of gunfire over the clear, blue waters of the mighty Danube.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tgvQlZ0R75s/UTAHb0WPlOI/AAAAAAAAAS4/P2xAI3wYbmg/s1600/citation_flourish.png" /></div><br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;">1: NAFTA is an <a href="http://www.tulane.edu/~dnelson/PAPERS/nafta.pdf" target="_blank">amazingly contentious agreement</a>. At the time of its initial negotiation, a majority of people in both Canada and the U.S. were against it.&nbsp; Mexico was under a dictatorship, the PRI, so the positive public opinion polls were likely propaganda. Now, though, both Canada and Mexico show solid support for NAFTA, while the U.S. is about 50/50. The odd thing is that every country believes that the other two countries made out better under the agreement, which evinces an <a href="http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=531" target="_blank">undercurrent of significant tension</a>. Moreover, for the purposes of this article, NAFTA provides a good analog for analysis of the WTO, since both agreements cover similar ground, and the WTO <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Seattle_WTO_protests" target="_blank">was even more contentious</a>. This situation is yet another seed of discontent that is priming nations to lash out against the U.S. when given the opportunity — an opportunity like the UIGEA.<br /><br />2: An interesting point that doesn</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">’t apply to this article specifically but should none the less be mentioned is that the WTO is causing immense conflict in other industries. The recent horse meat scandal in the United Kingdom has actually cast the WTO again into the ring because trade agreements make it very difficult for nations to regulate their food supply else face severe WTO sanctions. <br /></span><br /><blockquote><span style="font-size: 11px;">“The EU has banned the non-therapeutic use of hormones in its food industry, citing many studies that indicate that hormones, particularly implants of pellets containing estradiol, could cause cancer. Following the challenge by the U.S. and Canada, citing the onerous provisions of the SPS Agreement and other WTO rules, the WTO ruled against Europe's ban.</span><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;"><br /></span><span style="font-size: 11px;">“The WTO panel demanded scientific certainty that hormones cause cancer or other adverse health effects, thus eviscerating the precautionary principle as a basis for food safety regulations. This ruling has frightening implications for the ability of governments to set high standards to protect public health. It means that European consumers and governments are forced to accept imports of beef raised with hormones or be penalized with harsh trade sanctions. Public opinion in Europe is strongly demanding defiance of this WTO ruling. The U.S. and Canada have produced lists of exports important to Europe, including luxury items such as prosciutto, cheeses, and Dijon mustard, among other things, on which they intend to slap 100 percent tariffs if the EU fails to comply. These retaliatory measures will total more than $125m.</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">”</span><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;"><br /></span><span style="font-size: 11px;">— Debbi Barker and Jerry Mander, International Forum on Globalization</span></blockquote><span style="font-size: 11px;">Again, these issues within the WTO may be the reason why the U.S. is stalling. They know that it is unstable and are awaiting a point of capitulation that will allow them negotiate more favorable terms. Regardless, the duplicity is almost insane, defending the WTO as necessary in one instance and condemning it in another.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;">3: Humorously, if the world did vote, we wouldn</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">’t have every election being damn-near 50/50. In the Obama/Romney election, Romney would have garnered less than 9% of the vote. <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/23/163473712/if-the-world-picked-u-s-president-obama-would-win-by-a-landslide" target="_blank">http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/23/163473712/if-the-world-picked-u-s-president-obama-would-win-by-a-landslide&nbsp;</a></span><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;">4: This quote is popularly attributed to Nietzsche, but is one of those </span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">“</span>kinda</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">’ sorta</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">’</span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">”</span> quotes that appears to be a combination of things written by him. It is certainly in line with Nietzsche</span><span style="font-size: 11px;">’s thinking, and he oft repeated that </span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">“</span>there is no truth, only interpretation.</span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">”</span></span><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">5: </span></span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">I know that I</span></span><span style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="font-size: 11px;">’m harping on this point, but how else to explain the U.S. <i>claiming to win a case that they lost</i>? </span></span><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 11px;">6: Also from <i>The Guns of August</i>. </span>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-62455863168611157912013-02-22T14:35:00.000-08:002013-02-22T14:45:23.901-08:00What A Long Strange Trip It's Been<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OiXG-jZRKTM/USR1UaC4QfI/AAAAAAAAAOA/FowuA1fXuOo/s1600/long_strange_trip.gif" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OiXG-jZRKTM/USR1UaC4QfI/AAAAAAAAAOA/FowuA1fXuOo/s1600/long_strange_trip.gif" height="380" width="640" /></a></div><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">O</span>ur journey started back in June, when Lincoln discussed <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/06/warts-opinion-ripples-in-water.html" target="_blank">the corruption of online gambling gathering places</a>. &nbsp;With that corruption now fundamental to their being, Lincoln asked if justice for those wronged by online gambling companies was possible. This segued into a series of posts about those who <i>should</i> be fighting for that justice, the casino police.<br /><br />The subject spiraled into something of such complexity that I want to lend my hand to try to condense it into something simple, while also providing my own insight... such as it is. I provide raw points under each synopsis. To see the supporting arguments and links, click through to the article. Actually, the articles are loaded with data that you should read regardless. So read them. Like Arnold said about getting to the choppah: “Do it now!”<br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/11/a-warts-opinion-is-justice-possible.html" target="_blank">Is Justice Possible?</a>:</span></b><br /><br />What are the requirements for achieving justice? Can they even be met? At least in the current environment, I have my doubts.<br /><br />The first hurdle that justice seekers must overcome are those for whom the information would seemingly be most useful: other players. This hurdle is perhaps the most infuriating because it is rooted in nothing other than human stupidity.<br /><br />No matter the truth of a given situation, other players will attack a person coming in to present possible fraud. Indeed, I imagine that many legitimate complaints that <i>would</i> have revealed fraud were suppressed not because of systemic corruption, but because players were bull-headed, intransigent pricks (see: Nifty29 on Casinomeister for perhaps the most glistening example of this).<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-p13fMP2p5O8/USUl8iboiXI/AAAAAAAAAOU/fvE6SoXCX4c/s1600/the_police.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-p13fMP2p5O8/USUl8iboiXI/AAAAAAAAAOU/fvE6SoXCX4c/s1600/the_police.jpg" height="312" width="320" /></a></div>The second hurdle is, of course,&nbsp; the Casino Police themselves. The Police will pummel any player who is reporting possible wrongdoing with insults and skepticism. There are many motivations for this, be they practical or psychological, but for now it is simply the fact that the behavior exists that is important.