Thursday, April 05, 2007

The planets are aligning.

From ESPN:


I want my UFC

I hate to disagree with boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter, but I've got a bone to pick with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Last week, during a press conference to publicize his upcoming bout with Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd took a shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship -- which has been near and dear to my heart since I caught my first whiff of The Octagon.

"UFC ain't s---," Mayweather said. "It ain't but a fad. … These are guys who couldn't make it in boxing. So they do [mixed martial arts]. Boxing is the best sport in the world and it's here to stay."

Mayweather is 30 years old. The Pretty Boy should know better.

He should know that boxing is a dinosaur, and that the pet pit bull of us 20-somethings is the UFC. That's an unarguable fact. Check the ratings, and the pay-per-view receipts.

We of the age of MTV want our UFC. Sure, if us kids know what's good for us, we come to MMA with inherent respect for Ali, and Marciano, and Tunney, and Dempsey, and Frazier, and the other idols of our fathers. But the generation that is up all night making cheese sandwiches on George Foreman grills is hooked on board shorts and bare hands -- not the big red-gloved traveling circus.

Look no further than the present if you're still playing the b.s. "UFC isn't mainstream" card.

First, just last week, the majority owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship agreed to buy their biggest mixed-martial-arts rival -- the Japan-based PRIDE Fighting Championships.

PRIDE is to Japan what the UFC is to the U.S. Yes, PRIDE had some financial problems in the past, and there were even rumors of bankruptcy. But with UFC's acquisition of PRIDE, the future of MMA looks as bright as the Las Vegas strip.

"When somebody buys a company for 65 million dollars, that tells you it's pretty mainstream," said Mike Goldberg, the play-by-play announcer for the UFC. "You're bringing together the two main entities of the sport. This obviously opens a lot of doors for huge fight opportunities all over the world. … It's huge. It's just huge."

Said Lorenzo Fertitta, majority owner of the UFC: "This is really going to change the face of MMA. Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the [old NFL] and [old AFL] came together to create the NFL."

While the UFC might not be on par with the NFL in the United States, it is riding its biggest wave to date. Besides the acquisition of PRIDE, consider what else is on tap. This Thursday night, "UFC Fight Night" will be broadcast on Spike TV live from The Pearl (the new arena at The Palms in Vegas). And after "Fight Night," the fifth season of the acclaimed reality series "The Ultimate Fighter" will debut. This season the show will feature 16 lightweights -- the new class of the UFC.

Then on Saturday the UFC will head to Texas for the first time ever, for UFC 69: The Shootout (live on pay-per-view). The main event will feature one of the classiest athletes going, current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. The Canadian will face off against Matt Serra -- the sparkplug from Long Island, N.Y. who earned his shot at the title by taking "The Ultimate Fighter 4" title. How's that matchup for all you East Coast UFC naysayers? Still think it's just a flash in the pan?

In two weeks, the UFC goes to the UK for the first time since July 2002 (UFC 38: The Brawl at the Hall, in London). Rumor has it the UFC is also securing a date in Ireland and another in England later this year. And on top of all that, there is chatter of a hot new UFC video game in the works.

So, let's recap: a pure product, a reality series, international esteem, and a video game … sorry Floyd, this is no fad.

"We're definitely there. If Floyd Mayweather is being asked about UFC and he is commenting about UFC, no matter what he's saying, we've arrived," said Goldberg. "The fact that it's coming up in a boxing press conference speaks for itself."

So Pretty Boy, as you prepare for your big bout, don't take the UFC's success personally. You've got bigger fish to fry. None of us in Camp UFC are trying to take anything away from the tradition and historical significance of boxing. We're just not interested in it. We're smarter than Don King. (Plus we think UFC prez Dana White could take him down.)

We know what we want.

And if I may reference "Fight Club" one more time, "If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't."

We want our UFC.


Amen. And the best UFC news site on the web, hands down, is UFC Junkie.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I am on complete and utter tilt. I have a ton of work to be done.

Our office is insanely cool. I should take pictures so you can see it. We have a pool table, ping-pong table (yes, I'm the office pong champ) and even a foosball table. People are allowed to bring their pets in so we often have dogs running around. People here (the creatives, anyway) are always blasting tunes out thru their speakers.

