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Poker's march on Washington works
For the first time in a long while the fight to legalize online poker in the U.S. seems to be gaining momentum.
July 19-25 was the first National Poker Week organized by the Poker Players Alliance and the results speak for themselves.
Over the span of the week the PPA collected over 375,000 signatures on a petition to President Barack Obama supporting the legalization of online poker, nearly 200,000 letters/emails were sent to U.S. representatives and members of the PPA attended over 100 congressional meetings.
Even radio host Howard Stern signed up as a member of the PPA.
"I think we made a very strong impression on lawmakers who weren't aware of online poker or maybe even opposed it," said PPA executive director John Pappas. "We raised the overall understanding of the situation."
Pappas, PPA Chairman Alfonse D'Amato, 33 PPA state directors and seven poker pros including Andy Bloch, Annie Duke, Jan Fisher, Howard Lederer, Dennis Phillips, Linda Johnson and Greg Raymer all made the trip to Washington, D.C. to show their support for legislation that would legalize and regulate online poker in the United States.
"I truly feel we are winning on this issue and the time is ripe for pro-poker legislation to pass into law," said the aforementioned Bloch.
It has been an uphill battle, according to Pappas, but the group finally seems to be making some headway.
"There is obviously a great fear when it comes to online gambling," he said. "People are concerned about having a casino in every home. That's not necessarily the case as we are bringing a skill game into people's homes.
"This isn't anything new. People have been playing poker in their homes for their entire lives. This way the government would be able to collect tax revenue from it."
The organization put a great deal of support behind Rep. Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act (HR 2267) which was originally scheduled for a hearing in July.
The proposed hearing was postponed to September, but the PPA was still able to convince seven more representatives to co-sign the bill, which is now up to 54 co-sponsors. Rep. Betsy Markey, Rep. Bill Pascrell and Rep. Russ Carnahan were all among the recent co-sponsors.
"We had several goals in Washington and I think we exceeded them all," Pappas said. "It was a great success. The only thing we weren't able to do is actually meet with President Obama and present him the petition with signatures. We hope to accomplish that later this year."
Despite the fact that National Poker Week is over, the PPA will continue to educate politicians about the game.
"We will continue to talk to people and promote the game," said Pappas. "We hope to set the stage for Frank's bill in early to late September.
"We also have the short-term goal of getting poker excluded from the current Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which will officially be enforced as of Dec. 1, 2009. We want them to leave poker out of that legislation because poker is a skill game."
Pappas went on to say that New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez will finally be dropping his long-awaited poker-only bill tomorrow (August 6).
In the end, when it comes to the future of online poker, Pappas was optimistic.
"I think it's going in the right direction," he said. "For the first time we are on the offensive when it comes to legislation. We're seeing numerous pro-poker bills and I haven't seen a single anti-poker bill introduced for months.
"The bills that have been introduced lately have all been about extending poker player's rights."