A card-playing Harvard Law professor and his poker-crazy students will stage a protest today outside the State House rallying against Gov. Deval Patrick’s casino plan.
But while most opponents, ranging from church leaders to social activists, will be warning of the perils of expanded gambling, the Harvard group will be arguing there is not nearly enough.
In particular, the newly formed Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society is targeting a provision in the governor’s bill that Massachusetts residents caught gambling online would face up to two years in jail and a fine of as much as $25,000.
Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, an avid player who formed the Harvard poker society, plans to testify today at a State House hearing on Patrick’s casino bill. The Harvard group contends that as many as 400,000 Massachusetts residents play poker online.
“I don’t think filling our expensive jail cells with poker players is what Massachusetts voters had in mind when they elected Deval Patrick,” Nesson said in a statement.
The rally comes after weeks of crusading by Nesson and other members of his Harvard poker society on the issue. Nesson has written to Patrick, and to top casino executives with an interest in Massachusetts, urging that the penalties for online gambling be dropped, said Andrew Woods, a Harvard law student and a spokesman for the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society.
The group has teamed up with Poker Players Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based organization chaired by former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, which is pushing to legalize online poker. The group is lobbying against a 2006 federal law that bans online poker and other forms of Internet gambling.
“It is hypocritical to attach this to a casino gambling bill,” said Woods. “You could get a couple DUIs before you get two years in jail in the commonwealth.”
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