<br /><br />The second hurdle that must be cleared is that the data presented as evidence of wrongdoing must be <i>statistically significant</i>. This is brutally hard. Events that seem wildly improbable may in actuality be highly probable over the course of many games. It may seem amazing to you, but it must happen to <i>someone</i>. One-hundred losing blackjack games in a row? It could happen. The data shown must represent an event that has a one-in-a-trillion, or one-in-a-quadrillion chance — an event that would require a million monkeys at a million blackjack tables <i>a million years</i> to reasonably experience.<br /><br />But all that does is prove that justice <i>should</i> be meted! We are still left to rely on the Police to mete out said justice, and one would grow old waiting for them to step up to the proverbial plate. This behavior is found at<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1359502187_0">Casinomeister</span>, certainly, but is actually found with even greater strength at Sportsbook Review, where the corruption isn’t even hidden. There the corruption of the system is treated as widely accepted knowledge by those in the forums.<br /><br />While the behavior of the players in many of these circumstances is rather appalling, they are still merely assholes. The <i>failure&nbsp;</i> occurred with the Casino Police. Either through their own efforts or perhaps via organic growth, the Casino Police are charged with maintaining a semblance of order in an otherwise unregulated, global industry. They have <i>power</i>, and they are currently abusing that power. Perhaps it has become a cliched saying since the success of the <i>Spider-Man</i> movies, but the sentiment is true: with great power comes great responsibility.<b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><br /></span></b><br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/11/a-warts-opinion-casino-police-on-pad.html" target="_blank">Casino Police “On the Pad”?</a> (And <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/12/a-warts-opinion-casino-police-on-pad.html" target="_blank">the Addendum</a>):</span></b><br /><br />The primary agent in the online casino police system is Casinomeister, which is more or less the online name for its founder, Bryan Bailey. Being, as he is, a focal point for online gamblers, it is almost not surprising that he has become noticeably corrupted. Loci in any industry are inherently valuable to the constituents of that industry, and barring some sort of impartial power like government regulations, they will work to control those loci. As such, Casinomeister has become a tool the casinos use to control the negative publicity that their actions would receive in an honest system.<br /><br />Casinomeister’s main tool for dealing with casino complaints is the “Pitch-a-Bitch,” or PAB. It’s a cute name for a complaint. This seems straightforward enough, except that the PAB process is obtuse and completely secret. If a player says too much before filing the PAB, their request will be rejected, and they are not allowed to talk about it after the PAB is finished. Everything is secret.<br /><br />One does not have to look far for analogs to this behavior. The United States' actions in Iraq were completely predicated on "secret" knowledge. We had to <i>trust</i> the government. The appeal for trust is based on the argument that an authority has knowledge that others do not, and that if others had this knowledge, <i>they would all</i> reach the same conclusion.<br /><br />Of course, actually <i>releasing</i> this secret information after the fact is never part of the bargain. The two times this information has been released (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_Papers" target="_blank">The Pentagon Papers</a> and the Wikileaks incidents), the sheer extent to which the authorities lied is laid bare. Secret knowledge is never a good thing, nor is it ever a righteous justification for action. And while secret knowledge may be at times necessary, whether it is accepted or not must always be done after analysis of the context. Online gambling was not, is not, and <i>never will be</i> the correct context.<br /><br />This black box of justice and information has unsurprisingly resulted in a number of wild injustices, many of them enacted<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span><b><i>by Casinomeister</i></b> against players who have come seeking help. He happily uses his secret knowledge argument as a cudgel to suppress dissent and inconvenient information. Furthermore, even when it is obvious that his bias and corruption has been laid bare, he falls back on making fun of posters who prove him wrong. He knows full well that there are few other places for players to go. They can either accept his terms or not be a part of the game.<br /><br />The corruption has become pathological. The industry is literally sick.<br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/12/a-warts-opinion-casino-police-still-on.html" target="_blank">Casino Police Still “On the Pad”? Part 1</a>:</span></b><br /><br />Casinomeister has many instances of what appears to be corruption, but in only a few cases is this corruption plainly visible. One of the most salient, an incident where a potential injustice at the hands of Casinomeister was averted only because of the persistence of his “flock” of forum members, is doubly notable because it happened way back in 2008. While interesting in its own right, for the purposes of this analysis it serves to show that Casinomeister’s modus operandi has remained consistent for many years, even before the full effects of the UIGEA had wreaked havoc.<br /><br />It also reveals that, when compared to a more recent case from 2012, while his M-O has not changed, the level of his resolve in protecting his chosen casinos has increased. The case from 2008 resulted in CM (barely) admitting that he was wrong. Whereas the 2012 case resulted in CM throwing a hissy-fit, banning the forum member, and locking the thread, thus shutting down any further discussion. When pressed, he appealed to his secret knowledge, and finally resorted to mocking forum members.<br /><br />Casinomeister has also evolved insofar as his principles. Bots (programs that play the game for you) do nothing except speed up play or allow for perfect play strategy (in the games that allow it). Still, most casinos list bots as being against their Terms of Service. I won't go into the reasons why, but rest assured that these reasons are scummy.<br /><br />Bots do not alter the games, and there is nothing about bots that could be considered cheating. <b><i>Not a single thing</i></b>. Moreover, even if they were legitimately classifiable as cheating, it is impossible to prove that a player was using a bot beyond a shadow of a doubt, meaning that any implementation of this rule will inevitably result in injustice. Casinomeister himself says this on his philosophy page.<br /><br />Of course, when trying to defend his chosen casinos in the forums, he refers to anyone who uses a bot as a fraudster. Casinomeister is not consistent with logic or himself.<br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/01/a-warts-opinion-casino-police-still-on.html" target="_blank">Casino Police "On the Pad"? Part 2</a>:</span></b><br /><br />This post adumbrates the gymnastics that Casinomeister goes through to 1: protect the casinos that are paying him protection money by suppressing criticism; and 2: do so without seeming like the Soviet News Agency.<br /><br /><br />On the former, he fails partially, and on the latter, he fails completely. I admit, this may seem as though it is becoming a multi-post Casinomeister bash-fest, and that is somewhat true. The overarching lesson to be taken away, though (and a subject which will be further addressed in later articles), is the existence of a corrupt <i>industry</i> in which Casinomeister is only a single player is the grander point that must be taken away. But for the time being, we will focus heavily on Casinomeister.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mW1-WE3TvY8/USUxFtw_VQI/AAAAAAAAAOo/QwpnWgX6VT4/s1600/betfred_jaguar_scam.