One might think that when Republicans suffered much-deserved humiliation in the last general election, the notorious Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) would soon be history. Remember, it was back in 2006 that Senate Republican leadership effectively guillotined the “Moneymaker Effect.” Whatever one’s views are on other worldly issues, the popular perception within the poker community was that Democratic political gains would be very good for players.
With Democrats now in complete control of all branches of the Federal Government, we can no longer limit our anger and disappointment to those musty old Republicans. Indeed, trampling on the rights of poker players now appears to cut across party lines. While Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Representative Frank Wolfe (R-VA) continue to merit our universal contempt, the sad fact is that the “out-of-touch brigade” now has plenty of company on the other side of the partisan aisle.
Consider the positions of many powerful Democrats. The fact is that many national Democratic leaders happen to be women from western states. Virtually all of these influential Democratic women are opposed to overturning the UIEGA. In other words, these proud liberals march lock and step with the most repulsive elements of the religious right. These same Democratic women champion countless progressive causes and wouldn’t agree with the likes of Kyl, Goodlatte, or Wolfe on anything except, peculiarly enough, smothering the freedoms of millions of American citizens who want to play online poker. These Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.
For your displeasure, here’s a list of the guilty:
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – The Speaker of the House has repeatedly stated that she is dead-set against any expansion of gambling. She remains stubbornly opposed to legalizing poker on the internet because a family member reportedly once had a gambling problem. Pelosi may be the worst House Speaker in my lifetime (note that this opinion comes from an avowed political liberal), but her powerful influence on introducing bills and the legislative process unquestionably remains the biggest obstacle to overturning the UIEGA.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) – The senior U.S. Senator from California recently demonstrated her appalling confusion on the issue of internet gambling. Consider her response to a constituent in a published letter. She wrote, “Internet gambling has become too easily accessible to minors, subject to fraud and criminal misuse, and too easily used as a tool to evade State gambling laws.” Aren’t these the very reasons we desperately need legalization, licensing, and regulation of online gambling?
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) – It’s unclear precisely why Senator Boxer remains strictly opposed to online poker. Unlike her contemporaries Pelosi and Feinstein, Boxer has not widely expressed her views on the subject other than making her opposition known. However, California’s junior Senator has backed major initiatives on behalf of tribal resorts. Perhaps tribal opposition to legalized online poker (the Pachanga Tribe, for example) has influenced her position.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) – Oddly enough, Representative Waters represents a Congressional district in Los Angeles that has reaped enormous financial rewards for various municipal projects directly from casino tax revenues. Hollywood Park is located within her district. Waters’ opposition to online poker and internet gambling appears to be based on her view that gambling activities disproportionally harm poor people. That said, to date there has been no word from Waters’ office as to when she plans to start fighting to dismantle the California State Lottery.
Governor Christine Gregoire (D-WA) – This politician is guilty of supporting and ultimately signing into law the most draconian sanctions against poker in more than a century. It’s eerily reminiscent of what many Southern states did in the 1830s when gamblers were rounded up and hanged publicly. Gregoire made Washington the first state in the nation to make gambling on the internet a Class C felony (contrary to the opinion of many courts, poker is considered gambling in Washington state). A poker player living in Seattle or Tacoma is risking far more than a few dollars when he or she plays online. Thanks to the Governor, the poker playing vermin could very well receive the same punishment doled out to child molesters and drunk drivers.
For far too long, groups like the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) believe they can win the political debate with simple logic. Sure, our argument is better than their argument and most rational people would agree after listing to a five-minute exchange, but this isn’t a high school debate class. It’s a political street fight versus powerful forces camped out on both the right and the left. Until the PPA rolls up its sleeves and dives into the trenches with an all-out media bombardment aimed directly at the oblivious mainstream voter, nothing is going to change. Sure, we might sway a few Ivy League professors and political columnists from time to time. A few poker players might get five minutes of airtime on MSNBC or FOX. That’s all good, but online poker is not going to be legalized and regulated in the United States until some significant changes in strategy take place.
