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Poker Players Lobby Lawmakers to License Online Games

7/20/09 - Wall Street Journal - View Source

By Fawn Johnson

WASHINGTON -- Poker enthusiasts are visiting the Capitol this week to make their case to lawmakers that online gaming can be regulated effectively and doesn't need to be banned outright.

John Pappas, head of lobbying group Poker Players Alliance, said legislation to license and regulate online poker would ensure protections for compulsive gamblers and minors.

All the protections that online sites in the U.S. use now are voluntary, Pappas said Monday at a congressional briefing.

Pappas wants lawmakers to act before December to clarify a law that could ban banks from helping online poker sites distribute money among players. Without action, banks could vacate the market and leave the money distribution to less-reputable organizations, he said.

U.S. law prohibits most forms of Internet gambling. State prosecutors recently seized millions from online poker sites, angering players and advocates who believe their online gaming activities are legitimate.

The European Commission also has threatened to challenge the U.S. ban on Internet gambling at the World Trade Organization, saying the prohibition violates international trade rules.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has proposed legislation to legalize and regulate Internet gambling so revenue could be taxed and consumers would have some protections.

A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Pappas said.

According to the Poker Players Alliance, there are 10 million Americans who play online poker for money, spending about $6 billion a year.

The alliance has argued in court that online poker doesn't violate the existing law because it is a game of skill, rather than a game of chance.

Wagers are made against other players of varying ability, not against a "house" as an illegal gambling game might be run, the alliance argued in petitions to U.S. attorneys in New York and California. Moreover, a poker "bet" mischaracterizes the actual activity in poker, the petition stated, saying a poker bet is more like a "move" in any other game.

Protecting Children
Compulsive Gambling Safeguards
Secure Financial Transactions
New Government Revenues
Regulated and Licensed Environment
International Ramifications
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