Alfonse D'Amato, Poker Players Alliance (PPA) chairman, talked about his view of recent gambling law changes and how they relate to poker and answered questions during a webcast today.
His main points: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is discriminatory against the game of poker, and the PPA needs more members to help it become affective in fighting for poker players' rights.
D'Amato, a self-described poker fanatic, pointed out again that the UIGEA is discriminatory since it makes some form of online gambling legal and some not.
"How can you permit one form - which is purely gambling in the form of lotteries - and not permit another?" he asked.
He pointed out that the United States was missing out on billions of dollars in tax revenue because of Congress' decision to ban online gambling, and that the "ban benefits no one but illegal operators."
Now the nation is seeing legitimate poker operators close down to U.S. customers while "unscrupulous" operators move in.
In effect, D'Amato said poker will be driven underground similar to what happened with alcohol during the prohibition era, and the ban will result in complete loss of control over it rather than have the affect law makers wanted.
The lawmakers had good intentions - wanting to protect children from gambling and prevent more problem gambling - but, D'Amato said, it makes no sense to force people to go offshore where they have no control over it then.
"Let me suggest, as the PPA is trying to do, educating members of the congress," D'Amato said.
He believes that it will be hard to get people to change their hearts and minds on the matter, but that it can be done if they can be shown better ways to control the industry in order to handle underage gambling and problem gambling issues.
In response to questions about who would regulate the online gambling industry, D'Amato said, "It's a rather easy thing to regulate."
The industry itself could impose regulations or the government could set up their own standards and regulations for the industry as well.
All the technology is already there to keep an eye on the industry and keep it in line. D'Amato pointed out that because it's online, every hand and every bet is recorded and easily tracked.
He also said that the technology is already available to keep children off sites. That's actually one of the things the United States could offer to protect its citizens by regulating online poker instead of banning it.
The PPA hopes to be able to work with a number of legal efforts that will be materializing soon to change the UIGEA. One of which is U.S. Rep. Barney Frank's bill expected to be introduced next week.
According to D'Amato, who hasn't seen the bill yet, Frank's bill doesn't differentiate between the different forms of gambling. His bill will just seek to end the UIGEA all-together.
While that suits the PPA as well, the organization would also like to see a differentiation made between games of skill such as poker and those that are pure luck such as lotteries.
Another factor on the PPA and online gambling's side is the recent ruling by the World Trade Organization.
In answer to a question about the WTO ruling, D'Amato agreed that the United States is in violation of trade laws because the UIGEA and other online gambling laws prevent other countries that allow the business from competing.
He said the United States will come under trade sanctions and penalties for the violation if the laws aren't changed. He hopes with time, Congressmen will see the detriment of their actions.
However, D'Amato said it's not going to be easy to get the change made.
"We can win that battle, but one of the things we have to do is grow our membership," he said.
As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, and D'Amato thinks it will take about one million members for the PPA to start having some power in the fight.
The organization has made a lot of progress to reach that goal just in the last month. D'Amato said membership jumped from about 60,000 to more than 320,000 during that time period.
Those interested in learning more about the PPA and joining in the fight for poker players' rights can visit www.pokerplayersalliance.org.