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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Congressional Meeting Featured Poker

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On Wednesday, November 14th, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, officially called the Hearing on Establishing Consistent Enforcement Policies in the Context of Online Wagers, on Capitol Hill to examine U.S. policies as they relate to internet gaming. Chairman John Conyers led the hearing, and pro poker player Annie Duke testified on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA).

Conyers (D-MI) has taken a keen interest in gaming laws of late, even taking the time to meet with participants of the PPA's recent Washington Fly-In several weeks ago. He was one of a minority of Congressional members who voted against the UIGEA, and he is reportedly considering signing on as a cosponsor of either Congressman Barney Frank's IGREA regulation bill or Congressman Robert Wexler's skill games bill.

During the hearing, he continually questioned various members of the Justice Department and Treasury Department on the selective nature of internet gambling enforcement and the impact of such laws, and the enforcement thereof, could have on foreign relations, citing the WTO case involving the U.S. and Antigua and Barbuda as an example. "Continuing with the same old failed policies for the sake of feel-good politics doesn't make sense," Conyers noted.

The crux of the discussion centered around the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) that was passed in the late months of 2006 and the requests from several lawmakers for the overseeing departments to loosen the ban as well as the hypocrisy that carve-outs were made for horse racing, fantasy sports, and state lotteries. The organizers also wanted to bring attention to the Frank and Wexler bills that would regulate internet gaming and recognize exceptions for games of skill, and note that Congresswoman Shelley Berkley's bill calls for a study that would be very beneficial in passing sensible legislation.

Duke testified before the committee with an impassioned plea for reason and rights. She began, "I am [testifying] as an American citizen who is concerned about personal freedom and personal responsibility. I am also here to express the views of the nearly 800,000 Americans who belong to the Poker Players Alliance."

She continued, "As a mother of four who supports her family as a professional poker player, I have a personal interest in the outcome of these hearings... Having the right to continue to pursue my profession, wherever I might choose to pursue it, is very important to me from both a financial standpoint but also from the broader perspective of freedom, personal responsibility and civil liberties."

During Duke's testimony, she cited statistics about problem gambling in less than 1% of the population and related common sense facts about addictions that cannot be controlled by the government - shopping, sex, chocolate - as compared to internet gaming. She spoke of poker being a game of skill, and on the issue of children gambling, she said, "As a mother of four, however, I feel the need to make this point: If a child is stealing a parent's credit card and gambling online, that family probably has much more serious issues than internet gambling. I monitor my children's online activity, and, frankly, that is my job, not my government's."

Pages of her complete statement can be found on the PPA's website, and her conclusion was a powerful one. "'Freedom to make good choices' is an Orwellian term for tyranny - the governments of China, Cuba and Iran all support the freedom of their citizens to make choices that their governments perceive as good. For those whose religious or moral beliefs hold gaming as abhorrent, I fully support their right to live by those beliefs. I support their right to choose to not gamble. What I do not support, and what this Committee and this Congress should not tolerate, is an effort by those people or anyone else to prevent me and the millions of people like me from playing a game we find stimulating, challenging and entertaining. However you might feel about gambling on the Internet, I would suggest that gambling with freedom is far more risky."

Overall, the hearing could be construed as successful for its purpose, and more hearings will undoubtedly follow. The PPA Chairman, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, said, "Chairman Conyers' hearing is an important step toward educating Congress about the folly of an internet gaming prohibition. It won't work, and it is tremendously bad public policy."

For more information about contacting your members of Congress to make your voice heard, visit www.PokerPlayersAlliance.org .

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