The chairman of the Poker Players Association, former Senator Alphonse D'Amato, told Associated Press this week that the pressure group has a lobbying budget of $3 million that it will devote to overturning the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or deploy to at the very least carve out an exemption that would legalise and regulate online poker.
D'Amato says his organisation plans to spend the $3 million on lobbying in this session of Congress, and that the generous funding comes from the Interactive Gaming Council, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based trade association for online casinos, as well as from its poker player members.
The PPA is up against some tough and well-heeled competition, D'Amato pointed out. The National Football League says gambling threatens the integrity of its games and has made preserving the Internet ban a priority in Washington. Last year, the league hired a full-time lobbyist and started a political action committee to make campaign donations.
At least half the $16 billion Internet gambling industry, which is largely hosted on overseas sites, is estimated to be fueled by bettors in the United States, Associated Press informs.
D'Amato lost his re-election race to Democrat Chuck Schumer in 1998. Since then a lot of poker playing has moved to the Internet.
“How dare you come into my house and tell me what I can and can't do on the Internet!” D'Amato said in his interview with the news service. “It's a cause for personal choice and freedom that I've always thought epitomizes what this country's about."
However, the NFL apparently sees things differently.
“We are opposed to more gambling on our games which is what would occur if the 2006 [UIGEA] law was overturned,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press writer.
“We understand that illegal gambling currently occurs but there is little we can do about that,” he added. “However, we can exercise our right to oppose Internet betting on our games. … Gambling on our games – online or offline – threatens the integrity of our games and all the values they represent.”
Other sports leagues have backed the UIGEA ban, including the NCAA and professional baseball, basketball and hockey, although the NFL has spearheaded opposition to attempts to overturn the contentious law. The Christian Coalition is also reported to be lobbying to preserve the ban.
D'Amato said he had no problem with letting leagues ban betting on their games, but argued that online poker should be legal.
He argued that the UIGEA didn't provide a clear definition of unlawful Internet gambling, instead referring to existing federal and state laws, which themselves provoke differing interpretations.
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