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mW1-WE3TvY8/USUxFtw_VQI/AAAAAAAAAOo/QwpnWgX6VT4/s1600/betfred_jaguar_scam.png" height="244" width="640" /></a></div><br />Analyzed in this post is the now infamous "Jaguar" incident. Basically, Betfred (a casino whose unethical practices just keep popping up) offered a Jaguar (the car, not the cat) in an ongoing blackjack competition. So a player went crazy playing blackjack. After winning, Betfred used excuse after excuse to avoid handing over the Jag, finally relying on the "he used a bot" argument.<br /><br />But it's not that simple! Oh no! It's never that simple when lies stack upon lies.<br /><br />First, Betfred, behind closed doors, turned over logs to Casinomeister "proving" that a bot was used. Casinomeister analyzed these logs and came to the same conclusion. Unfortunately, neither Casinomeister nor his employee MaxD are terribly informed regarding statistics, mathematics, and programming. And by that, I mean that they don't seem to know jack squat.<br /><br />Eventually, Casinomeister responded as I think most seasoned vets assumed he would — he threatened to close the thread. On this day, there were nearly thirty posts to the thread. Easily the most popular post on Casinomeister in months, and he was threatening to shut it down. <br /><br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2013/01/a-warts-opinion-casino-police-still-on_11.html" target="_blank">Casino Police "On the Pad"? Part 3</a>:</span></b><br /><br />As was mentioned in Part 2, the level of attention and interest in this event was reaching a fever pitch. People were demanding answers and were demanding that the process be opened up for public view. But since Casinomeister relies on private knowledge for things to work the way he likes, this of course wasn't an option.<br /><br />Thus, in one of the largest clusterfucks to ever appear on Casinomeister — and that is saying something — Bryan Bailey hands off his data to Eliot Jacobson of Certified Fair Gambling to “prove” that a player was using a bot, and was thus righteously denied his winnings.<br /><br />Mr. Jacobson was provided game logs for a slot called Ocean Princess. He was not given game logs for the game (Pontoon) that was actually used to win the Jaguar, nor was he even given game logs that were within the same <i>time frame</i> as the Jaguar promotion. He was given game logs for a different game from over a <i>month</i> previous.<br /><br />His analysis contained many details, <i>some of which prove that Casinomeister and MaxD cannot read even basic log files</i>, but what is important is his final conclusion: the player used a bot for these periods of game play.<br /><br />Long story short, I am willing to accept that for the game analyzed, the player was likely using a bot. This cannot be proved, but it seems probable. The problem is, and remains, that the game analyzed had nothing to do with the winnings that were denied. Let me reiterate that: the casino denied a man his winnings because he may have used a bot on a<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span><i>different</i> game in the past. <br /><br /><i>It almost goes without saying that Casinomeister’s and Betfred's behavior has hitherto been abysmal. They were abusive, confrontational, arrogant, and flat-out wrong on more than one occasion.</i><br /><br />After Jacboson’s analysis was posted, Casinomeister then pulled what amounts to a bait-&amp;-switch. After relying on the reputation of Jacobson, he then stretches the conclusion to say that "the same behaviors appeared in [the] black jack play."<br /><br />Same behaviors? What the hell does that mean? How can the same behaviors of a slot be seen in a card game? What were the specific numbers? Why were slot games and not the blackjack games provided to Jacobson if they indeed displayed the same "behavior"? What secrets are behind the door?<br /><br /><b><i>None</i></b> of these answers were ever provided. <b><i>Not one</i></b>.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-XVReFy491Po/USU79UEaQoI/AAAAAAAAAO8/I5SGyH3GkeY/s1600/betfred_jaguar_slots_ocean_princess.jpg" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-XVReFy491Po/USU79UEaQoI/AAAAAAAAAO8/I5SGyH3GkeY/s1600/betfred_jaguar_slots_ocean_princess.jpg" height="540" width="640" /></a></div><br />Jacobson reenters the conversation at this point to defend his analysis. While I remain dedicated to my statement that Eliot Jacobson is one of the few trustworthy guys in the industry, he is quite off base in his conclusions (so much so that I wonder what he was being told behind the scenes).<br /><br />The thread has now kicked into high gear, garnering fifty posts per day — perhaps the most popular thread in <i>years</i>. Users keep asking the same questions — the same questions that are destined to never be answered.<br /><br />Casinomeister was caught. His corruption was on display for all to see. His arrogance, belligerence, manipulation, outright ignorance, and lack of transparency presented his character in a stark, unflattering light — as if any light <i>could</i> be flattering. So he did the only thing in his power.<br /><br />He shut down the thread.<br /><br /><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Conclusion:</span></b><br /><b><span style="font-size: 14pt;">&nbsp;</span></b><br />There are a number of conclusions to be drawn from this analysis. Perhaps most pertinently: Casinomeister is utterly corrupt, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions. But importantly, CM is a mere fraction of the total problem. His behavior provides us a symptom, but the underlying illness does not lie with him alone.<br /><br />The reason I say that this incident revealed the corruption of the overall system was because of the back-room collaboration between Betfred and Casinomeister. It wasn't merely CM screwing the player, or Betfred; it was both of them working together to pass bad information and suppress dissent.<br /><br />While Betfred has most certainly been unethical, have they been corrupt? And by corrupt, I mean are they knowingly and intentionally misleading players and lying about the odds of their games? At least vis-a-vis <i>these</i> events, we cannot draw that conclusion. As I think I've made apparent, though, we <i>can</i> draw that conclusion about Casinomeister. Boy howdy, can we draw it.<br /><br />(<b>BIG Note: These analyses were written before the latest Betfred blowup involving rigged games. Before this, Betfred received the benefit of the doubt. Now, we can be almost completely sure that Betfred is knowingly and willfully corrupt.</b>)<br /><br />Standing juxtaposed to this... <i>mess</i>, is Gambling Grumbles. Grumbles is another casino complaint website and, as far as I know, is not corrupt. They are not <i>part of the system</i>, like Casinomeister is. How do I know that Gambling Grumbles is independent while Casinomeister is not?<br /><br />In a case that was eerily similar to the case at CM, Gambling Grumbles addressed a complaint that involved Betfred,Playtech, Blackjack, and an alleged bot. How convenient of them to provide us with a direct comparison.<br /><br />In this case, since Grumbles is noton Betfred’s payrole, Betfred delayed and offered up excuse after excuse to explainwhy they wouldn’t turn over the play logs. After some back and forth and endless song and dance, it became apparent that Betfred was simply unwilling to play ball. Grumbles went so far as to say, inless crude terminology, that Betfred was full of shit in theiraccusation of bot usage.<br /><br />What we are seeing here is the little, nobody website that Casinomeister was in the nascent, salad days of the online casino industry. Grumbles is the new guard, Casinomeister is the old, destined to switch places.<br /><br />To describe corruption as rot is, I think, accurate. It slowly but surely disintegrates the foundation on which any organization must exist. Sometimes, this can take a long time to manifest (Lord, just look at the American automotive industry!), but in the end, they all crumble.<br /><br />We can see the inevitable results of this rot in Alexa's traffic charts. Casinomeister is slowly falling (the chart only goes back two years, if we could see back longer, the trend would be the same). And while we must recognize that Alexa isn't the most accurate method for determining the popularity of a website, it can be useful for broad trends. And this broad trend isn't encouraging.