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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Poker Players Tell Obama What Change They Believe In

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When Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th president of the United States in November, it was a clear message that the citizens of America wanted change. That was the slogan of Obama’s campaign and has become the catchphrase of the media, politicians, and everyday people around the world. And now poker players are joining the fray in amazing numbers to let Obama’s transition team -- soon to be administration -- know that they want change as well, particularly in the form of a repeal of the UIGEA and the outdated view of online poker in America.

The Obama team asked for it. They established a website called Change.gov to allow those who have an interest in Obama’s presidency and the next four years of U.S. government to actually participate in the democracy by voicing their opinions. Whether in the form of written statements, everyone has been able to make the President-elect and his transition team aware of the issues that are important to them.

Poker players took that opportunity to begin posting about online poker. Obama is no stranger to the game of poker and could easily see, if given the chance, that online poker is not the only issue at stake with the UIGEA regulations; privacy rights are at the core of the argument over online poker, and the regulation of the multi-billion dollar industry could bring much-needed revenue to the federal government, revenue that could help pay for some of his health care, environmental, and economic agenda items. But with over 29,000 posts already on the site, how would the online poker issue get noticed with the economy, health care, and the like being of such dire importance?

Numbers.
The more people who vote for an issue push that entry higher on the list of importance, making it more likely that the Obama transition team will notice it and give it more consideration. And the poker players are doing just that. Not only are they pushing one particular entry, but many of them are creating their own with “online poker” or “UIGEA” in the title. And the voices are being heard as the numbers of supporters of the issue rise.

The Poker Players Alliance has also jumped in with an alert to its member base, which boasts of well over one million people, to ask them to log on to Change.gov and vote for the entry that has the greatest likelihood of gaining attention due to its already-1,250 comments and rating of more than 41,000 points. (Each logged-in member of the site can raise it 10 additional points by clicking “vote up.”) The entry is titled “Boost America’s Economy With Legal Online Poker” and reads as follows:

“Let online poker players in the United States play legally and without fear of prosecution. Reform the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to exempt poker, a game of skill, from the law. Boost the economy by letting American companies and Ameican [sic] players make money and pay taxes instead of sending online poker businesses offshore. Protect online poker players by regulating the industry to ensure that no one is ever cheated.”

The entry, and its accompanying comments, has become one of the most viewed on the website and was, at one point, ranked as the second most popular on the site, guaranteeing that it will be seen by President-elect Obama and the appropriate members of his administration. This is positive for the poker community, but the work has only begun. The more comments and votes for the entry will only work to keep it at the top of the list of important issues, so participation by the poker community over the coming days and weeks remains of extreme importance.

In the meantime, over in Congress, there has been more progress regarding the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) of 2006. It has to do with the UIGEA regulations that were finalized by the Bush administration via the Midnight Rule, which meant that it is officially put into effect on January 19, 2009, with full compliance with the UIGEA required by December 1, 2009. But using the midnight rule to do it, along with numerous other laws, just before Bush’s term ran out, it opened the door for the new legislation to reverse it.

Only two weeks into 2009, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York reintroduced the Midnight Rule Act to the House of Representatives, and if passed, it would negate all regulatory changes made by the Bush administration within the last three months of the term unless formally approved by Obama’s cabinet secretaries.

Nadler said, “As expected, the Bush Administration has, in its final moments, proposed a series of retrograde and dangerous regulatory changes. I am reintroducing the Midnight Rule Act to reverse President Bush’s last minute attempts to weaken key legal protections within our federal agencies. We cannot sit idly by as this Administration quietly makes last-ditch efforts to erode civil liberties, empower polluting industries, threaten the environment and weaken a woman’s right to choose.”

As it pertains to poker, the UIGEA would be included in the Midnight Rule Act as one of the issues that a new cabinet member could review and potentially reject. But Nadler’s bill must be passed with some expediency so that Obama can sign it into law.

Now is the time for the poker public to step into the fray and take action.

The first way to do so is to log on to the Poker Players Alliance website and follow the links to contact your Congressional representative. Urge him or her to vote for Nadler’s bill and support the rights of online poker players.

The second way to help is to go to the Change.gov website and sign up as a member, which is free. Go to the Citizen’s Briefing Book and search for issues by using “UIGEA” or “online poker.” You can add your own issue, comment on others, or “vote up” the entry mentioned earlier in this article.

Take some time to make your voice heard and speak for poker.

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