Today, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat claimed, having acquired information from the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the government is planning to make an amendment to the current law on gambling that would allow online players to claim back their losses.  Their idea is, the payer of these losses would, in theory, be the poker website itself, the credit card company, or the winning player.

The idea was conceived by the Ministry and a Law and Economics Professor at the University of Joensuu, Kalle Maatta, who claims that this law, not found anywhere else in the world, is not to put shackles on gambling, but to “merely provide” them with the opportunity to take back losses they may have had while playing drunk or something along those lines.  The report explaining this new law does not give details of how it would be enforced because they are waiting to hear comments, but Maatta believes other countries are sure to come on board and begin to draft similar laws.

Finns, who according to Helsingin Sanomat are fourth in the world tables of spending on gambling, lose an estimated 150 million EURO per year at online poker.  They say this law will help the estimated 40,000 people who have problems from gambling in their country.

Now, for those of you who have gotten this far down the page, you probably agree with me that this is the stupidest law and idea you have ever heard about in your entire life.  This law is clearly not based on any reason, but more likely the damage Finland’s massive online gambling debt is doing to their economy.  For a small country, if the citizens are losing 150 million EURO per year, that is 150 million less EURO going into their Gross Domestic Product, which in turn will eventually cause recession and, later, depression.  I’d like to think that this is the reason for the law and not the other option, which is greed combined with pure stupidity.

The fact remains, this law couldn’t possibly work.  Think about the idea for a second:  People can claim back their losses, hmm, well how do they know if they are claiming the right amount?–online clients could keep track of that.  But, if is for the people who lose when they are drunk, who is to say someone can’t just say they are drunk all the time.  Also, having the poker website pay it back, or the credit card company?!?!?!–Don’t people lose money to other people?  If the poker website, or credit card company, was to pay back the debt, it would be ridiculous.  They are each sustaining losses that are by no fault of their business.  Obviously, in business sometimes this is an X-factor, like if a truck carrying a bed crashed on the side of the road, but this is usually not a 150 million EURO issue. This pay-back would force online poker companies to stop running, if enacted in the entire world, but, more obviously, this law means no online gambling for the Finns. 

Now, this last part, having the other player(s) pay it back…I’m speechless.  Poker is a game of skill which people play for fun, but also for their jobs!  Paying the person, to whom you lost, back, completely eliminates the whole point.  Some would argue, “Well good, people should not be making a living playing poker”; but, there is an obvious flaw in this logic. Lebron James is payed hundreds of millions of dollars to play basketball, a game which involves great skill and athleticism.  Some people contend poker, a game of great skill, has no redeeming value for society.  Well what redeeming value does basketball have?–entertainment?–keeping kids off the streets?–well poker is entertaining, and when I was a kid, my grandfather taught me how to play poker with pennies, which at the time was really fun and of no harm financially.  Also, so many poker players give back to charity.  Barry Greenstein, for example, has made so much money in cash games that he plays tournaments solely for charity.  Look, the bottom line is, when someone wins in anything, someone else loses, as Robert Heinlein said in his book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.  So, let’s keep the insane laws away and keep the game of poker alive.  Maata uses the words “merely provide” like this is some sort of regulation about playground tiffs over lunch money, “Oh kids, just merely provide your classmate with the lunch money you stole from him,” the teacher says in a soft feminine voice. This law is not merely anything.  Luckily, the idea is so dumb that there is no way anyone else could possibly be on board, but such an amendment would have massive repercussions if ever considered.  If Maata thinks the rest of the world is going to follow suit, I’ll quote David Duchovny in “Californication” by saying, “then it is possible you are higher than me right now”.