Online Gambling Issue is a Matter of Personal Freedom

7/2/07 - Miami Herald

By Louis Archambault

Like countless other responsible, adult Americans, I enjoy spending some leisure time
playing online poker. Likewise, as an American poker player, I have been riveted to
unfolding events in Congress as they relate to my hobby, since the game I enjoy, which
was created in this country, is under attack.

A brief history lesson. In 2006, due in part to the Jack Abramoff scandal, Congress
passed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (the ''UIGE'').
(Interestingly, Jack Abramoff would have supported this bill since it accomplished exactly
what he had lobbied Congress to do by exempting domestic, online lotteries, but I
digress.) The UIGE is a very vague and poorly written attempt at prohibiting online
gambling, including poker, by restricting the flow of funds to gambling websites.

However, due to an increasingly public outcry against the UIGE, there are a number of
bills that have been introduced in Congress, including House Bill H.R. 2610 introduced
by local Congressman Robert Wexler (who represents the 19th District of Florida,
covering Broward and Palm Beach counties). H.R. 2610 or The Skill Game Protection
Act, clarifies the UIGE to exclude games of ``skill,'' such as poker, bridge, backgammon
and mah jong. Additionally, this bill provides for the implementation of safeguards to
prevent underage and problem gamblers, prevent online money laundering and collect
much needed tax dollars from these activities.

First, I would like to commend Congressman Wexler for backing personal freedom in this
country. Prohibition has proven time and time again that it simply does not work. All
prohibition does is make criminals out of otherwise responsible adults and drives
personal activities underground to areas that cannot be safely controlled or regulated.

Second, I would like to thank the members of his constituency for making their voices
heard in support of this bill. Broward County in particular -- as a result of its referendum
to have Vegas style slot machines in addition to its race tracks, poker and other gaming
activities -- already offers a variety of gambling to the public. However, I would like to
think that, like me, they do not always have the time or options to travel to a local casino.

Finally, I urge anyone reading this article to contact your local congressman to support
this bill and have your voice heard that personal freedom is still an important value in this
country. As you are reading this article, tens of thousands are responsibly unwinding or
earning a living playing their game of skill online. For every unfortunate story about a
problem gambler, there is an untold story of an adult supporting a family or paying for a
college education as a result of an online game of skill; you don't hear of these stories
because they are not ``popular.''

Taking a stand for personal freedom is not an easy choice, as it is more popular to stand
with the righteous and rally against the presumed evils of society. However, just as the
moral majority's mission is to be a voice for the perceived silent masses, I believe the
silent majority still believes in liberty as one of the founding principles of American
society. Be heard, or you eventually will lose your voice.

Louis Archambault is an associate at the Miami law firm of Pathman Lewis, where he
practices in the areas of real estate, condominium, corporate and partnership law.

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