Politicians eye online poker

Jun 2, 2009 5:01 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

Climate may be right to lift Internet ban

The Obama administration has realized the error of our ways in Washington, D.C.

Shortly after his confirmation, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., declared an end to the raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Subsequently, the U.S. Justice Dept. asked Congress to change the law that discriminates between crack and powder cocaine. While both are illegal, one form should not be treated as 100 times more illegal, so that a racial minority spends more time in prison for committing essentially the same crime.

Even more significant is the news from Washington that the new U.S. "drug czar," R. Gil Kerlikowske, has decided to discontinue the use of the term "War on Drugs" because it is, in effect, a war on people in the U.S. "We’re not in a war with people in this country," he said.

What has this got to do with poker? Read on.

That’s a very important point that bears directly on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed by Congress on Sept. 30, 2006. It is, in fact, a "war" – a conflict – declared by our government against people who enjoy playing poker online, people who are U.S. citizens and taxpayers who do no harm to others.

The UIGEA was attached to a "must-pass" port security bill, so that it escaped debate which might have tossed it into the muck where it belongs.

Indeed, the UIGEA has served no useful purpose. It has only made it more difficult for U.S. poker players to participate in the game of poker from their computers at home. It forced several legal gaming companies to leave the U.S. for more welcoming foreign countries.

Considering the current recession in the U.S., online poker could provide a significant source of revenue to ease the economic crunch. Legalized, regulated and taxed, it could generate several billion dollars a year for the U.S. Treasury. (Think of what the government could do with that added revenue. How about better educating kids about the dangers of drugs; or job training for the millions now unemployed.)

Several Congressional leaders grasp the folly of the UIGEA, and have attempted to repeal it. To date, their efforts have met resistance from ultra-conservative members of Congress, supported by others who don’t understand that poker is a game of skill, very much as is a sporting competition. (I have been trying to convince my own Representative of that, but have not yet succeeded.)

As the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Representative Barney Frank of the enlightened Commonwealth of Massachusetts is leading the effort to repeal the UIGEA.

Perhaps Congressman Frank can call on the U.S. Justice Dept. to help convince other Representatives and Senators of the need to repeal the unwise and imprudent UIGEA.

Let’s end the War on Online Poker! Words of support from President Obama would help. And so would a word from each of us to our elected Representatives in Washington, D.C., as urged by the Poker Players Alliance.

Comments? You can reach George "The Engineer" at [email protected].