PPA hopes shift brings fresh look at regulations

With the Democrats poised to claim a majority in Congress and the Senate, the online gaming industry is now waiting to learn whether the victory will bring changes to the unpopular Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in the U.S. last month.

"The old environment wasn't helpful so we're hoping we have a fresh look at exemption for poker and regulating and licensing poker in the U.S.," said Poker Players Alliance President Michael Bolcerek.

As for what this shift in government could mean for the future of the gaming industry, Bolcerek said the alliance is, for now, adopting a wait-and-see approach.

"We're going to assess what that change does to our lobbying strategy and hopefully we'll find more people to enter into a dialogue with us about regulating and licensing Internet poker in the U.S. and following good public policy," he said.

Perhaps the biggest coup for opponents of the bill was seeing Congressman James Leach (R-Iowa) lose his seat in Tuesday's election. Leach sponsored legislation that would eventually become the UIGEA, which bans banks and payment-processing companies from accepting transaction from U.S. players to gamble online.

The 30-year incumbent lost out in a tight race to Dave Loebsack, who bested Leach by 5,711 votes.

"Internet gambling wasn't as valuable as he thought to his constituents," said Bolcerek.

Charlie Bass (R-Mass.), a co-sponsor of the online gambling bill, also lost his seat in Congress.

Other seats, such as the one held by Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), have yet to be determined. By Wednesday afternoon, Wilson was ahead of Democratic candidate Patricia Madrid by only 1,048 votes, with more votes still to be counted.

In Connecticut, a contest between Republican Congressman Rob Simmons and Democrat Joe Courtney is likely headed for a recount, as is a race in New York that has Republican Sue Kelly trailing her competition by a slim margin.

UIGEA supporter Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) maintained his seat with 51% of the vote to his challenger's 48%. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), another sponsor of UIGEA, was reelected Tuesday, after comfortably defeating two independent candidates.

Meanwhile, the Poker Players Alliance is continuing with plans to build a larger membership base and engage U.S. politicians in debate over UIGEA .

Just last month, Bolcerek visited New York with poker pros Annie Duke, Mike Sexton and Barry Greenstein to raise awareness of UIGEA's implications in the online gaming industry. The trip, Bolcerek said, helped raise public awareness of the bill.

"It was very effective. I think we got our perspective across, and generally the mainstream media is supportive of our position," he said.

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