Rep. Joe Barton's introduction of the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday rekindled enthusiasm and action from the poker community that is already making an impact.
"I just left Congressman Barton's office and he said he's heard from a number of congressional offices that their Facebook pages and emails are getting overwhelmed with poker players, and that's a good thing," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance.
The PPA has created a take-action page to encourage and instruct people on how to properly stand up for poker and voice their support of HR 2366.
Emailing and posting on Facebook pages of representatives is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. The PPA has a site that will identify the senators, congressman and congresswoman from your area and has a form letter ready to send, or you can prepare your own letter.
For those who want to put in the extra effort, the take-action page has a place to get phone numbers of representatives with your zip code. The PPA suggests keeping the phone call short, simply telling the staffer who answers the phone that you are a constituent, voter and poker enthusiast, and that you ask the representative to support HR 2366.
The biggest impact one can make is to schedule a meeting at the local office of your representative. The meeting will likely be with a staff member, but adding face-to-face interaction makes the poker argument more difficult to ignore.
Building momentum in the media is another important factor. To go above and beyond, poker players can write letters to the editor for their local newspaper or urge the publications to cover the movement to get online poker licensed and regulated. Of course, the PPA has a page to help with that as well.
"We need to build a lot of support and momentum behind this legislation," Pappas said. "Without question, that's the most important thing we can do right now."
The language of the Barton legislation has to be considered by-and-large positive for the poker community, especially given the bleak status quo.
Perhaps the biggest question about the wording is whether it allows for an international player pool. Under Sec. 104 of the bill, it is stated that a licensee may accept play from an individual located in the U.S. But it doesn't specifically state that a licensee is not allowed to accept play from those located outside the country.
The wording is likely to be made clearer as the bill progresses through the House. Pappas believes that the language does allow for international play.
"It does not have any prohibition on international liquidity," Pappas said. "I talked to several lawyers in D.C. and they all said the bill doesn't have any prohibition on it."
Pappas said the PPA has been meeting with legislators about the bill and hopes to have 5-to-10 more co-sponsors added in the next week. The legislation was introduced with the momentum of having 11 original co-sponsors. The immediate goal is to have a hearing for the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by the end of the summer.
"We'd obviously love to have a hearing before August," Pappas said. "I think the committee has a number of issues on its plate and I'm not sure it can be heard before August, but we're pushing for that. If not, hopefully soon after they return from the August recess."
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