Yet the crazy woman sitting behind me will not stop playing

I'll Tumble for Ya

by Boy George.

Over and over. I'm going to scream.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Bottom line: giving to charity increases my own sense of entitlement."
Phil Hellmuth

I've caught up on my reading. Finally.
Uber pending.

Real life still kicking my ass.

But I found this great Phil Hellmuth nonsense that I just had to share right now.

Phil Hellmuth loses $536k in one night of Chinese Poker to Phil Ivey:

Of course, Phil had to blog about it: My Biggest Loss EVER!

Go read the ego-less Phil right now, damnit. It's classic.

Daniel Negreanu has a nice parody of Phil's post up: Learning to use all my Powers!

On a personal poker note, I took serious pleasure in tilting Sir Waffles in a blogger tourney last evening. It was my only goal although I'll admit that tilting Waffles is like fishing with dynamite. In his post about this, I enjoyed Waffles blog Labels: fucking stupid cunt chasing mother fucking dwarf cocksucker

Even funnier is that he's still pissed today. Sadly, I lost interest in the tourney after knocking Waffles out and quickly committed poker tourney suicide with a big stack.

More coming.

Um, Keith Richards: 'I snorted my father'.

Johnny Hughes Poker 

Another Johnny Hughes post.



BY: Johnny Hughes

You ask how did "Ole 186" get his road name? Road names were common. The bookmakers gave each customer a code number. E.W. asked for the same number with all the bookies. The bookies had pagers. You would call and give your number and they would call you back on a pay phone or a safe phone.

The Shop was this wonderful outlaw hangout in Lubbock, Texas for thirty-five years. Road gambers came from all over to play no-limit Hold 'em higher than cat's back. Rounders came strutting in from all over licking their chops. They limped away licking their wounds . E.W. would call and you would hear him on one of the bookmaker's pagers. He'd always say, "It's ole 186." This would start people telling E.W. stories. Some of the bigger bookmakers worked front office--back office. They could hear the incoming pager calls as could the front office phone man. They would know who was betting but would not return the call unless it was a big special player like a Judge or something. Once while Toots was being arrested, a Judge did call and the cops told him they were in the middle of a raid. The Judge said he didn't care and told them to tell Toots he would take $500 on the Cowboys.

The Shop and outlaw gambling in general had more rules than the Post Office. You didn't use any real names over the phone. E.W. was a real loner. He didn't hang out with the other gamblers. The Shop had this schedule. It would open up in the early mornings for coffee and old stories, the best part. Several of the big bookmakers went there every day. They were competitors not partners. In the mornings, there was a very cheap domino game. They would play for $1 or $5 and yell and get very emotional and angry. They would slam the dominoes down with great force and insult each other freely. I might not have told you but $1 then was like $10 now. The same guys who yelled at dominoes showed no emotion at poker. If someone trash talked or celebrated as they do today, one of the old guys would have shot them and all anybody would have said would have been, "Seat open."

E.W. would skip the old stories and the early part of the game to walk around the Mall. He'd read the Thrifty Nickel, the free shopping guide. He seemed to have no concept of time, never having to show up any place at a specific time. He was an outside man, someone who made their whole living from poker. The inside men ran poker games, dice games, loaned money, and were bookies. They didn't go broke, no romance to it. We outside men exchanged information when we met away from the poker game. E.W. and I would talk about how the other guys played, who had a temper, when there was heat from the law, what road gamblers were in town, and who had been on a winning or losing streak. The house man or lady would not tell you how everyone was doing as a matter of professionalism. You were not supposed to wake up the suckers giving poker lessons at the table. You just did not discuss how to play a hand. The one thing that did teach people about the math of poker was laying insurance. When there was a draw about to happen, the players would show both hands and the various bookmakers would quote a price or the odds on the draw. They did this in Las Vegas also. As money management, E.W. would often take the insurance bets when he had his case money on the table. You could bet on the insurance bets even if you weren't in the pot. When he was striking and pilling, E.W. would bet on every hand he had a chance to.

