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    The Reid & Kyl Online Poker Bill Explained in 8 Points

    Posted by Quad Jacks October 19, 2012

    Chris Grove from the Online Poker Report reads the 73-page bill so you don’t have to.

    The Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2012 that QuadJacks leaked in full yesterday was obviously much harder to go through than the 3-page summary that was also leaked here last month.

    Still, while the summary that many of us read and the bill that most of us didn’t do not contradict each other in startling ways, there is a lot more to be learned about the potential future of online poker in America by a detailed reading of the full draft.

    QuadJacks understands that not everyone can be expected to read all 73 pages. Therefore, I have prepared eight of what I think are the most important takeaways from the bill’s current draft. (To view the full text of the bill for yourself, click here.)

    Under the Reid/Kyl bill…

     

    Nevada will drive federal regulation of online poker.

    There are various parts of the bill that effectively point to Nevada as the nexus for online poker regulation in the U.S. While the bill doesn’t come right out and say online poker is Nevada’s for the taking, the requirements the bill puts in place more or less limit the pool of qualified applicants to one: The Silver State.

    Interestingly, whatever bodies end up regulating online poker will also have fairly broad powers to determine exactly what sorts of games qualify as online poker.

    There’s already speculation that the placing of so much power in the hands of Nevada could complicate the task of garnering support for the bill among others in Congress.

    Players get new level of protection.

    While players may not be fond of every aspect of the Reid/Kyl bill, there are unprecedented levels of valuable player protection built in that should resonate with the community.

    Strict player fund segregation is required – funds must be “segregated from the funds of licensees and are otherwise protected from corporate insolvency, financial risk, or criminal or civil actions against the licensee.” If a site loses its license, that loss triggers an immediate (within 30 days) return of funds to players.

    Compliance with all parts of the law – including prohibitions on cheating, safety of player funds, and so on – is backed up by substantial civil fines for violations ($250k for individuals, $750k for corporations). Additionally, the bill’s draft requires analysis of threats to security of games to be conducted one year after licensing begins.

    International player pools are off the table.

    If you were hoping to play HU4ROLLZ with your European counterparts, bad news: The Reid/Kyl draft basically prohibits the commingling of domestic and international players. In fact, you can’t even run a separate international site under the same business entity that runs the domestic site.

    Unlicensed operators take on increased risk.

    And so do players, by extension. Operators could face up to $1m in penalties per day for operating an unlicensed site that takes bets (including poker) from U.S. residents when a license would be required by the law to do so. On top of that hefty sum, the Reid/Kyl draft also demands a monthly fee equal to 50% of rake from unlicensed operators. The bill also provides more mechanisms for banks and other financial institutions to identify and shutter processing-related accounts.

    Any remaining legal grey area regarding the operation of online casinos / poker rooms that accept U.S. players is essentially removed by the bill. The Wire Act, IGBA and UIGEA are all updated to explicitly address (and effectively prohibit) online gambling.

    Players should understand that the impact of these increased risks aren’t limited to operators. The more financial pressure placed on operators and processors, the greater the risk of a site shutting down, resulting in the potential loss of player funds.

    Players may not have many choices at first.

    The Reid/Kyl draft severely restricts what type of companies can even qualify for application. While there is some discretion provided to regulators, the draft appears to limit applicants to domestic operators online at the outset.

    More licensing flexibility kicks in after 2 years, but even then tax provisions and personal jurisdiction submission, plus rules against commingling domestic and international businesses, will complicate things for companies like PokerStars and 888. The draft also makes it tougher for companies that stayed in the U.S. post-UIGEA (with some potential loopholes).

    This approach could undercut competition, but the trade-off is that it will dramatically increase player protection. You’re not going to run into any UB superuser scandals or Absolute Poker ownership shell games here.

    Online poker will no longer be private.

    This shift is more or less inevitable whenever regulation kicks in, but the Reid/Kyl draft proposes a fairly sweeping set of measures aimed at undoing the heretofore private nature of online poker. Some examples:

    ● Rooms will collect extensive information about player identity and player activity, including the date and location of each individual wager.
    ● All information regarding winnings and losses will be shared with government.
    ● Extensive ID checks (including biometric or equivalent) may be required at every log-in.

    Multi-accounting, underage play, tax evasion and VPN play will likely be far more difficult endeavors under the structure put forth by the Reid/Kyl draft.

    Cheating isn’t just an ethical issue anymore.

    Cheating (defined very broadly by the Reid/Kyl draft, with additional leeway given to regulators to shape the scope of the term) or using bots could get you up to three years in jail. In fact, the Reid/Kyl draft is written so broadly on this point as to give regulators opportunity to outlaw HUDs and odds calculators, although there’s no indication that’s going to happen.

    This is a point that might seem minor to some, but I think it’s one of the key benefits of regulation. With something actually at stake for cheaters – of any kind – I think the game will undergo a real transformation that will benefit both individual players and the larger viability of online poker as a mainstream game.

    Poker room revenue and promotional models could shift.

    Under the bill, license holders pay 16% in fees on their gross rake. However, rooms don’t have to pay any fee on “ancillary” (read: not rake) revenue they get from players, so you might see a shift to rooms offering add-ons for sale. This could be especially true if regulated poker sites eventually focus on hybrid social-poker games that involve substantial user activity away from the tables. It could also drive rooms to bring software like HEM and Combonator into the fold, offering users purchasable apps as another way to increase revenue not subject to the 16% fee.

    Also, sites will be able to deduct any “bonus or promotional credit” given to a customer from rake pre-fee. This could lead to some creative strategies on the part of poker sites to route additional promotions – like a player’s overall casino rewards – through the poker room in an attempt to lower their overall fee burden.

    A quick thanks goes to PokerXanadu. Thanks to his 2+2 post, I re-read this part of the bill and realized my original interpretation that promotions couldn’t be deducted from rake was likely incorrect.

    Chris Grove is the founder and editor of the Online Poker Report. He can be followed on Twitter at @OPReport.

    To view the full text of the Reid/Kyl bill that this post is based on, click here.

    QuadJacks - Saturday, October 20, 2012

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