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-d2ANiqPMAWY/USXBBt08BmI/AAAAAAAAAPQ/dyRiOSwyXqs/s1600/casinomeister_chart.gif" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-d2ANiqPMAWY/USXBBt08BmI/AAAAAAAAAPQ/dyRiOSwyXqs/s1600/casinomeister_chart.gif" /></a></div><br />Likewise for the chart for Sportsbook Review, which is so corrupt that it almost appears to be an inside joke among forum members. While SBR is a significantly less popular website, and as such its chart data aren't as robust, the trend is identical: down.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1B3euCK-SsY/USXCA4SGoXI/AAAAAAAAAPc/KCKPFR9GR0g/s1600/sbr_chart.gif" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1B3euCK-SsY/USXCA4SGoXI/AAAAAAAAAPc/KCKPFR9GR0g/s1600/sbr_chart.gif" /></a></div><br /><br />For me, these are the beginnings of something good. Sportsbook Review and Casinomeister are now rotted. The rot took hold because those running the websites became accustomed to the money that flowed in when the American market was open. When that money spigot turned off, they were no longer able to afford the lifestyles to which they had grown accustomed. This situation provided the fertile ground in which the seed of corruption was able to germinate.<br /><br />If we can start a system that is run by people who are<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span><i>not</i><span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>accustomed to a preexisting and expensive way of life, and are thus more willing to accept smaller amounts of money for their services, we can return to a semblance of justice in the industry. This is genuine hope and should not be ignored by those who enjoy online gaming.<br /><br />Indeed, what online gamblers should be doing is actively engaging with these other services. In a corrupt industry, we have few ways of fighting for right. But the nature of the Internet makes moving to another company or another service so easy that standing up for ourselves becomes almost effortless. All we need to do is become informed and then perform these (easy) actions based on that information.<br /><br />We need to encourage other online gambling websites, be they The POGG, Gambling Grumbles, Beating Bonuses, or the Wizard of Vegas. They are small and insignificant, but all it takes from us is our participation, nothing more.<br /><br />If only everything were so easy.Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-31734801657706070382013-02-17T09:12:00.000-08:002013-02-19T07:59:54.255-08:00A Wart's Opinion - A Global Marketplace?The last time there was a "Sin Prohibition" in the US - liquor, from 1920 to 1933 - it led to, among other things, that wonderful event known as the Saint Valentines Day Massacre.<br /><br />Wiki <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States" target="_blank">has this to say</a> under the title <u><i>Prohibition in the United States</i></u>:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>The lack of a solid popular consensus for the ban resulted in the growth of vast criminal organizations, including the modern American Mafia, and various other criminal cliques. Widespread disregard of the law also generated rampant corruption among politicians and within police forces.</i></blockquote>You would have thought that the "brain trust" that the US refers to as "our elected representatives" would have learned from history. &nbsp;You would have thought.<br /><br /><br />The US has been living under the newest "Sin Prohibition" - internet gambling - for about 6 years.<br /><br /><u><i>The reason for this prohibition</i></u>&nbsp;is NOT the "gambling" part of that "internet gambling" phrase. &nbsp;After all, the US has Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and a wide number of Native American reservation casinos. &nbsp;It has state-sanctioned slot parlors. &nbsp;It has in-state lotteries and multi-state lotteries. &nbsp;It has "Scratch and Win tickets" and "Parimutuel tickets". &nbsp;Clearly, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling_in_the_United_States" target="_blank">gambling in the US</a> is not any problem at all - it's everywhere.<br /><br /><u><i>The reason for this prohibition</i></u> is the "internet" part of "internet gambling", <u>because internet equals <b>offshore</b></u>. &nbsp;The US has no "onshore internet gambling system" in place. &nbsp;And all of the businesses that run (and profit from) all of those other forms of gambling do not want the US customer's gambling budget to leave the country (or the state, or the reservation).<br /><br />So ... the US Government simply closes and locks the "offshore cashier window" with the UIGEA, ignores things for a little while, and then goes about the business of screwing anyone in the industry that the DOJ, or <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICANN" target="_blank">ICANN</a>, can get their hands on. &nbsp;(One of the results, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is the growth of the "Black Market Bathtub Gin" version of the "offshore internet gambling" business. &nbsp;And what a wonderful business that proves to be - so honest and "customer friendly".)<br /><br />The irony is that the reason the US has no "onshore internet gambling system" in place <u>is because of those businesses that run all of those other forms of gambling</u>. &nbsp;Las Vegas does not want their customer's bets going to Montana. &nbsp;The Florida lottery does not want their customer's bets going to Ohio. &nbsp;And some states, or counties, do not want their customers to bet at all.<br /><br />OK, we know all of this. &nbsp;The bottom line of this part of the narrative -&nbsp;<b>The US Government has actively blocked <u>US customers</u> from spending their money in&nbsp;<u>offshore businesses</u></b><b>, to the advantage of the US corporations and the&nbsp;disadvantage&nbsp;of the US customers</b>.<br /><div><br /></div><br />Once upon a time (1900 and earlier) the US was primarily an "agrarian economy". &nbsp;The Great Depression arrived, accompanied by the Dust Bowl, and the US became a "nothing economy".<br /><br />World War II arrived and we became a "manufacturing economy". &nbsp;In the 1970s and 1980s Japan kicked the snot out of our largest manufacturing industries. &nbsp;What did manufacturing Management do in response (after wiping off the snot)?<br /><br />Well, first of all, they diddled and twiddled. &nbsp;They asked for "short-term protection" support from the Government. &nbsp;They moved pieces around by "shaking the box" - a lot of activity but with no results.<br /><br />Ultimately, they embraced "automation". &nbsp;This results in making high-wage, high-value-added jobs being done by fewer and fewer people. &nbsp;(The US people get screwed.)<br /><br />And then they embraced "offshoring". &nbsp;This results in lower wage, lower-value-added jobs being sent to third world countries for cheaper labor.&nbsp;&nbsp;(The US people get screwed.)<br /><br /><b>The US Government has no problem with <u>US manufacturing companies</u> spending their money in&nbsp;<u>offshore businesses</u>, to the advantage of the US corporations and the&nbsp;disadvantage&nbsp;of the US customers.</b><br /><br /><br />Once again we change, this time from a "manufacturing economy" to a "service economy". &nbsp;I won't go on at length about this one. &nbsp;Just call our Help Line and ask them in which part of India they live. &nbsp;Or call our Software Department and ask them in which part of Pakistan they live.<br /><div><br /><b>The US Government has no problem with <u>US service companies</u> spending their money in&nbsp;<u>offshore businesses</u>, to the advantage of the US corporations and the&nbsp;disadvantage&nbsp;of the US customers.</b><br /><div><b><br /></b></div></div><br />OK, we know all of this too. &nbsp;The bottom line of this part of the narrative - <b>The only part of the US economy that is actively blocked by the US Government from making use of "offshoring" is the US customer, <u>because of</u>&nbsp;</b><b>the advantages for the US corporations and <u>in spite of</u> the&nbsp;disadvantages&nbsp;for the US customers</b><b>.</b><br /><br /><br /><u><b>Side Note</b>&nbsp;**********</u><br /><br />#1 - The US Government made drug importation illegal in 1987.<br /><br />#2 - For reasons, Canadian drug prices are as much as 80 percent below those in the United States.