Because we had staked each other and loaned each other, we became friends. E.W. was broke more times than the Ten Commandments but he always ironed it out. He would go to Big Fred, who ran the game, for loans at 5% interest or juice per week if his pockets were dry. Once E.W. soaked his small portable T.V. to me. I loaned him $200 on it. When an outside man borrowed money, there usually wasn't a specific deadline for repayment. You'd always say truthfully, "I'll pay you when I win." I didn't hear from E.W. for awhile and I gave the TV to this young couple who were getting married. We'd win all kinds of things: rings, watches, clothes, car titles, rubber checks, and guns. E.W. got back on his feet and he wanted the TV back. He was really insistent that I had broken a rule moving a soaked TV. I had to go get it back Indian giver style.

E.W. and I rarely discussed anything but poker and poker players. He did tell me he had been 4-F during World War Two. He said he drove a bus and the soldiers harassed him. He was a little guy about 140 pounds. He always wore slacks, a nice shirt, and a hat with a full brim. Never trust a man in a narrow-brimmed hat. He's sit up at the table with his coffee, menthol cigarettes, and a big stack of money. One night he went broke and Bill Smith said, "Turn your hat around E.W." If you were going to sit at the poker table broke, you had to turn your hat around backwards where the dealer would know not to deal to you.

Someone might say, "I saw E.W. downtown and his hat was on backwards." That meant he was broke. E.W. would sometimes slip speed into his coffee while we played. You would never see him doing this but his speech would change and he'd get pretty crazy. If someone else did something weird, they might say, "I musta got a holt of E.W.'s coffee."

One night when we were playing higher than a hawks's nest and E.W. was that high also, he was dealt a blank card. We played with diamond back Bee's. He freaked out. He just sat there staring at the blank card. He called the first bet and then stopped the action to ask for another card. He thought it was some sort of trick. He jumped up and ran out of there like his horse was tied in a red ant bed.

When I first met E.W. we played in the back of a car lot at Wilbanks' place. Wilbanks was the primary producer and he would stake two or more players. In the Fall, in West Texas, there is a ton of money around. The farmer's have the cotton harvest and the college students come back which perks up all business. However, the big factor for the poker economy was the football betting. The bookies were knee deep in money in the Fall.

By summer, guys like me and E.W. might be scratching a broke man's ass. We'd play in poker games where Wilbanks had three of us staked and we'd still try to break each other.

Shortly after I met E.W. he was at a late night game with the tough crowd of other honky-tonk pill heads when he got robbed, again. I avoided those places. The robber ran in with a bowling pin in one hand and a pistol in the other. He hit E.W. in the head and shot out the light. Neither move were called for. Pill heads make terrible hijackers. This same guy came over to my little poker game. We just quit rather than deal with him. He told one of the college boys, "Ole Bennie won't let me sleep." Later, the same guy robbed a poker game and was killed for it.

The Shop was the safest place I ever went in America. In the whole thirty-five years I went there, I never saw a robbery,fight, or an arrest which makes you wonder. The Shop had been an auto repair shop. It set on an acre of land surrounded by a chain link fence topped by three strands of barbed wire AKA the Devil's rope. There were two big bay doors that were left open in the warm weather. Darral, Fred's brother, worked the phones and loaned a little money but mostly he was the lookout. There were a couple of shotguns hidden which I was told about after fifteen years. The poker was in a room in the back.

Once this one bad Detective came walking up and everyone ran. It was hot, hot summer and I dove into some tall careless weeds. Slap Happy Max and Housemove followed me. There were millions of bugs. Later we found out that Big Fred had this mysterious friendship with the big detectives. They'd come around every once in a while to whisper in corners. The went hunting together and the detectives came around Christmas for a drink. Fred ended up buried just a few feet from one of these detectives. A pal said, "He probably is gonna want Fred to give him a little something."

The only time they closed the game early was because this bad outlaw sat down to play. I never knew who he was. He kept asking about drugs which were not allowed at the Shop. He commented on several of his traveling companions. Finally, Darral came in and said the game is over. I asked if it was the law. We all cashed in very fast and did the old heel and toe. Later that night, I was "riding around and counting the cars." This meant you would go by various gambling joints to see how many and who was there. You tried to learn the cars of the other players, especially the all day suckers.

