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Politico on why the UIGEA passed
The Washington publication Politico carried an interesting story on poker this week, commenting on how many politicians in both the Republican and Democrat camps enjoy a little relaxation by playing the popular game.
One of the most interesting facets of the article was remarks made by former Senator Alphonse D'Amato, chairman of the million member Poker Players Alliance pressure group that has been so active in pushing for legalised poker in the United States.
Commenting on the passage through Congress of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006 in a late night pre-recess session of Congress attached to an unrelated but must-pass security bill, the former Republican Senator said lawmakers approved the ban because it was pushed as the only way to prevent children from getting addicted to online gambling.
Lawmakers, he said, worried that voting against it would lead to misleading campaign ads asserting: “Your congressman voted to allow youngsters to gamble on the Internet.”
“You can easily curtail people who are underage from playing by licensing and regulating,” D’Amato told Politico, adding that licensing could generate $2 billion to $3 billion a year in additional tax revenue.
Like many other Capitol Hill politicians, D’Amato enjoys a friendly game of poker, and revealed that he became involved as the Poker Players Alliance chairman because he is a “true believer.” D’Amato said that, during his 18 years in the Senate, he would host poker games in his office when voting went late. The low-stakes games included aides, lobbyists and lawmakers ordering takeout, smoking cigars, telling jokes and swapping political intelligence.
Politico goes on to point out that more than a few members of Congress are players, and names Democratic Representatives Linda T. Sanchez of California, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, together with and Republican Senators John Ensign of Nevada and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
However lawmakers often hear more from gambling opponents than from supporters, the article claims - a problem poker backers are working to fix through better grass-roots organisation and explanations of how online poker works.
Louisiana Republican Representative Jim McCrery, who generally opposes online gambling but plays cards occasionally, told Politico: “There’s a difference between a bunch of guys getting together for a friendly game and having ready access to big money gambling at your fingertips."
Another Washington card player, Representative Stevens from Alaska, has played around town for years. The regular circle of former aides, former military officers and lobbyists plays for cigars, wine and other prizes, he said. But, like many players, the Alaska Republican wouldn’t name names.
Though an avid card player, Stevens said he voted for the Internet gambling ban and doesn’t know if poker should be exempted. “No person has ever talked to me about online poker for money,” he said, “and I hope you don’t invite them to do so.”
But the PPA has it's allies, too the report notes, quoting a New York Democrat who referred to the notorious legislative carve-outs for online horserace betting and commented: “If it’s a question of morals, we’ve got exceptions for horse racing. What the hell?”
Also on board is Texas Republican Joe Barton, who opined that if House leaders put the bill [to legalise poker] on the floor, it would pass. It would be a tougher sell in the Senate, he acknowledged, but it could be helped by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from gambling-friendly Nevada.
Barton and other supporters have argued that poker is a game of skill, not a game of chance. To prove his point, he suggests pitting lawmakers who argue otherwise against professional poker players.
“I guarantee you, if there was $10,000 in the game, the pros would walk out with $9,000,” he said. “You can tell when you’re up against people that know a lot more about it than you.”
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