HR 5767, the bipartisan attempt by Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul to stop the implementation of the UIGEA regulations pending greater clarity, failed on a tied 32 – 32 vote in the House Financial Services Committee recently, and this week the information portal RGT Online gave some insight into the behind-the-scenes action.
In an interview with RGT Online writer Vin Narayanan at the World Series of Poker championships this week, Congressman Robert Wexler and former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato who heads up the Poker Players Alliance gave an interesting background to the vote on a controversial subject that has attracted criticism from financial institutions, politicians and civil rights bodies.
Wexler commented that the 32-32 tie actually represented the strongest support any Congress has shown for an online gambling measure. "It shows that awareness of the absurdity of the status quo has never been greater," he told Narayanan. "I'm confident, in the short term, we'll be able to do something. Declaring poker a skill game and getting a regulated environment are more long-term goals."
D'Amato pointed to the activities of arch-online gambling enemy, Republican Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, who had "twisted the arms" of five to six members [of the Financial Services Committee] who had previously indicated support for the amendment and the need for clarity of what illegal gambling was.
"There's a good chance we're going to re-introduce the measure before Congress goes into recess," D'Amato revealed.
D'Amato also flagged the strong antipathy to online gambling of the National Football League in the U.S., saying: "One Congressman from New York told me that the NFL is pushing hard to keep the UIGEA in place. They want to make sure that sports betting does not spread on the Internet."
Narayanan raised an interesting point in the interview, asking for opinions on the possible entry of tribal gaming entities into the world of online poker under the UIGEA, which the writer said allows for states to run online casinos and poker rooms if they restrict play to residents of that state.
Wexler stressed that he supported the right of all Americans to play online when and where they want. "This isn't about special interest groups or lobbyists. This is about the right to play poker," he said. D'Amato opined that poker has been played in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate and the House.
"It's a game of skill and the government should get off the backs of regular Americans and the let them play wherever they want," he concluded.