I was surprised to see that several of the old timers were at the Shop. I went in the poker game and took a seat. There were two shotguns and two rifles leaning against the wall behind the players. A couple of them had pistols showing in their belts. As was the iron-clad custom, I didn't ask any questions. We were playing pretty high and I tipped over a nice little score. The next day, I read in the newspaper that one of the top ten most wanted criminals had passed through town. I wasn't sure that was him. A long time later, I asked Fred about it. I said, "Were y'all afraid of that guy?"

He replied, "We're not afraid of anybody." I could tell the discussion was over.

E.W. loved the actual paper money itself more than what it might buy. He would sit there riffling though and counting and playing with his money all through the game. I once asked him what he really wanted in life. This seemed to puzzle him and he thought of it awhile. He said, "I'd like to have one room of my house filled all the way up with twenty dollars bills. From the floor to the ceiling, with twenty dollar bills." . E.W. taught me to always respect the house man. If it wasn't for the house, we could not play. E.W. always brought these weird presents for Fred and Darral from those trinket shops on Fremont Street. Who wouldn't want a clock made out of dice?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bonus Code IGGY On Party Poker, damnit! 

I just saw this excellent article at Information Week about the mess that is currently online gambling here in the US.

The best part of all this is that I get to pay taxes on all my money that is currently frozen at Neteller!! Woohoo!

Anyway, enjoy:


Online Gambling Gone Wild: U.S. Crackdown Sparks Offshore Boom

Far from slowing its growth, a government crackdown on online gambling has sent many sites offshore and many others underground. But it's a good bet that Internet poker will remain a booming industry.

[Update, Sat., March 31, 11:30 am. On March 30, the World Trade Organization said that the United States had failed to comply with an earlier ruling, which mandated that the U.S. lift its ban on online gambling. Experts say the WTO decision could result in possible commercial sanctions.] WTO Rules U.S. Web Gaming Ban Illegal; Shares Jump

Daniel Negreanu tends to understand the odds pretty well. As one of the most successful poker tournament players in the world, "Kid Poker" was in 1998 the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker -- an honor he held until 2004 -- and he continues to dominate high-stakes games throughout the poker-playing world.

However, in December 2005, wary of increasing government hostility toward Internet gambling, he knew it was time to fold. "Clearly, it wasn't going to be possible to live in the U.S. and run an online poker operation," he said. So he sold his successful online poker site, Full Contact Poker, to Big Stack Enterprises, based in Curacao.

Negreanu, as usual, was ahead of the game. It wasn't until 10 months later -- Sept. 30, 2006 -- that the shot heard round the online gambling world was fired when Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) as part of the larger Safe Ports Bill. In less than two weeks, President Bush signed the bill into law, and the global online gaming industry -- which derived as much as 60% of its revenue from the U.S. market -- took a devastating hit.

The event couldn't have been timed worse from the point of view of Jez San, the former director of 3-D game developer Argonaut Software and the founder of PKR.com, a United Kingdom-based online poker site that was still in beta test at the time the bill was approved. Congress passed the legislation just 24 hours after San had finalized his first round of financing -- and after he had sunk $1 million of his own money into his venture. "We had to make a decision, and we made it immediately not to launch into the U.S. market," said San, whose company has never allowed any U.S. citizens to play for money. "I like America. I want to be able to keep visiting without getting arrested. It was very important to me that we were legitimate."

At the same time, passage of the bill caused a host of companies that had previously been operating in the United States to withdraw. These included some of the largest and most successful online gambling sites in the world, including PartyPoker.com and 888 Casino-on-the-Net, both publicly traded and listed on the London Stock Exchange.

But not everyone was so easily spooked. A large number of online gambling companies chose to keep their casinos open. Although now operating illegally according to U.S. Justice Department rules, they're reporting that business is pretty much as usual. Although there are fewer dollars overall, there are less gambling houses vying for those dollars, and the ones who agreed to talk concur that after a dip in the second half of 2006, revenue is already on its way back up.