<br /><br />#3 - In early 2003 a man named Carl Moore started a business named Rx Depot. &nbsp;Customers arrive with their prescriptions and fill out a medical questionnaire, both of which are faxed to a Canadian pharmacy. &nbsp;There, the pharmacist consults with a physician, who approves the prescription. &nbsp;The drugs are then mailed directly to the customer.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/031006/6moore.htm" target="_blank">Online Quote</a>:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>Soon after Rx Depot opened its first storefront in the parking lot of Tulsa's Fontana Shopping Center--right by the Acura dealership and Monterrey's Mexican restaurant--a frail-looking woman walked in and asked the elder Moore for a price check on tamoxifen, a drug for treating breast cancer. &nbsp;When he told her it would cost $45, "she started crying," he recalls. &nbsp;The woman explained that she had stopped taking the drug a year earlier because she couldn't afford the $390 her local pharmacy charged for the same prescription. &nbsp;"She told me she felt she had a new lease on life," Moore says of the moment when he realized his new venture was more than just a potential moneymaker. &nbsp;"It changed my life, too. &nbsp;I started wondering how many more people were out there who couldn't afford the drugs they needed to live."</i></blockquote>In late 2003, the US FDA and the DOJ <u>started the legal&nbsp;proceedings&nbsp;to shut down the Rx Depot</u>.<br /><br />It's worth repeating -&nbsp;<b>The only part of the US economy that is actively blocked by the US Government from taking advantage of "offshoring" is the US customer, to the advantage of the US corporations and, in this case, to the severe disadvantage&nbsp;of this woman with breast cancer.</b><br /><br /><u><b>End Side Note</b>&nbsp;**********</u><br /><br /><br />The UIGEA becomes law. &nbsp;The US online gambling universe has become dark. &nbsp;Time passes ---<br /><br />--- (I'm thinking strains of Enya here, or maybe Eno's Ambient) ---<br /><br />--- during which some stray neurons begin to bump into each other. &nbsp;Other neurons join. &nbsp;After awhile they coalesce and begin to resemble a thought - "profit". &nbsp;Another thought forms, in a similar fashion but from a different part of the universe - "taxes". &nbsp;(Those 2 thoughts pretty much consume the firing neurons available in the US that have an awareness of, or interest in, this industry.)<br /><br />At some point thoughts lead to action. &nbsp;With "Profit People" and "Taxes People" pulling the cart, and a carrot<br /><u><span style="font-size: x-large;">Money</span> <span style="font-size: large;">Money</span>&nbsp;MONEY&nbsp;<span style="font-size: large;">Money</span>&nbsp;<span style="font-size: x-large;">Money</span></u><br /><div>dangling from the end of the stick in front of them, well, that cart is going to move forward.<br /><br />Thus begins the technical, operational and political challenge of developing an "onshore online gambling system". &nbsp;The cart moves at the speed of a ping pong ball rolling down a slight incline that has been covered with&nbsp;molasses, but it does move. &nbsp;(That's the word I was looking for - "glacial".)<br /><br />As I mentioned in <a href="http://www.onlinecasinorecommendations.com/2012/06/warts-opinion-ripples-in-water.html" target="_blank">my very first post to this blog</a>, "Ripples in the Water", all of that <b>Money, Money, Money</b> has to come from somewhere. &nbsp;In the US's buy-sell economy, the only people bringing money to the table are known as "Customers". &nbsp;(Yes, that same group of people to whom their Government has been so helpful previously.)<br /><br />Prior to the UIGEA the "offshore online casino" customers paid about 3% of their bet to the casino. &nbsp;In my "Ripples" post I projected that the US <b>Money, Money, Money</b> people would create an "onshore online gambling system" that ultimately winds up costing the customers 10% of their bet.<br /><br /></div>So, the Government closes and locks the "offshore cashier window", eventually opens up an "onshore online gambling system", and charges the customers 3 times as much for the&nbsp;privilege. &nbsp;At those prices, there won't be any "outside the country" money coming in. &nbsp;The "offshore cashier window" will remain closed to the US customers - their only option is that honest and "customer friendly" (and now probably rapidly growing) "Bathtub Gin Black Market".<br /><br />The only people, group, organization or entity that is getting screwed here ... <b>the US customers</b>.<br /><br /><br /><b><u>The BOTTOM LINE of this post</u></b>:<br /><br />-&nbsp;<b>The only part of the US economy that is actively, legally (<u>and&nbsp;aggressively</u>)&nbsp;blocked by the US Government from taking advantage of "offshoring" is the US customer.</b><br /><br />- The US Government (UIGEA) closes down the "offshore online casinos", but provides no "onshore online casino" option. &nbsp;This alone did not create the "Bathtub Gin Black Market", but there can be little doubt that it fueled it as nothing else could. &nbsp;(I don't think that I need to provide any conclusion as to the benefits to the US customers that arise when their only option is "Bathtub Gin".)<br /><br />- The US Government (taxes) and the US Corporations (profits) ultimately begin to pursue that "onshore casino option" (at the glacial pace expected from two huge bureaucracies), but the result, as with the pharmaceutical example, will be the same product as the "offshore online casinos" but at 3 times the price.<br /><br />- <b>Who wins? &nbsp;The current Federal and State Governments</b>, who have repeatedly demonstrated over the past 20 years that they are the least "representative" Government since the US Civil War.<br /><br />- <b>Who else wins? &nbsp;The US Corporations</b>, who have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not "good citizens" and happily operate without any concern for the US customers. &nbsp;(Truly, they would "sell their Grandmother for a buck".)<br /><br />- <b>Who loses? &nbsp;Well, who is left? &nbsp;The US customers.</b><br /><br />It is as though both the Government and the Corporations view the US customers, <b>the US people</b>, as a herd of cattle. &nbsp;The cattle have all been rounded up and surrounded by "the Walls of Alcatraz". &nbsp;The Government and the Corporations circle the walls as vampire bats, feeding on them at their leisure, and defending all access to them from any outside vampire bats.<br /><br /><br />LincolnsWarthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00004717465685621057noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-859411950497767145.post-86925583304428049392013-02-11T13:42:00.000-08:002013-02-13T21:16:23.184-08:00The End Of The UIGEA?<div class="separator" style="clear: both;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-LIGC-c319to/URk8CblMlnI/AAAAAAAAANk/RSFPyVEbZKc/s1600/uigea_antigua_wto.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="398" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-LIGC-c319to/URk8CblMlnI/AAAAAAAAANk/RSFPyVEbZKc/s1600/uigea_antigua_wto.png" width="640" /></a></div><br /><div style="text-align: center;">The next few months are going to be very interesting indeed.</div><div style="text-align: center;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: center;">But first, a brief history lesson.</div><br /><div style="text-align: center;">--- </div><br /><span style="color: #990033; float: left; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 66px; line-height: 35px; padding-left: 1px; padding-right: 8px; padding-top: 11px;">F</span>or those not <i>in the know</i>, the United States has been something of a piss-ant these past many years as regards online gambling. Oh sure, they <i>say</i> that the reason for this is to protect American consumers from nefarious online characters, and indeed, there is likely some truth to this. The primary reason, though, has nothing to do with protecting consumers. It has to do with protecting those that American politicians actually serve: the special interests.<br /><br />By special interests, at least in this specific situation, I am, of course, referring to the landed casino operations. They, in their infinite stupidity, believed that they were in competition with online casinos. Because you know how an online casino and a physical casino are practically the same thing. Just how <i>Need For Speed</i> is a perfectly reasonable replacement for driving a Ferrari.