Jim Perkins, a corporate/finance attorney in Santa Monica, Calif., is helping poker players take a stand against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), recently passed as part of the SAFE Port Act in Congress, with an online petition. Since its posting on Oct. 2, the petition has garnered more than 8,000 signatures from around the United States.
Perkins, who has played poker online since 1998, said he's been watching this and similar legislation for years going back to the Leach bill. Though he opted not to post a petition in the past because he didn't want to become a "target" by those supporting the legislation, he's now changed his mind.
"When the legislation finally did pass, I had had enough and wanted to make sure that the voice of everyone that enjoys online poker and other gambling was heard," he said.
The petition is addressed to all members of the Congress and Senate and reads as follows:
"We would like to register our strong disagreement with and disapproval of the recently enacted bill regarding the prohibition and/or regulation of internet gambling. The bill was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Goodlatte and was attached to 'must pass' legislation in the Senate by Senator Frist.
"We strongly believe that the government should not attempt to prohibit online gambling by adults. We favor legalization, regulation and taxation of online gambling by the government of the United States."
As of the writing of this article, the petition had signatures from 8,214 people from more than three-fourths of the 50 states. U.S. residents and citizens who would like to sign the petition can do so at PetitionOnline.com.
"People who want to gamble online will gamble online," Perkins said. "By passing a bill that attempts to prohibit people from engaging in an activity that many millions of people clearly want to engage in, the government is driving the activity underground and creating the likelihood of greater harm."
It is his opinion that if the government is truly concerned about the evils of addictive or underage gambling or money laundering, the better solution is to legalize online gambling and regulate it to address potential problems.
"Ideally, I would like to see legislation passed that specifically legalizes online gaming (of all varieties) and creates safeguards to keep underage gamblers from playing, to identify problem gamblers and encourage them to get help, and to resolve the money laundering issues," Perkins said.
"I honestly believe that legalization could actually go a good deal further toward identifying and solving the last two problems than any other approach as the gaming sites have the capability of creating tremendous banks of data and powerful analytical tools."
Perkins said he's had support from various Internet news groups and communities to help get the word out about the survey, but was surprised by the lack of support from online gaming sites, organizations such as the Poker Players' Alliance, and other groups and businesses that would have a vested interest in supporting online gaming.
"I have been surprised that no businesses or organizations that would seem to be most interested in promoting online gambling have stepped in to promote this drive," Perkins said. "I wrote to all the major online poker sites and got back a message that basically their official position was 'no comment.'"
Perkins plans to keep the petition up as long as the Petition Online has their site up and running. Once the signing volume slows down to "more of a trickle," the petition will be forwarded to California's senators and representatives in Congress as well as the five members of Congress who stood up against the legislation.
"I would hope that we could get an organized voice for the legality of online gaming together that would include some of the people who have been making tons of money off the industry, or some of the companies that stand to make even more if Congress were to explicitly legalize online gaming," Perkins said.