The first rule of politics is that “right” and “wrong” have little to do with any issue of significance. The debate you see on C-SPAN is pretty much scripted and irrelevant. No Congressman or Senator is swayed one way or the other on any legislation without either coercion or compromise.
Indeed, Washington is nothing more than a gigantic power plant fueled by the only lubricant of any real action – money. Lots of money. Whatever your political views may be, I strongly advise against poker players donating money to national party organizations. If you support a political candidate, donate to the person directly and not to the Democratic National Committee or to the Republican National Committee. If you make a donation to either of these organizations, there’s a good chance some of your money is going to be funneled into the re-election campaigns of Kyl and Pelosi. Just say no.
Believe me, I know about Washington State. But the only reason she passed the law was to cater to her indian buddies. I find it completely offensive and have spoken my mind about it but it all falls upon deaf(and dumb) ears. What a country we live in where playing poker for a few dollars online is akin to child molestation. And nobody will challenge the law. How it even passed is a mystery to me.
Well said, Nolan! As you know, some recent court decisions have been encouraging, but it seems like just as many have gone the other way. Our battle appears to be spinning its wheels in the ensuing turmoil. That’s largely because misguided/self-centered politicians — including all of those you mention — think they know what’s best for the rest of us and are unwilling to do the right thing because of potential political fallout. Hopefully the PPA and other organizations will prevail. Meanwhile, keep up the fight, partner!
I carried on a three year written conversation with Senator Feinstein (or at least her staffers). Their final decision was to stop responding because their logic did not fit the realities of the legislation.
Women waved the flag for prohibition as well, and it was because they were mostly barred from drinking. When they were finally invited into the bars and clubs, the Amendment was soon overturned. Poker advertising (with some execptions) continues to portray players as dumb, sexist males. Sites are always showing buxom blondes carrying chips suggestively to young male players – not exactly the image a respectable female member of Congress is clamoring to associate herself with. If they would grow up and cater to women, they’d gain instant credibility. A lot of respectable people, men and women, play at these sites, but you’d never know it by the advertising. If we want support, we need to give them something that looks politically worthy of support.
You talk about a flawed popular perception in this article. I believe “online poker is not going to be legalized and regulated in the United States until…” reflects another flawed popular perception: that regulation is the solution. Regulation would almost certainly result in a protectionist system with just one or a few competitors; perhaps a market divided by state where there would be inadequate volume; and reduced or eliminated access to the current US-friendly sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Regulation could very easily be worse than the current situation. Certainly that’s the case under regulation in in Italy. Government is the problem, not the solution.
Fifth Street Journal,
The bills in Congress now would absolutely not take Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars out of the market. Also, the federal government is after us. This idea that we can maintain what we have now is false, so comparing a licensed and regulated market to that is a fallacy.
The article is good on listing nanny-state Democrats who oppose us, but it’s not new news.
PPA has a guide at http://www.congressionalpoker.com. I did the ratings, and I rated both Sen. Feinstein and Gov. Gregoire F- (and have been since long before that article). Gov. Beshear (D-KY) is F- as well. Sen. Boxer is rated F and Rep. Pelosi is rated D.
Rep. Maxine Waters was upgraded to B some time ago for siding with us on some issues.
The article misses here:
“For far too long, groups like the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) believe they can win the political debate with simple logic. Sure, our argument is better than their argument and most rational people would agree after listing to a five-minute exchange, but this isn’t a high school debate class.”
No one at PPA thinks this is a debate. We are good at presenting solid talking points, but no one thinks Kyl will switch his vote if we beat him in an argument. We’re fighting this politically.
Geeze, Individual freedoms that don’t include getting shot are generally trampled on by the right??? What gives??
“Regulation could very easily be worse than the current situation.”
Fifth Street Journal, I’m looking forward to your feelings on this in Dec 09 or Jan ’10. Then we’ll know for sure…