"We were growing 300% last year, and although we lost some ground last summer, things have since rebounded, and we expect to be back up to our summer 2006 levels within the next month or so," said a senior executive at one of the top online gambling sites that has chosen to still accept U.S. customers, who declined to be identified for fear of prosecution.

Another executive who asked for anonymity said that revenue had already shot past mid-2006 levels and showed no sign of abating. "U.S. citizens still want to gamble, and we intend to keep allowing them to," he said. Indeed, a host of new online gambling establishments are expected to quickly fill the void left by the ones that decided to bow out.

"Some sites have no downward loss of patrons at all. Even those that have lost customers are still making money -- more than last year. It's a major blip, but still just a blip, and people will find ways of getting around it," said I. Nelson Rose, a professor of law at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif., and an expert on online gaming laws. Joseph Kelly, a professor of business law at State University of New York College in Buffalo and co-editor of the Gaming Law Review agreed: "This is just a hiccup."

Along with many others, Kelly believes that online gambling will eventually be legal in the United States. "The panic created by the DOJ's actions will eventually subside, new legislation will be passed, and we'll see a regulated industry emerge," Kelly said. When that will happen is anyone's guess. But "the notion that you can put a definitive stop to online gambling is a ludicrous one," he said.

San himself is characteristically ebullient about what lies ahead. His company -- which provides poker players with an immersive experience using the 3-D technology standard in video games and virtual worlds such as Second Life -- is growing at 50% per month. It will be profitable this year despite barring U.S.-based players. "Nothing is going to be able to stop this industry," he said.

Numbers Racket

Getting accurate figures on what is happening in online gaming has always been difficult and is now almost impossible.

"Because the public companies left, and the ones stayed are the less transparent private ones, it's much harder to get those numbers," said Sue Scheider, publisher of the Interactive Gaming News. "The difficulty with the unlisted firms is that they are under no obligation to publish their results, so it's incredibly difficult to tell what is actually happening in the market," agreed Ed Barton, an analyst with Screendigest.com, a market research firm that tracks the online gambling industry based in London.

Before the U.S. crackdown, online gambling revenue was approximately $12 billion globally, according to London-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants. Although still just a fraction of the $258 billion overall gambling market -- which includes land-based casinos and card rooms as well as government-sponsored lotteries -- Internet revenue was growing at high double-digit rates. Indeed, after pornography, online gambling was the second-highest Internet-based revenue generator, dwarfing global online retailing and e-commerce activities.

Today, although no one is quite sure how much revenue has evaporated because of fears of legal liability, "online gaming is still huge," said Dave Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Depending on what numbers you believe it can easily be twice what the entire Las Vegas strip makes annually on all its activities, including food and hotel services in addition to gambling revenues."

Barton belongs to a set of analysts who believes that the volume of the U.S. market was so large as to be irreplaceable in the short term. "Although there are growth areas -- particularly in Asian markets, where many U.K firms are setting up shop -- "the rate of growth there is not event approaching the volumes we saw in the U.S. market," said Barton. "Make no mistake, the industry was hard hit."

Bodog.com, which also decided to stay in the U.S. market, offers a wide variety of card games other than poker. Here's a blackjack game in progress.

Still, Scheider, like many other industry observers, believes that companies still hoping to stay in the U.S. market can expect to prosper -- albeit under a "Prohibition mentality." Other than that, she doesn't believe that the long-term effects will be all that significant. "It's very likely that revenues will just move from one person's pocket to another. The companies that have continued to take U.S. players are doing very well," she said.

Many of the companies that chose to withdraw from the United States simply changed their focus to non-U.S. venues. Other than in a few isolated countries -- notably, France and Israel, which are making noises about enforcing their own anti-gambling initiatives -- most governments have rolled out the welcome mat. And positive results are beginning to roll in. One of the world's largest gambling sites, 888 Holdings PLC, a U.K. company, announced in mid-February that its full-year net revenue rose 7% even after leaving the United States.

"It's very hard to believe that the revenues of online gaming providers will flat line," said Tom W. Bell, a professor at the Chapman University School of Law who is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and who follows the legal issues of online gambling. "Although at a low point last fall, they almost immediately began to bounce back, and my guess they will continue to steadily increase over time."

