In a rather bizarre interview posted on ESPN.com, Margarita Prentice, the brains behind the law in Washington State that makes playing online poker a Class C felony, insinuated that players out of a job should “go pump gas.”
Prentice told ESPN.com’s Gary Wise, “I just think some of these arguments are utter nonsense. You mean you’re going to move so you can play poker? Gee, lots of luck in your life… I have nothing against card playing. That’s fine. If you want to do that, but I’m sure not going to worry about someone… you know. Let them go pump gas.” Prentice added that state lawmakers simply added the word “internet” into existing gambling statutes to create the harsh law four years ago.
In response to Prentice’s off-the-wall comments, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), internet gambling’s champion on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, told Wise, “Wow. The intolerance of that is just appalling, but that’s the attitude that goes with the sense you have the right to dictate other people’s lives to them.” Frank introduced HR 2267 in Washington, DC, a bill that creates a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework for internet gambling companies to solicit U.S. customers.
Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Chairman Alfonse D’Amato, a former three-term Republican Senator from New York, echoed Frank’s thoughts: “She is why people are angry, because of the arrogance of those in government who say they know what’s best for you.” In November 2009, Prentice was ironically rumored to be considering sponsoring a bill that would bring internet keno to Washington State. The Seattle Times newspaper reported her involvement, although the bill ultimately did not come to fruition.
Late last week, Full Tilt Poker blocked real money play from Washington State, following a similar decision from rival PokerStars six weeks prior. In September, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a law that makes playing online poker a Class C felony on the grounds that it does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. PPA Washington State Director Lee Rousso, a lawyer by trade, brought the suit, but the state’s highest judicial body argued that the law affected in-state and out-of-state internet gambling operators equally, thus not trampling on the Commerce Clause.
Prentice also told ESPN.com that she doesn’t foresee the law having major effects on online poker players: “I’ve never really understood all of the hysterics, and all of the beefs. I just can’t see anybody who’s having any major suffering over it.”
PPA Executive Director John Pappas was taken aback by Prentice’s comments to ESPN.com. Pappas told Poker News Daily on Thursday, “It’s a complete picture of what kind of a lawmaker she is. Not only is she dismissive of an entire industry of individuals who enjoy poker, but the idea that her law is subjecting people to suffering – she’s totally ignorant of that. She refuses to see that she passed a law that’s unpopular.”
The PPA asked its members in Washington State to contact Prentice, a State Senator, “because her law affects everyone in the state. They should also contact their own members to repeal this law,” Pappas remarked. In addition, the PPA plans to work with the legislature to repeal the law in 2011. The statute was adopted in 2006 prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) on the Federal level.
Online poker players in nearby states like Oregon have reported difficulties accessing Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. In response to the former pulling out of Washington State last week, Seattle poker pro Matt Affleck Tweeted, “Sigh, Full Tilt Poker follows Stars’ lead and bans Washington State players… No idea what I’m going to do now.”
Meanwhile, the PPA continues to push Frank’s HR 2267 on Capitol Hill. Now in the “lame duck” session, Congress has been considering a number of proposals. The PPA and online poker players everywhere are keeping a watchful eye on HR 2267, which was passed out of the House Financial Services Committee in July. Pappas revealed, “There is still a lot of keen interest in getting something done and getting something passed. The biggest stumbling block we have is what the vehicle is for this bill.” HR 2267 and its tax companion bill, HR 4976, could be attached as a “pay-for” to a budget-related measure.
Read the entire ESPN.com article.