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Poker News | World Poker News

November 4 Election Results Good for Poker

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The votes have been counted, and the results are in. Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States, and numerous other Congressional races have been decided. While many issues were considered as Americans cast their votes and awaited results, the one pertinent here, though it pales in comparison to economic or national security concerns, is poker. And as it does pertain to the poker community, November 4, 2008 was a positive day for our industry.

Aside from the momentous and historical election of Barack Obama as the U.S. president, which is not intended to be dismissed in any way here, Americans have also elected a poker enthusiast that will take his place in the White House.

It has been widely reported during his two-year campaign for the presidency that Obama, as an Illinois state senator, took part in a regular poker game at the legislative offices after hours. Though the stakes were relatively small, he took poker seriously as a focused, competitive player with a solid game. It would be an understatement to say that he has not had time to play much during the last two years, but the thought of a regular poker game taking place in the White House brings smiles to poker players everywhere.

As a side note, during Obama’s campaign, professional players Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey took a break from the 2008 World Series of Poker to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles for the candidate. During a special meet-and-greet portion of the evening, as Negreanu approached Obama for a photo, the presidential candidate pointed to Negreanu and said, “I know you!” He pointed out to a campaign associate that Negreanu and Ivey were there, and then proceeded to tell Negreanu, “We played poker last night.” Not only is Obama familiar with players like Negreanu and Ivey, but he still found time for the occasional poker game on the campaign trail.

It should also be noted that he has supported Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s legislative bill to study internet gaming. However, he did not attach his name to the bill as a co-sponsor. In the past, Obama has also called the internet a “Wild West of illegal activity,” but with his support of Berkley’s bill, combined with his love of poker, indicates that he will be open to positive and forward-thinking online poker legislation should it cross his path.

Many Congressional seats were up for grabs on November 4th, and many of those races involved people who have been friends of poker, whether drawing up and introducing positive poker legislation or simply having expressed support for the cause. And a good sign for poker is that many of them retained their seats and will be continuing to push their bills in Congress when the next session begins.

Topping the list of poker advocates is Barney Frank (D-MA), who scored a significant and unsurprising victory over his Republican opponent Earl Sholley in Massachusetts. Frank has been quite outspoken since the passage of the UIGEA in his opposition of it, and he has introduced two pieces of legislation that would reverse all or part of the UIGEA.

First, it was H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which would provide for the licensing of online gaming by the federal government. Though the bill has not yet passed committee, it has 48 co-sponsors signed on in support of it. Second, Frank introduced H.R. 5767 to prohibit financial institutions from having to enforce the UIGEA. Third and most recent, he wrote H.R. 6870, the Payments System Protection Act of 2008, to protect financial institutions from unfair enforcement provisions set upon them through the UIGEA. This legislation has been approved by the House Financial Services Committee and is poised to be put up for vote in the House of Representatives.

The aforementioned Shelley Berkley (D-NV) retained her seat in the House. The author of H.R. 2140 will continue her fight in Congress to seek approval of the bill that will study internet gaming and hopefully provide an analysis that furthers the notion that a licensed and regulated online poker industry would be profitable and positive.

Member of the House of Representatives and avid poker industry supporter Robert Wexler (D-FL) claimed a landslide victory in his Florida district on November 4, handily defeating Republican Edward Lynch. Wexler not only introduced H.R. 2610 into Congress to officially declare poker as a game of skill and thus exempt it from the UIGEA, but he brought his support of poker to the 2008 WSOP, where he spoke to poker players and announced to those on Day 1D, “Shuffle up and deal!” He has been working closely with the Poker Players Alliance in 2008 to fight for the rights of American citizens to play poker online and in the privacy of their own homes.

Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) won a hands-down victory in his Washington state district by garnering nearly 85% of the votes against opponent Steve Beren. McDermott was an early supporter of poker legislation and has several bills that he introduced pending in committees. First was H.R. 2607 that intended to regulate internet gaming, and most recently was H.R. 6501, a piece of legislation that proposed funding Social Security with proceeds from regulated and taxed internet gambling ventures.

In Texas, Pete Sessions (R-TX) achieved a solid win over Democrat Eric Roberson. Sessions recently authored H.R. 6663, which intended to clarify the portion of the UIGEA that has been so problematic for financial institutions by declaring poker exempt from the UIGEA. There have been some concerns expressed by the PPA regarding the bill, as it states that the UIGEA declared poker illegal, which it did not. Despite the controversy over the bill, though, Sessions has been a friend to poker and seems to have good intentions.

According to the PPA, there are several members of the House of Representatives who have received A+ ratings in accordance with their support of and advocacy for poker-related issues. Several of them retained their seats in Congress, including John Conyers (D-MI) who defeated two independent candidates in an enormous victory with 92% of the votes going to Conyers, Linda Sanchez (D-CA) who defeated Diane Lenning in her California district, Melvin Watt (D-NC) who claimed 71% of the votes against his opponent, Steve Cohen (D-TN) who defeated three independent candidates to retain his seat, and Bobby Scott (D-VA) who ran unopposed.

As far as poker is concerned, the November 4, 2008 elections were a resounding success. While it remains to be seen as to whether or not these figures will be as outspoken on poker-related issues as they have been in the past, having proven advocates in powerful Congressional seats is a positive start. And having a president in Barack Obama who carried a poker chip in his pocket during portions of his presidential campaign for good luck and who knows enough about poker to be impressed by a visit from Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey can only be a good thing for our industry.

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