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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative

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Much has been said about the Poker Players Alliance (PPA ), a non-profit, membership-driven organization that has been lobbying Congress for the legalization of online poker and the recognition of poker as a game of skill. There is another organization set up to work in conjunction with the PPA but on a broader scale - the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.

According to the website, the basic premise is this: "The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative promotes the freedom of individuals to gamble online with the proper safeguards to protect consumers and ensure the integrity of financial transactions. Additionally, the Initiative is a resource for information about legislation to regulate Internet gambling and provides individuals, organizations and companies the opportunity to support the legislation and engage their elected officials."

In order to gain a better understanding, PokerWorks spoke with Jeffrey Sandman, CEO, and Michael Waxman, Vice President - both holding their respective positions with Hyde Park Communications, the company that handles all public relations for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. In the most basic terms, Hyde Park holds meetings with members of Congress, speaks with the media, and promotes the Initiative in any way possible. Various corporations sponsor the Initiative.

When asked what kinds of businesses have become sponsors, Sandman responded, "We have a number of corporations who are supporting the Initiative. Right now, the big one is UC Group, which is basically a financial services company that provides those services to gaming companies. We have also spoken with organizations that fight against compulsive gambling who see the merit in having a regulated online environment. It's very broad."

Waxman added, "The other group is Baker Tilly, which is one of the largest accounting firms in the world, based in the UK, and has a tremendous amount of credibility. These are the companies that see the advantage of protecting their individual customers."

Other endorsers listed on the official website include eCogra, European Gaming & Betting Association, Remote Gambling Association, and GamCare. All of the organizations listed have some interest in seeing online gaming legalized and regulated in the United States.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative was launched in April of 2007 at approximately the same time that Congressman Barney Frank introduced his legislation, The Internet Gambling and Regulation Enforcement Act (H.R. 2046). Since that time, they have formed a working relationship with the PPA. Sandman explained, "We all support the notion that you have to change the law, and we're fighting to change it. There are lots of commonalities [with the PPA], and we speak to them regularly about strategy and how to move ahead. I think if John Pappas were here today, he'd share that with you. The point of distinction is that we're looking at it a little larger. We think that all Americans who want to gamble online and play other sorts of games besides skill games like poker should also have that ability. We're looking for freedom from government intrusion."

Specifically, the mission of the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative is comprised of several points of action. In Sandman's words, "One is that we understand that the issue of gambling online and playing poker online is important to an estimated tens of millions of Americans. We want to make sure that we, as Americans, have the right to do that without government intervention, except we also want to make sure we have a safe and regulated system...

"Two is that if you look at the data, the folks who enjoy playing poker online in the privacy of their homes are still doing it. Have any of us stopped gambling online? No, but the problem is you can't do it lawfully, and you can't do it with any protection. I'm not talking about the integrity of these companies, but if a company is licensed to do business in the United States and regulated, I'd feel pretty secure. Part of our mission is to help change the law, to talk to and educate voters and poker players and other folks who want to gamble online.

"Three is that we want to make sure that members of Congress understand that they are hearing from voters who want to make sure the law is changed."

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative also focuses on very specific issues with regard to safety and regulation. The website lists numerous intentions of the Initiative, such as protecting against money laundering and fraud by instituting safeguards and requiring gambling operators to be licensed, protecting minors through the implementation of security controls online, and combating compulsive gambling with required controls on websites to address potential problem players.

Those like Sandman and Waxman understand that their intentions with the Initiative are multi-faceted but feel that there is progress being made on all fronts. They have lobbied Congress and aided in the introduction of several pieces of legislation introduced on Capitol Hill, such as the McDermott bill, Berkeley bill, and Wexler bill - all aimed at changing the context of the UIGEA and enacting laws that not only ensure the rights of Americans to gamble online but to do so with some safety regulations in place. But public relations experts and lobbyists can only do so much without the support of the voting public.

The website of the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative is somewhat of a public service for those who want to get involved, even in the smallest of ways. There are no membership or fee requirements to use the site; it is simply there for informational purposes and to help the public reach their elected officials and take the necessary steps to be heard.

Sandman spoke about how to get involved. "We, as Americans, tend to be complacent about many things, even about things that are important to us. If we want to be heard, members of Congress must hear from us. We are trying to speak widely and broadly with the media, but ultimately, Congress needs to hear directly from voters. We have a website set up so that with only a few clicks, you can send a message to a member of Congress. There is a sample letter there. All the poker player has to do is type in their zip code, which will electronically key them up to their member of Congress. It will tell them if that person supports the legislation or not..."

Added Waxman, "There are bullet points in the sample letter of different arguments about why it makes sense to regulate internet gambling, and the user can click the ones that apply to them. They can customize the letter if they want to write their own message, too."

From the home page of http://safeandsecureig.org, there is a click-through to Contact your member of Congress. Follow the simple directions as minimal information is entered, and the letter can be sent to a member of Congress in minutes.

Does the correspondence really make a difference to a Congressman or Congresswoman who receives mass amounts of e-mails each day? Sandman replied, "They absolutely do tally them and read these kinds of messages. We have to show consistent interest by constituents. It works. We can act, we can do it now, and we can make a difference."

One note that should be added is that most members of Congress will not take seriously correspondence from people who are not registered to vote in their district or state. It is important to concentrate on those government representatives who speak and act on your behalf, and it is of the utmost importance to be a registered voter. This ensures that your message will be heard and taken seriously. There is an icon on the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative's website to click in order to register to vote. Again the website is http://safeandsecureig.org.

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