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Poker Politics: Interview With Senator Alfonse D'Amato
People like to gamble. They want to do it in the casino, on the Internet, and at home. But recent US legislation like the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the Goodlatte Bill, have made it pretty difficult for US citizens to do so.
New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato was at the Main Event today and announced the "Shuffle Up and Deal!" spiel to kick off Day 1D. He is a poker enthusiast, and the chairman of the Poker Players' Alliance (PPA), a non-profit organization that fights and protects the rights of poker players in the United States.
We took some time to talk poker politics. Here's his speech:
So the laws are bit different in Canada than they are here so why don't you give me the meat of what's going on here?
Well, the last gaming law that was passed was stuck through on a security act, basically precludes people from playing poker over the internet. And while they provide exemptions for lotteries, they provide exemptions for horseracing, poker playing was found to be bad! It was wrong.
And I think there's an outrage that's building. And our organization, the Poker Players' Alliance houses about 100,000 people, and we now - the US government - face sanctions from the World Trade Organization as a result of this unfair legislation. [The sanctions] would keep our companies from abroad from participating and providing poker over the internet to people.
Now why should people be allowed to go and gamble in a casino and not in their own homes? Why is Big Brother intruding, saying no, you shouldn't be allowed to do this? It's ridiculous. It's hypocritical.
Do you think it has to do with the fact that younger kids, those that are under 21, would have access to online gambling?
Yes, yes. There were some members of Congress who were rightfully concerned about under-aged gambling. But they could have required that any of these games they offer - that the company offering them - had to provide the kind of sophisticated computer program that would eliminate youngsters from playing. And those programs are available. There are a number of programs. And we're going to demonstrate to the Congress that absolutely, we will preclude people who are under the age of 21 from playing.
It seems to me it would be much better to regulate than to control and be able to monitor every hand that is dealt. And every player who plays. And that is the ability that you would have, if you license and control. Which is what other countries are doing.
So this is really a licensing issue? Or do you think there are issues in office?
Well, you know, obviously there's very powerful interests here in Las Vegas, here in the casinos, who I think will change their position in the fullness of time, but maybe are concerned about the competition. I think that you can't stop the competition; you can't stop technology from advancing. Some are much more forward than others but that's one of the things - you have the increase of the horseracers - the horseracing industry - which protected and exempted horseracing. [Also] The NFL, who protected and exempted Fantasy Sports.
And I would say to you very candidly, it's a bit hypocritical. And you're not really treating people fairly. Why should a person who wants to play poker be precluded, but with the horses, they're allowed to do it on the internet?
It's obvious. I think in the fullness of time, we will get the kind of treatment that will permit people to use the internet once again for games like poker.
Do you think poker may have a stigma that's affecting the issues?
No, I think there was a certain stigma attached to the industry of gaming as such as a result of this crook named Jack Abramoff. And he was a crook, and he did corrupt people and Congress, that so many ran the other way and did not want to be associated with anything that had to do with gambling. He was involved with the gaming casinos, etc., for many millions of dollars, and he corrupted a number of people of congressional age.
Consequently, there was a stigma at that particular time. But then there were very few people who were willing to stand up and say, "Wait a minute, why should we deprive innocent, good citizens from being able to play?"
And that's what happened.
Thank you sir, for your time. Are you having a good time here today?
Yes! This is my first time at the World Series, and it's really great!
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And then he was off, free to roam the Amazon Room and bask in the sights and smells of poker that is his love.
Alfonse D'Amato gives poker a political voice. Without a voice, the public remains deaf, and hypocrisy and ignorance reign. D'Amato wants people to play poker, and he's doing his best to make it happen.