Net gambling to be removed from Mass. bill

Statue of Liberty
Let online poker freedom ring.

The bill in Massachusetts to expand casino gambling in the state lives on, but the section that would make online gambling illegal in the state may not last much longer.

The bill was first introduced in late 2007 by Gov. Deval Patrick. His intent was to alleviate the flow of state money to nearby places such as Atlantic City and Connecticut by expanding casinos in Massachusetts.

The bill would allow three casino resorts in Massachusetts, but buried in the bill was also language that would make online gambling, including online poker, illegal in the state. The punishment for violators would be up to two years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

With the start of a new legislative session this year, the bill had to be reintroduced, and that was done by state representatives Brian Wallace and Martin Walsh.

When it was reintroduced, the part making online gambling illegal was also kept in, but Rep. Wallace confirmed for PokerListings that they now intend to take that language out of the bill.

"I am going to move to strike the entire section on online poker," Wallace said. "It was inadvertently added to the bill. We only had a few hours to put the final bill together, and we had a number of different people adding and subtracting from other bills that were filed in the past. The bill is 49 pages and that simply slipped by."

Wallace also said he was not in favor of the language in the bill last year, and he doesn't want to include the language in his bill this year.

"It was a mistake which we are going to rectify," he said, also mentioning that he was very moved by the testimony Professor Charles Nesson gave before his committee last year about online gambling.

Nesson is a Harvard Law professor and the founder of the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society.

The GPSTS views poker as an exceptional game of skill that can be used as a powerful teaching tool at all levels of academia and in secondary education. The organization uses poker to teach strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment and money management.

"We see poker as a metaphor for skills of life, business, politics and international relations," says the GPSTS Web site.

"Our goal is to create an open online curriculum centered on poker that will draw the brightest minds together, both from within and outside of the conventional university setting, to promote open education and Internet democracy."

It is that promotion of open education and Internet democracy that has led Nesson and the GPSTS to support legalizing online poker.

"My cause is open education in an open net," Nesson wrote in a message on the GPSTS Web site. "Poker teaches strategy. I am supported in the enterprise of legitimating poker as an instrument of education, research and Internet development by friends and clients who share this interest."

Nesson's arguments were enough to sway representatives such as Wallace, and members of the Poker Players Alliance in the state also helped keep a spotlight on the issue.

The following statement from the Poker Players Alliance was posted on a few poker forums this week:

Thank you for your quick response to Representative Brian Wallace (D-4 Suffolk) and Martin Walsh's (D-13 Suffolk) bill HR 3954, which expanded gambling in the state but also included a provision making Internet poker illegal with up to two years in a house of corrections and up to a $25,000 fine.

Because of the multitude of dedicated PPA members from all over the Commonwealth that acted by calling and flooded their offices at the General Assembly, both Representatives have committed to removing the criminal Internet poker provision from the HR 3954.

The PPA applauds both Representatives Wallace and Walsh for their swift action on this matter. It is clear that they listened to the concerns voiced by Massachusetts PPA members and acted promptly in resolving this issue.

Poker Players Alliance

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