<br /><br />The ultimate manifestation of this corruption was the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlawful_Internet_Gambling_Enforcement_Act_of_2006" target="_blank">UIGEA</a>, or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.<sup>1</sup> This act was a last-minute addition (added at 9:29pm the day before the vote by Senator Bill Frist<sup>2</sup>) to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAFE_Port_Act" target="_blank">SAFE Port Act</a>, an act which was the result of our collective freak-out over the possibility that a Dubai company may buy an American port (because you know how all Arabs are babbling, towel-headed terrorists).<br /><br />Predecessor bills to the UIGEA had been bubbling around in Congress since the 1990's, but none of them had managed to gain much traction (thus explaining why it was finally passed by literally sneaking it into another, highly popular bill... I love America). Initially, the government was relying on the Federal Wire Act to try to stop online gambling, but this could only apply to operations within the country. As such, it was buttressed with the passage of the UIGEA, which is essentially an end-run around the fact that the U.S. cannot regulate things that exist legally in other countries.<br /><br />What do I mean by end-run around? In short, the UIGEA prevents American financial institutions from transferring money to companies in other countries that identify as online entertainment — read: gambling. It makes illegal something that by all rights should be legal in this country: financial transfers from one legal organization in one country to another legal organization in another country.<br /><br />The likely reason for the passage of the UIGEA, while its earlier variants had all died, was the loss of the only other judicial tool used to block online betting: The Wire Act. For years, the U.S. had been relying on the Federal Wire Act to prosecute companies and individuals associated with gambling. This was going as swimmingly as anything the government does until 2002 when the courts ruled that the Wire Act only applied to online <i>sports</i> betting, not games of chance. From then until 2011, the Justice Department did what it does best: be intransigent and nonsensical. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they kept claiming that The Wire Act did, in fact, apply to all forms of online gambling.<br /><br />But even the Justice Department must face, ya' know, <i>reality</i> now and then. In December of 2011, they were <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2011/12/23/department-of-justice-flip-flops-on-internet-gambling/" target="_blank">forced to abandon</a> The Wire Act entirely, leaving all of their judicial eggs in one basket. This reality was evinced in the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/technology/16poker.html" target="_blank">Full Tilt Poker</a> case, where the Justice Department didn't once mention the Wire Act in the indictment.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OnuEZ21TC0s/URgIsBRa7rI/AAAAAAAAAM8/uOtEeev3xX4/s1600/full-tilt_poker_group.jpg" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" height="376" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OnuEZ21TC0s/URgIsBRa7rI/AAAAAAAAAM8/uOtEeev3xX4/s1600/full-tilt_poker_group.jpg" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">I wonder if their Law &amp; Order walk was intended to be prophetic.</td></tr></tbody></table><br />The U.S. wasn't just relying on the law, though, oh no! They also relied on the fact that the U.S. can do whatever the fuck it wants and can simply give the finger to anyone who protests. Using the "whaddaya gunna' do aboudit?" argument as justification, the U.S. arrested dozens of people, notably <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Carruthers" target="_blank">David Carruthers</a> and the aforementioned Full Tilt Poker arrests.<br /><br />The former happened before the UIGEA and was primarily political in nature (the U.S. was saying "we're so serious about this, we are willing to arrest people without any actual laws in place."). The latter happened after the UIGEA and relied almost exclusively on it for the arrests. Indeed, it appears that Full Tilt was definitely side-stepping the UIGEA, but as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo" target="_blank">a wise man</a> once said, an unjust law is no law at all.<br /><br />Since then, the UIGEA has been used to justify wild oversteps of governmental power, such as the seizing of domain names that end with ".com." All .coms are registered in the United States, which means that the U.S. can go after them. This was first known as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/technology/27torrent.html" target="_blank">the ICE Seizures</a> and initially began in the Quixotic battle against copyright infringement (which adds further irony considering that copyright considerations come into play with our current mess). This <a href="http://rt.com/news/seizure-domain-juristiction-internet-265/" target="_blank">expanded into online gambling</a>. And because this is the U.S., they, of course, could not go about their business without <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120228/22460717908/feds-continue-crackdown-poker-seizing-wrong-bodog-domain.shtml" target="_blank">royally</a> <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090120/2045263471.shtml" target="_blank">fucking</a> <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090608/1348195167.shtml" target="_blank">things</a> <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081109/0136582775.shtml" target="_blank">up</a>.<br /><br />If you are wondering: yes, these are all <a href="http://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech-national-security-technology-and-liberty/ice-domain-name-seizures-threaten-due" target="_blank">widely considered to be illegal actions</a> on the part of the U.S. And if not illegal, their actions are just plain stupid. As Gerd Alexander from Duke Law School argued in <a href="http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1181&amp;context=dltr" target="_blank">a 2008 paper</a>,<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>The United States federal government’s attempts to curb Internet gambling are beginning to resemble a game of whack-a-mole.<br /><br />U.S. gamblers have demonstrated that they will continue gambling online. Neither the Act nor the DOJ have effectively addressed the dangers of online gambling. On the contrary, the U.S. has forced transparent and regulated publicly-traded companies out of the market, only to be replaced by more opaque and potentially unscrupulous privately-held companies. In so doing, the U.S. has amplified the risks of consumer abuse, underage gambling, problem gambling and money laundering. </i></blockquote>Furthermore, the UIGEA flew in the face of what Americans actually felt, withover 85% of those surveyed supporting online gambling. Let that numbersink in. The government enacted far-reaching policy for something thatonly 15% of citizens felt may be a problem. A greater number of people think ghosts exist.<br /><br />When all of this was pointed out to them, they responded with "whaddaya gunna' do aboudit?"<br /><br />The totality of these offenses angered more than just companies and customers. It also managed to upset a number of countries. Specifically, countries that had built up a significant business of online gaming and betting.<br /><br />Enter Antigua. Antigua and the United States grew side-by-side in the online gambling frontier. The U.S. was far ahead of other countries when it came to online gaming, which is odd considering that it was far behind other countries when it came to broadband Internet access. But that's neither here nor there.<br /><br />As the U.S. market expanded, Antigua was among one of a few countries that was providing the infrastructure to take advantage of this. As such, they saw the online gambling business grow into a multi-billion-dollar source of revenue. Dozens of companies flooded the small country with money, jobs, infrastructure investment, and a position at the forefront of a nascent industry. Times were great for Antigua — times that came to an abrupt end with the passage of the UIGEA.