Reaction to the online gaming legislation passed in a late night pre-recess session in Congress has been one of outrage as poker lobbying organizations and support groups prepare for the future.
Late Friday evening, Congress was able to link a bill regarding online gaming to the latest bill regarding American port security. This bill, which was enacted to prevent another situation such as the Dubai scenario earlier this year (which would have awarded security rights for several coastal cities to a Muslim country), was virtually guaranteed to pass through the Senate. It was with this bill that Senator Bill Frist, Senator Jon Kyl and others were able to stake their online gaming bandwagon on.
The bill was steamrolled through the House by a vote of 409-2 and passed through the Senate on a simple voice vote, meaning there is no record of how the Senators chose to view the matter. What is also interesting is that, in adding the legislation regarding online gaming, both houses of Congress chose to strip critical elements out of the port security bill. The Republicans squashed a move to require every cargo container to be inspected as well as removed funding for rail and transit security for American citizens.
The online gaming legislation added to the port security bill is very difficult to enforce. While it doesn't outright state that online gaming is illegal, it does outlaw the payment of gaming implements through banks and credit card companies in the United States. It does not address, however, the multitude of online payment systems (such as NeTeller) that exist or what can occur through them.
Naturally, this has outraged many in the poker world. Michael Bolcerek, the president of the Poker Players Alliance and a longtime voice of reason in the online gaming discussion, said, "This last minute deal reeks of political gamesmanship. The American people should be outraged that Congress has hijacked a vital security bill with a poker prohibition that nearly three fourths of the country opposes. Allowing this bill to become law would run contrary to public opinion and would damage an already fractured relationship between government and the electorate. The millions of Americans who enjoy playing this great game will have the last voice in this debate come Election Day."
What further irritates Bolcerek and the PPA is that there has been no debate on the online gaming issue and no look at regulation and taxation. "Congress has an opportunity to regulate and tax online poker leading to potentially billions of dollars in annual revenue for the federal government and the states," said Bolcerek. "If the goal of Congress is to protect people from the possible dangers of gambling, a prohibition is the worst way of achieving it. All it will do is push poker underground, essentially creating online speakeasies, which will provide no protection for youths, no services for the problem gambler and leave only the most unscrupulous operators in the game."
Another poker player's rights organization, KeepTheFreedom.org, was equally appalled at the passage of the legislation. A spokesman for the organization said to this writer in an e-mail, "It was a sad night last night for all poker players. We feel the best course of action is to now concentrate on including a carve-out for skill based games or poker as a whole from the current legislation."
"We will be adapting our website appropriately to help aid in this process, making it clean and clear cut, so that poker players internationally can unite and contribute to the effort to fight for our poker freedom. Further studies in the United States would be extremely helpful in proving that regulation versus prohibition is the route America should take. Uniting under one voice is essential, expressing our voting power, and moving towards regulation should be on the minds of all U.S. poker participants."
With the legislation passed, it is now clear what the American poker player has to do and that is exercise the power of the vote to clear the Congress of those who voted for the online gaming legislation. In this writers opinion, Congress have clearly ignored the voice of the American people regarding this subject and even have rejected the logical step of studying the issue in depth and having open discussion on the subject. Now poker players must exorcise these representatives for their disregard for their constituents. Then perhaps we can overturn this attack on the freedom of adults to decide what and where they want their money to go and have an open dialogue on the subject.