As those that hang out in #concatenative know I've been playing online poker recently. After a slow start and a bit of book study I started winning some multi table tournaments and doing fairly well. I made more in poker in the last two weeks than I do at my job which is pretty neat. Actually that says more about how much I'm paid at work than my poker skills but never mind :-)
So, as luck would have it, just as I find something I can enjoy doing and get the odd win from, disaster strikes. The US government has passed a bill that bans funding of online gaming via credit cards and bank accounts. It looked for awhile like this bill wasn't going to go ahead but it was tacked onto another 'must pass' bill, which had nothing to do with online gaming, and got through. Slashdot recently covered this.
Most online poker sites are not based in the US but many of the players are. There are a lot of professional poker players that make a living playing on various sites. Their income just got destroyed from the looks of things. Recently, the Wold Championship for Online Poker was held. The winner got $600,000 US. See the results here. The top two placegetters in that list are from the US - they are now legally unable to play it seems, when George Bush signs the bill into law.
This innocent seeming bill has also sent a number of companies into a tailspin on the UK stock exchange. Neteller, a company similar to PayPal, handles much of the online gaming monetary transactions for deposits and withdrawals. Their stock has plummeted with the news. Hopefully they'll recover since that's where my winnings are currently!
I know that things like online access to gambling are quite a thorny issue. Personally I think such issues should be up to the individual and those that have trouble dealing with addiction issues should be helped - but not by punishing those without the problems.
It may seem that the law change is to help those with gambling addictions in the US - so they can't immediately gamble all their credit card money online. But the bill apparently excludes state sponsered gambling. State lotteries, Horse Racing, etc are all still allowed. This points to the real reason for the ban in my opinion - the fact that no taxes are obtained by the US from people playing online games for money through overseas companies.