<br /><br />As I mentioned, the U.S. had been making noise about online gambling for over a decade, and Antigua had likewise been making noise in response to this. It started with their first appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2003 attacking the legality of American attempts at blocking online gambling, a ruling in their favor in 2004, 2007, and again in 2009. For awhile, it looked like their threats were empty, with no actual intent of ever leveraging their WTO rulings into some action. Even after Brazil indicated that <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100310/0324578497.shtml" target="_blank">they would follow in Antigua's footsteps</a>, nothing happened.<br /><br />Then, late last month, everything exploded.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;">---</div><br />Antigua, with the full and honest backing of the WTO, has announced plans to open a "piracy" website to distribute software, movies, music, games, and just about anything else covered under copyright in the United States. One thing that should be stressed is that what Antigua would be doing isn't actually piracy. Piracy implies a violation of recognized copyright laws. Antigua has been given permission to not recognize these laws, thus rendering piracy impossible. It's kinda' like James Bond being given a license to kill — it's not actually murder.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="float: left; margin-right: 8px; margin-top: 5px; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4h_1GwnusDI/URRdIwJ-e4I/AAAAAAAAAMU/LXn5kXY-Irg/s1600/Harold_Lovell-450x300.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="212" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4h_1GwnusDI/URRdIwJ-e4I/AAAAAAAAAMU/LXn5kXY-Irg/s1600/Harold_Lovell-450x300.jpg" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">We are confident that in the coming days, our strategy will<br />have the desired effect.<br />- <i>Antigua Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell</i></td></tr></tbody></table>The United States has responded as one would expect them to, by <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/28/us-usa-antigua-piracy-idUSBRE90R12G20130128" target="_blank">losing their shit</a>. Perhaps expecting rational reactions and argumentation is asking too much from the most powerful nation on Earth. After all, they have lost their case in the WTO multiple times, inexplicably <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090127/1515493547.shtml" target="_blank">claimed that they won</a>, simply ignored the WTO, and continued to "negotiate" with Antigua, <i>all the while trying to use the WTO to demand actions from other countries in other cases</i>.<br /><br />This is truly a perfect exemplar of the U.S. opinion on law: an unjust law is nolaw at all, and any law that is inconvenient for the U.S. is bydefinition unjust. Heads I win, tails you lose, and Antigua is now at war with that hubris. Considering the U.S.'s history with international law, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the laws that Antigua is using against the U.S. were <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguay_Round_Agreements_Act" target="_blank">created <i>by</i> the U.S.</a> as tools for hegemonic control of international trade. It is impossible for the U.S. to violate laws.<br /><br />In <a href="http://www.alternet.org/world/noam-chomsky-paranoia-superrich-and-superpowerful?paging=off" target="_blank">an interview for a recent book</a>, noted deep thinker Noam Chomsky recounts statements made by liberal analyst and blogger Matthew Yglesias, who was criticizing those who attacked the U.S. for killing Osama Bin Laden without a trial. His criticisms were not of the Fox News, patriotic variety, though. He was attacking the idealistic naivete of those who relied on concepts of American law and justice to make their calls for a trial.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i><i>“</i>[Yglesias said] <b>'One of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers.'</b> Of course, he didn’t mean Norway. He meant the United States. So the principle on which the international system is based is that the United States is entitled to use force at will. To talk about the United States violating international law or something like that is amazingly naive, completely silly.” </i></blockquote>The United States is acting pissy because another country dared to use the laws written by and for the benefit of the United States <i>against</i> the United States. The impudence! And because the game isn't played like that, the U.S. has been acting like a child. A giant, powerful child that exists above the law. Indeed, this case has put out in stark display the alarmingly schizophrenic personality of the American government — we live for ideals, but the ideals are whatever we say they are, and even then they may not be. If that doesn't make sense, good. It shouldn't.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;">--- </div><br />If we disregard all of the details and minutiae of international relations, what we are left with are two arguably unjust systems — the WTO and the UIGEA — both created by special interests groups, at loggerheads. So at its most fundamental level, this isn't a case of country vs. country, but a case of industry vs. industry.<br /><br />As I write this, two lobbying groups in Washington— copyright and gambling — are clashing with each other over conflicting interests, and are using the U.S. government as a pawn in the furthering of these interests. As one would expect from the economic desires of a <i>single</i> industry, this behavior is actively harmful to almost everyone else and practically begging to instigate broader conflict.<br /><br />And instigate broader conflict it has!<br /><br />The WTO's issues are well-known, and certainly more far-reaching, but the UIGEA gives up nothing as regards pure drama. Combined with near-constant resistence to it from other countries, <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100728/12562610397.shtml" target="_blank">from those</a> in the government <i>not</i> in the pocket of the gambling industry, from the people of the United States, and <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101004/00473111265/big-casinos-may-now-regret-that-they-had-congress-ban-internet-gambling.shtml" target="_blank"><i>the fucking gambling industry itself</i></a>, I can't help but think that the UIGEA's days may be numbered.<br /><br />So how will this all play out? Let us analyze the possibilities.<br /><br /><u><b>1: The U.S. drops its conflict with Antigua.</b></u><br /><br />This is guaranteed to not happen. The panicked copyright lobby in the U.S. is very strong. They are also quite stupid. This means that they, regardless of their battle being pointless or not, are going to fight it tooth and nail. They are going to press the congresspeople that they own very hard. They will not let up.<br /><br /><br /><b><u>2:The U.S. bribes Antigua.</u></b><br /><br />This seems likely. The U.S. has <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071219/165450.shtml" target="_blank">already shown a willingness to do this</a>, much to the chagrin of many. Whether Antigua accepts the bribes or not is more in question.&nbsp; The articles I've found all seem to indicate that the USA's <a href="http://www.antiguaobserver.com/?p=87310" target="_blank">offers</a> <a href="http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-01/29/antigua-legitimate-piracy" target="_blank">currently</a> <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/02/01/antigua-world-trade-organization/1881557/" target="_blank">suck</a>, as exemplified by <a href="http://www.technewsworld.com/story/77219.html" target="_blank">this interview</a> with Mark Mendel, one of Antigua's lawyers.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>"Antigua negotiates with the United States for years and years and years, the United States doesn't really want to negotiate, they definitely don't want to comply, and they haven't complied. Antigua, after 10 years of negotiating, loses its industry and said, "What in the world can we do?"</i></blockquote>This behavior is not surprising since the U.S. subscribes to the legal school of "whaddaya gunna' do aboudit?" Moreover, when representatives from the U.S. try to argue that it is Antigua being intransigent, we can pretty confidently cough the word "bullshit" right in their faces.