Double Trouble

Although the Safe Ports Bill that President Bush signed into law on Oct. 13 had a huge impact on the market, it wasn't the only step the U.S. government took to deter online gambling. Having an arguably more dampening effect were other actions by the Justice Department.

The arrests of David Carruthers, the CEO of BetonSports, at a Dallas airport in July and the apprehension of Peter Dicks, the chairman of Sportingbet, in New York in September -- both before the UIGEA was passed -- put a preliminary chill on the industry.

Then, in late January, the Justice Department began making arrests specifically based on the provision of the UIGEA that makes it illegal for banks to transfer money to Web sites that allow Internet gambling. Its first move was to charge two former executives of Neteller, a publicly traded U.K. online money-transfer company. By far the largest online gaming transaction processing concern in the world, more than $7 billion in 2005 and $5.1 billion in the first half of 2006 went through Neteller's hands. Some estimates put that figure at representing as much as 50% of the global online better market. There were also press reports that Justice had issued subpoenas to a number of prominent global banks that had participated in the underwriting of the IPOs of overseas gambling sites. Upon this news, stock prices of online gambling concerns registered on the London Stock Exchange tumbled.

Although Neteller promptly released a statement that it would no longer process gambling revenue from U.S. customers, other payment processing options abound, such as ePassporte, ATMonline, and Click2Pay. And industry observers point out that five years ago when PayPal withdrew from the online gambling payment processing market, the impact on the industry was temporary before other companies leaped into the market.

"What happens in the near term -- say the next 12 months to five years -- depends on several things, including what sorts of payment mechanisms remain and what new ones arise," said Bell, who believes it's very possible that new payment processes specifically designed to avoid the reach of U.S. regulators will be developed. Already, the most dedicated online gamblers are establishing offshore bank accounts and using phone cards to pay for their activities.

In addition, said Bell, "the killer application for the gambling industry, which is sure to eventually emerge, will be a perfectly anonymous and untraceable form of digital cash." In effect, such forms of payment will replace the legitimate businesses of highly regulated firms with much more dubious ones.

"This will prove of use to a number of unsavory characters and be a regulator's nightmare," said Bell. "It's very likely that the United States will very much regret the actions it is taking."

Strange Bedfellows

Bell believes that one driving force between recent anti-gambling activities can be found within the U.S. land-based gaming industry. "It's the politics of the bricks-and-mortar gambling interests, who don't want to see their customers going to their more convenient gambling venues," said Bell.

Michael Pollock, managing director of the Spectrum Gaming Group, a research firm that tracks trends in the gaming industry, agreed. "The brick-and-mortar casinos have felt for many years that Internet gambling was a threat," he said. What will eventually happen, said Pollock, is that the U.S. industry will become regulated and legal, and the land-based casinos with the strongest brands will become the leaders in this domain.

There is ample evidence emerging that the brick-and-mortar casinos are already starting to test the online waters with an eye toward eventually bringing that experience back home. In December, the Sands launched an online casino in the U.K. market. In February, Playboy followed suit. "Over the next two years, we're going to see things like an Internet-based MGM and a Bicycle Casino, where there is a great deal of brand cross-promotion going on," said Aaron Todd, a gaming industry reporter with Casino City, an online gaming portal.

In the meantime, there's "reasonable cause" to worry that the only online gambling services that remain will be those of the less reputable sort, according Bell. "If regulators had consumers foremost in mind, if they were really attempting to protect consumers, they would recognize that people will continue to play online, and it doesn't make sense to drive out of the market the people who are the most credible and legitimate," he said.

"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances from consumers' standpoint," said Sue Scheider. "I don't think the federal government is acting in their best interest. And it's clearly not revenue driven, because for years the industry has been begging, 'Regulate me, tax me.' "

She's also heard all the speculation about the Las Vegas interests might be driving the agenda, but "ultimately, no one really knows who is behind this crackdown or why they are doing it."

Tough Fight

Many companies have been anticipating the moves by the U.S. government for a long time. Cryptologic, a Toronto provider of software and networking infrastructure for online gambling sites, has been preparing for more than five years for the eventuality that the United States would make online gambling illegal. When the UIGEA was passed, it notified all its customers still allowing U.S. gamblers that they needed to find other vendors.

