Michael Bolcerek, the president of the Poker Players Alliance, has been personally lobbying in Washington, DC, regarding the House Judiciary Committee's consideration of HR 4777, better known as the Internet Gaming Prohibition Act. By bringing the message of the 25,000 member strong organization directly to the legislators involved in debate on this and other proposals in Congress, Bolcerek is spearheading the efforts to keep the online poker and gaming world one that Americans can participate in. When we talked on Wednesday evening (the night before the Judiciary Committee vote on HR 4777), Bolcerek sounded both realistic and optimistic as to the future of this and other legislation in the nation's capital.
"One of the things we have been trying to do here is educate the representatives as to what this legislation is attempting to do," Bolcerek stated to me. "We're gaining momentum as to members of Congress who understand our position on the subject, but Representative Goodlatte (the sponsor of HR 4777 and a member of the House Judiciary Committee) has some strong support for his bill as well." While in discussions with Congress on the subject of Internet poker and gaming, Bolcerek and the Poker Players Alliance have been able to mount a counteroffensive to the anti-gaming bills on Capitol Hill.
"We have been able to garner support for having bi-partisan legislation that would establish a federal commission to study online gambling. Representatives Shelley Berkley (NV), Jim Gibbons (NV) and Jon Porter (NV) and others representatives have all come forward in supporting this legislation and the Poker Players Alliance applauds their efforts," Bolcerek said when asked about the forthcoming proposal. "Creating a federally commissioned study is a logical step in examining the true impact of online gambling. A thorough review of this complex issue will undoubtedly reveal the vast benefits to U.S. regulation and taxation of the industry. Millions of Internet poker players in America would welcome recognizable U.S. casino brands to the online game as a legally taxed and regulated industry in America and allowing U.S. companies to enter the market will not only offer players more choices, but provides an even higher level of comfort in playing poker online."
One thing that seems to have escaped the knowledge of our elected officials is how ingrained the online gaming world has become in the economic world. "Many of the people we are talking to think the offshore sites are "fly-by-night" operations," Michael recounted to me during our conversation. "Once we show them that many of these companies have been around for some time and are publicly traded on commodities exchanges in England and Europe, their seems to be more thought towards studying the issue in depth, as we would like to see the government do." Bolcerek also attempted to counter the arguments of children and problem gamblers when he said, "Opponents of online gambling fail to realize that sweeping it under the rug will only serve to exacerbate any issues with problem gambling. Turning the wildly popular Internet poker from a common pastime to an illegal activity, banned by Congress, will ultimately ensure that problem gamblers do not confront their issues with gambling and drive them further underground. Regulation and taxation, however, would provide billions in revenue for federal and state governments. These funds could be used to treat problem gamblers and to educate adults and youths alike on the dangers of gambling addictions."
When I asked him what the chances for HR 4777's passage in the House Judiciary Committee were on Thursday, Bolcerek was realistic but also sees that there is a long road ahead not only for this but other Internet gaming legislation. "Quite honestly, I believe that HR 4777 will pass out of committee and be slated for consideration from the House of Representatives," he said dejectedly. "The committee is predominantly Republican and, since the bill came from a fellow Republican, it will probably go along party lines. Even with this passage, however, it still has to go through the House vote, which could come within two to three weeks, then there has to be legislation in the Senate that passes along with it, then the two would have to be reconciled before it would actually head to President Bush."
As you can see, there is a long way to go regarding HR 4777 and similar legislation in the halls of Congress. But Bolcerek says this is not the time to get complacent and allow these pieces of legislation to have a free run in Washington. "We're here on the street, representing the interests of poker players in America. We encourage poker players to visit our website (pokerplayersalliance.org) and sign up for e-mail reminders or join the group. We also encourage the continued efforts of all poker players to contact their representatives in Washington and help us in our continuing efforts." With that, Bolcerek was off to continue late night lobbying of Congressmen in Washington and we continue to wish him the best of luck with his efforts.
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