Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of the Poker Players' Association (PPA) and Michael Bolcerek, Executive Director, kicked off their shoes and told me a bit about their cause: Preserving the rights of poker players across America.
Being at the WSOP for the past seven weeks has really shown me just how big this poker thing is. People from all over the world, who speak all kinds of different languages, sit at one table and communicate through this game called poker.
They could also do this online.
However, the U.S. Senate recently passed legislation that restricts some forms of Internet gambling financial processing. That means it's pretty hard to play poker online now. You can do it, but you probably won't get your money out of it.
George Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) into law in late 2006, and with that, the poker world went wild with apprehension.
Some critics say that without the prohibition, there would be no stopping under-aged players from gambling online, thus creating an immoral, unethical online environment.
The irony of this however, is that it's pretty unethical to discriminate poker players from the online gambling world.
In Canada, under federal criminal law, it is also illegal to set up an online gambling Web site. Strangely, Canadian companies are still one of the major suppliers of online gambling software in the world. Off-shore operations can do wonders.
In Holland, online gambling has been licensed and controlled. To keep it under control, most sites are in Dutch so that people outside the country can't use their services. People who want to play are monitored closely and carefully, by an encrypted code they sign up for at the point of registration.
That means that an underage player can't sign up to play. You need the proper of-age credentials and corresponding credit card to do so. The monitoring also allows companies to see who is gambling excessively, and any sort of foul-play will be tracked. Every hand is seen, every player is watched, and there's no hiding.
But this kind of monitoring is impossible when online gambling is illegal. You cannot regulate something that doesn't exist in the legal norm.
The amount of money to be made in this industry is unparalleled. It may cost hundreds of millions to build a brick-and-mortar casino - plus the thousands of employees that need to be hired and paid. That means a lot of start-up money to make a lot of profit.
But an online gambling site probably needs only a couple of million bucks, some tech guys - 20 employees, max - and you're golden. The first online gambling establishment, Internet Casinos Inc., was a USD $1.5 million development with only 17 employees. And the profits? It's scary to even think about it.
It seems strange in this day and age, where money is pretty much the only commodity, that nations of the free world would prohibit such a goldmine of possibilities.
Organizations like the PPA stand to defend these possibilities, and open up the laws to house the rights of poker players. And by doing so, business opportunities will also transpire.
Through all this, the United States has more shots at making the American dream. After all, poker has long been considered an all-American pastime.