Although you can't see the expression on players' faces, unlike at PKR.com, at Partypoker.com you get a sense of the winners and losers from the chips piled up on the table.

"We've been in this industry for more than a decade and have always lived with the uncertainty of what the United States might eventually do," said Steve Taylor, CFO of Cryptologic. "For that reason, years ago we started focusing more on Europe and other global markets."

Business is good: Cryptologic recently signed deals with Playboy Enterprises as well as the government of the Netherlands to help them develop casino and poker sites. "We pride ourselves on being a legitimate player," said Taylor.

Indeed, Cryptologic just reported its strongest fiscal year ever, with revenue up 21% over 2006. Future growth rates look robust, says Taylor, who says he expects online poker to grow at a 20% compound rate over the next 20 years, and casino operations at 12%.

"As broadband and e-wallet solutions become more available and acceptable, we believe we can meet or exceed those numbers. We are very bullish on the industry," says Taylor, who points out that only 5% of revenue for the total global gambling market come from online activities. "We think there's an awful lot of room for growth even without the U.S. market," he added.

But those organizations still hoping that online gambling will eventually be legal in the United States aren't going away without a fight. The European Union is challenging the UIGEA through the World Trade Organization, charging that the United States has banned Internet gambling in a blatant attempt to protect domestic gambling revenues. Calling it protectionism and saying it's clearly against WTO regulations, the WTO brought suit against the United States on behalf of the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda.

In early February, the WTO ruled against the United States and said it plans to prove it guilty of breaking international trade laws elsewhere in the world. And in mid-February, The Poker Players Alliance, an industry lobbying group, named former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato as its chairman to spearhead plans to fight for an exemption for poker within the UIGEA.

Indeed, many legal scholars doubt whether the UIGEA forbids anything not already made illegal under the Wire Act passed in 1961. There's even controversy about how far the Wire Act itself can be used to prevent online gambling, as the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals has ruled against the Justice Department's assertions that the Wire Act forbids all online betting. Instead, the court decided that the Wire Act pertains only to online betting on sports events.

"There are a number of court cases pending that are creating reasonable doubts about how far the current laws go in forbidding anything other than sports betting," said Kelly.

Burgeoning Venues

Ironically, the UIGEA contained a provision that has actually legalized new online gambling venues within the United States by stating that individual states have the ability to regulate Internet gambling within their borders. "This clarified things considerably and has theoretically opened the door to a great deal of online gambling activity as long as companies can come up with ways to verify exactly where players are geographically located," said Todd.

Rose believes that ultimately the efforts of Bill Frist et al will backfire. "He'll be responsible for the greatest explosion of creativity and expansion of intrastate gambling than ever could have been anticipated," said Rose. "It's crystal clear now that you've made it legal, that just about every state will look into it. I fully expect that California, Nevada, and New Jersey will legalize, regulate, and tax Internet poker within the foreseeable future."

Schwartz, who has written a number of books on the history of gambling, said that in the past, "if there's a law against gambling, people have always found a way around it." He believes there's little logic in the current legislative attempts to curb it. "There are ways to provide geographic and age verification. In Utah, if you can prove that you are 21 years of age, there really isn't a compelling reason that you can't place a bet in the state of New Jersey. So why not place an online bet? There's really no reason not to allow it."

"There's a clear trajectory of how existing industries view new technologies," said Pollock. "First they try to fight it, to kill it off. Then they move into acceptance. And finally, they embrace it."

The same pattern will play out here, said Pollock. "After efforts by the DOJ to put a lid on it, it will be highly regulated and controlled, and handled with integrity. No one can realistically put a lid on it. The economic case is too compelling."

At last, Opening Day.

This is Cincinnati's Mardi Gras. At 9am this morning, our parking lot was already getting full of baseball fans - drinking beers and playing cornhole. Bastards.

As baseball's first professional team, we are the only team which always opens the season at home. There's a parade and lots and lots of beer drinking.

Yet, I'm here at work - keeping the machine of commerce churning.

Damnit, I shoulda taken the day off with the rest of the city.

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