<br /><br />But let's assume that the U.S. is suddenly willing to play ball. What kind of bribe would do, and from whence would it come? Antigua estimates that they are losing more than $3 billion per year because of the lack of gambling. If that's true, then Antigua would rightfully demand reparations on the order of $3 billion. The U.S. is never going to just <i>provide</i> billions of dollars, so it would be up to the aggrieved industry to pay, and I seriously doubt that the gambling industry would be willing or able to cough up an annual $3 billion bribe to an entire country.<br /><br />Perhaps the necessary number would actually be lower. I think that Antigua's estimate is exaggerated. They're probably using that number as leverage in any negotiations. Based on my own research, if I'm being generous, I would peg their share of gambling revenue at around half to two-thirds of that. But even at $1.5-2 billion, that's a massive number. Current projections have the global gambling industry growing by 25% over the next 24 months, so Antigua's share would exceed $2 billion in more realistic numbers, and over $4 billion in their optimistic numbers.<br /><br />Considering that as broadband Internet access continues to grow across the United States, the size of the market would also grow. Because let's face it, no one is playing NetEnt games on dial-up. Based on the growth of online casino use, Antigua would be able to expect 10% annual growth for at least the next few years. Looking at the landed American casino companies, whose industry has stagnated for years, I seriously doubt they are in a position to make any bribes of such magnitude.<sup>3</sup><br /><br />All of this means that the likelihood of the U.S. making a successful offer is low. They may be able to offer other things from other industries, though — cruise ships, manufacturing, etc. — but that would have to be a massively robust package, which is again something that I don't think the U.S. is willing to do.<br /><br /><br /><u><b>3: The UIGEA gets repealed.</b></u><br /><br />This seems equally likely as #2. As I mentioned, this has become a clash between two lobby groups: the copyright lobby and the gambling lobby. If we combine both the Indian lobby and the landed gambling lobby (which I believe includes lottery companies), they <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/alphalist_indus.php" target="_blank">spend about $47mil</a>. The entertainment, software, publishing, and broadcast industries spend over $350mil. Basically, the casino lobby can't possibly go toe-to-toe with the copyright lobby, and if this situation comes down to choosing one industry to support, the entertainers and programmers will bribe the UIGEA out of existence.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5svkYrAH4cY/URX0aw1SUHI/AAAAAAAAAMo/O4kNv33PP9w/s1600/Barney-Frank_UIGEA.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="174" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5svkYrAH4cY/URX0aw1SUHI/AAAAAAAAAMo/O4kNv33PP9w/s1600/Barney-Frank_UIGEA.jpg" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">[We need to] enable Americans to bet on-line and put an end<br />to an inappropriate interference with their personal freedom."<br />- <i>Barney Frank </i></td></tr></tbody></table>Obviously, option #3 is the best option, and the very real possibility of it is exciting. There has been constant resistance to the UIGEA from the very beginning, most vocally <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Gambling_Regulation,_Consumer_Protection,_and_Enforcement_Act" target="_blank">from Barney Frank</a>. But obviously, ideals and common sense have no purchase in the harsh, intellectual wasteland that is Washington DC. Other lobbyists, though? Yeah. They can get shit done.<br /><br />There is a greater than low chance that the UIGEA will be gone before the year is out.<br /><br />The unavoidable corollary to the repeal is that regulation of some form may come along for the ride. This could come in the form of taxes for casinos based within U.S. borders, which would be a boon for government coffers. But I also hope that it would trigger the founding of some sort of disinterested regulatory service like Casinomeister, but without the problematic corruption.<br /><br />Nominally, we have those now. We have the UKGC, the GRA, the AGCC, and the KGC. But <i>all</i> of them have proven to be, at best, ineffectual, and at worst, outright corrupt. The plain truth of the matter is that online gambling is completely and utterly unregulated. This could be significantly alleviated with a large, watchdog-like website run by the government. Its effectiveness would of course be maximized if it was <i>not used as an excuse to squeeze tax revenue</i>, but that would require the government to be concerned with actually solving problems, which is something to which they seem strangely averse.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;">---</div><br />As I have said many times, I enjoy playing games online. I don't play much, but I do play enough where it is a pastime to which I look forward. The UIGEA made this pastime harder, more dangerous, and more annoying. But my personal feelings on the issue are like spitting in the rain — a small part of a cacophony of complaints and criticisms. It is the undeniable reality of the current situation that should, nay <i>must</i>, sway opinion.<br /><br />The UIGEA has failed. Anyone with half a brain knew that it would fail even before it was passed. Now that it has been around for five years, we can say without doubt that it has failed. It has caused significant harm both to companies and to the United States' reputation among trading partners in the WTO. It is a disaster. There is no other word for it.<br /><br />While the motivation for its death — lobbyist vs. lobbyist — is less than ideal, and indeed instills in me a depressing sense of futile cynicism about government, it is at least getting the job done. It is at least triggering change.<br /><br />That is a good thing.<br /><br />--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /><div class="yiv670899616yui_3_7_2_16_1359792641424_67" id="yiv670899616yui_3_7_2_17_1359757535849_58" style="-webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; color: black; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px;"><br /><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1360009510_3" style="font-size: x-small;"><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1360009537_1">1: Don't let the name fool you. What it is regulating isn't unlawful. The language of the title makes it seem as though it is giving greater power to regulate something that was already illegal, but the bill is actually <i>making</i> something illegal. <span style="font-size: x-small;">O</span>nline gambling is and always has been legal in the countries where the casinos operate. This is the U.S. trying to play around with language to legitimize a judicial and policy overreach.<br /><br />2: Bill F<span style="font-size: x-small;">ri</span>st, who <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Frist#Medical_school_experiments" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">has</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/23/AR2005092301811.html?nav=rss_politics" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">never</a> <a href="http://www.patientsnotpatents.org/willfulmisconduct.htm" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">done</a> <a href="http://spotlightoncorruption.wordpress.com/tag/bill-frist/" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">anything</a> <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2005/sep/25/nation/na-ethics25" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">bad</a> <a href="http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/success-story/exposing-senate-majority-leader-bill-frist%E2%80%99s-corruption" style="text-decoration: underline;" target="_blank">ever</a>.<br /><br /><span style="font-size: x-small;">3</span>: I looked at the stock data from the #1 and #2 gaming companies in the world, Caeser's and MGM. Ignoring recent speculative spikes compliments of New Jersey governor Chris Christie's support of a trial period for online gambling in New Jersey, the stocks saw <i>massive</i> plunges at the beginning of the recession and have been flat ever since. To describe the performance of gaming companies as "the doldrums" is a wild understatement.&nbsp;</span> </span></div>Black Jackhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13990209752343131125noreply@blogger.com8