Is the tide finally turning for online poker in the USA? Yes, a South Carolina judge ruled in the Mt. Pleasant case that poker is indeed a game of skill, Congressman Barney Frank announced he will give the bill overturning UIGEA another chance this week, but the biggest headline was that two of the most famous names in poker and conservatism joined forces this week in saying, "Poker is not a crime."
Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, WSOP 2004 Main Event winner and board member of the Poker Players Alliance, came together yesterday for the opening of the annual Conservative Political Action Committee 2009 (CPAC 2009) meeting.
Norquist's group hosted a cocktail party for the Alliance (and lawmakers) with the pointed message, "Get government off the backs of poker players." This was an amazing turn for Norquist, who is most famous in Washington as a lobbyist and who narrowly escaped the Abramoff net of corruption connected to Indian gaming. Like most lobbyists, he has an interesting mix of client allegiances, yet this one could test even his credibility.
It was a strange day for Republicans. Moderates were in hiding or under the Federal Witness Protection Program as neo-cons and conservatives ruled the day. It was ironic that poker would take a seat at this table as Republicans and "Blue Dog" Democrats universally earned failing grades from the Alliance just two years earlier for allowing UIGEA to pass. One could knock most onlookers over with a feather when the elephants and sharks lay down together, and, at the highly flammable and controversial CPAC '09 of all places.
The speeches were typical "hellfire and brimstone" rally cries of the conservative variety. But this party has little relevance beyond this diehard core. With the leader of the opposition party (Obama) standing with a 67% approval rating and this group hovering around Dick Cheney acceptance levels, they had to do more than parrot the standard "evil" stereotype lines. (Even Jon Stewart and The Daily Show got in on the game earlier this week showing when Jason Jones interviewed two firebrand ministers who called Obama "Hitler" and "the antichrist.)
Their audience remains on the political fringe, yet they all were there bloviating about the government and continued to so do throughout the weekend. However, missing from the festivities were Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the right's poster child for Conservatism, and Louisiana Governor Bobby (I'm not "30 Rock"'s Kenneth the Page) Jindal, he of the dreadful rebuttal speech to Obama's inspiring non-State of the Union address.
They are indeed hurting, but is the Republican brand in such seriously bad shape that they will embrace this devil ("demon gamblin'") under the dual guise of tax reform and getting government off the backs of poker players? I have to admit I did not see that one coming.
Elephants, though, are slow and ponderous beasts, not likely to accept such a broad change, even a re-packaged one, like plastering a "new and improved" label and embarking on a huge media advertising campaign to promote a new dog food. The great launch eventually craters when it becomes clear that the dogs don't like it. So how will the Capital "C" Conservatives put "lipstick on this pig" when the Christian Coalition steps up to demand its fealty and fights this proposal?
Noting the videos below, I'll pay a tenner to watch that fight.
Greg Raymer on playing poker:
Greg Raymer on ethics, religion and politics:
Grover Norquist heading to cocktail party:
Editor's note: Contributing columnist Denis Campbell brings an independent and experienced eye to poker's political scene. Campbell has worked closely in the past with former Cabinet Secretaries in the Carter and Clinton administrations, Ambassadors and members of Congress. He offers commentary on US and UK politics for the BBC and Huffington Post, and is currently the editor-in-chief of UK Progressive Magazine. Here, Denis offers his insights on matters affecting <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/>poker</a>. Denis' views do not necessarily reflect those of <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/>PokerNews</a>.