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Senate and House to Hold Hearings on Internet Poker Next Week; D'Amato to Testify

Online Poker Legislation

Poker will get two hearings on Capitol Hill next week, first in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday and then back for another go-around in the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

Poker Players Alliance Chairman Al D'Amato, a former Senator from New York, will testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

This will be the first Senate hearing regarding online poker since the recent start of a movement to license and regulate the activity. It will be the second hearing on poker in the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade in about three weeks, as chairman Mary Bono Mack held an initial hearing Oct. 26 that was largely positive.

D'Amato, who was a witness at the Oct. 26 hearing, and the PPA sent a letter to the House subcommittee members following up on some concerns brought up during the proceedings.

The most prominent focus of the letter was on the issue of poker bots, brought up at the hearing by witness Kurt Eggert, a law professor at Chapman University. No one at the hearing was able to respond to Eggert's concerns. The letter addresses the ways current sites handle bots and points out that Rep. Joe Barton's poker bill would make it explicitly illegal to use and sell bots.

"Today, the best sites go to great lengths to detect and remove bot players, and the worst do not," the letter states. "In passing H.R. 2366 [Barton's bill], Congress would limit Americans to playing on sites that protect them against bots, and would provide greater protection to U.S. players."

The PPA also disputed Eggert's testimony that a player rating system is needed to save the fish from the sharks.

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Eggert — an expert in consumer advocacy but not in poker -—chose to categorize winning players as 'predators,'" the letter states. "Players and the industry alike see the fact that poker can be beaten with skill as a defining, positive characteristic of the game. Winning players are an integral part of the game. They are not predators ... they are skilled competitors."

The letter continues on to address what happens when a player's Internet service connection is disrupted and to dispute a comparison of regulating Internet poker to legalizing illicit drugs.

The Senate hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 2:15 p.m. EST with the House hearing a day later at 9 a.m. EST. The witness lists have yet to be released. The House hearing is simply called a hearing on "Internet Gaming." There's no word yet on if it will focus on Barton's bill or again on poker in general. The Senate hearing, titled "The Future of Internet Gaming: What's at Stake for Tribes?" is likely to focus on testimony from representatives of various tribes and tribal groups.

If the performances of tribal representatives in previous House hearings is any indication of what could go on, this could make for a painfully amusing couple of hours. The hearing may even be at the request of tribal interests that were embarrassed by the testimony of Ernest L. Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, at the last House subcommittee hearing. But getting the Indian tribes on the same page with themselves and the federal government regarding Internet poker would be beneficial for potential legislation moving forward.

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