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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

D’Amato Proposes iPoker Revenue in Tough Economic Times

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Saying that the economy is experiencing tough times might be the grandest of understatements. Most analysts say the United States is in a recession, and the rest of them insist we have moved into a depression. But regardless of the terminology, the economy is in a dire state, and while the government, led by the new Obama administration, is attempting to bail out every sector of society that is drowning in debt and nearing utter failure, there is little revenue for that same government in the short term. That is where online poker enters the picture.

Online poker produces billions of dollars
in revenue. In fact, the CBS show 60 Minutes  asserted that it is an $18 billion industry. If the U.S. government would reassess its view of poker and recognize its increasingly-proven status as a game of skill, it would see that the regulation of the industry would not only allow oversight of it, but it could be a source of much-needed revenue.

No one is more familiar with this proposal than the Poker Players Alliance, a membership organization that serves as a lobbying group on Capitol Hill on behalf of the poker industry. Though the PPA has been more visible of late in the courtrooms of Kentucky, its presence in Washington, D.C. is simply more understated. Chairman and former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato has been working his connections on Capitol Hill and the offices of members of the House of Representatives and Senate. As one of the most outspoken advocates of the legalization and regulation of online poker, D’Amato recently put his passion into print.

The article was published in the January 27th edition of Roll Call, the primary political publication geared toward governmental figures in the Washington, D.C. area. It is read by members of Congress, residents of the White House, and everyone from aides to assistants on Capitol Hill, and D’Amato chose to make his statement there for all to see. The piece was titled “The New Deal: Regulate and Tax iPoker” and read as follows:

As the Obama administration and the new Congress evaluate their policy priorities, they cannot ignore the significant challenge to fund these programs given our nation’s financial situation. Our new leaders have been dealt a struggling economy, and even President Barack Obama can agree that tax increases to pay for his agenda won’t reveal the winning hand, politically or practically. A possible solution, however, is not out of reach. Our new president needs only to look at his favored form of skillful avocation: poker.

Yes, I said poker. While business leaders and politicians debate how much, or how little, we should regulate the business community, the online poker industry and the millions of Americans who play on the Internet have been crying out for regulation and taxation. The absence of government regulation, and in fact the quixotic efforts to ban Internet poker, has left U.S. consumers vulnerable and left billions in potential tax revenue on the virtual poker table.

Regulation of Internet poker does not equal an expansion of gambling in this country. Like it or not, that genie is already out of the bottle. The American market has spoken. There is strong demand for Internet poker and no reasonable government can or should stand in the way of adults competing in games of skill on the Internet. To the contrary, the government should step up and exercise control over the multibillion-dollar activity and respect the rights of the estimated 15 million Americans (and 100 million globally) who play and collect the revenue. This is not a new tax. It’s not politically risky tax increases. Regulation simply allows for the collection of taxes that are currently going overseas to the other countries that have already seized on the global poker phenomenon.

This idea is not lost on the American public, who made their preference known through Obama’s Citizen’s Briefing Book Web site. Regulated Internet poker was consistently in the top 10 of the most popular proposals the American people want Obama to enact while in office, and it received the most user comments by far.

The poker potential has not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill. In the 110th Congress, several pieces of legislation were proposed that would implement regulation and licensing of Internet poker.

Unfortunately, none were given full consideration, mainly because of a push by staunch anti-gambling interests who believe an outright ban of online poker is the only option. As conservative columnist George Will aptly pointed out, laws that attempt to block Internet poker are “Prohibition 2.0,” and, as Mr. Will explains, history has shown that prohibitions do not work. Rather, they exacerbate and even create problems, especially among vulnerable communities, by driving the prohibited activity underground where unscrupulous operators can easily, and without fear of prosecution, take advantage of consumers for their own gain.

While the U.S. has been asleep at the wheel, other countries have stepped up to protect their citizens, and by default ours. The vast majority of poker Web sites are highly regulated in their home jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Alderney. These countries’ credible regulatory regimes are complemented by sophisticated technologies, verified by independent network and software security companies that help the sites detect fraud, prevent underage access and even provide services for problem gamblers. These sites welcome the additional oversight U.S. regulation will bring to the industry.

Obama is purported to be a skillful poker player, an expertise that should be an unwritten job requirement for all would-be U.S. presidents. Poker teaches you patience, and it trains you to calculate the odds and avoid unnecessary risks. If Obama applies his poker skills to his job in the White House, he will reject politically unpopular and economically untenable tax increases and look seriously at other potential revenue streams like Internet poker.

No matter how you cut the deck, regulation is the answer.

What may happen as a result of D’Amato’s article is nothing more than speculation, but the publication of it ensures that more than a few members of Congress and the Obama administration will give some thought to the ideas proposed within.

At this critical juncture, it is more important than ever to push the issue of online poker regulation. The UIGEA was put into effect on January 19th by the outgoing Bush administration, but the Obama team is considering a repeal of all of Bush’s midnight regulations. Rep. Barney Frank has been behind the effort to undo the UIGEA - or at the very least exempt poker as a game of skill - and shows no signs of backing down on the issue. And with recent state and local courts rulings based on poker determined as a game of skill, there is a growing awareness of that particular precedent.

While the PPA does everything in its power to change the laws on state and federal levels, it is important that everyone get involved. The PPA provides a simple way to contact a Congressional representative via their website and urge support of the legalization and regulation of online poker. The poker industry is a massive base of constituents, and those voices must be heard.

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