The big news for the poker advocacy fight in December was, of course, the House Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee hearing on Internet poker and Internet casino-style gaming. The hearing, entitled The State of Online Gaming, “examined the current regulatory landscape for online gaming after the Department of Justice’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act,” with focus on H.R. 2666, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX) Internet Poker Freedom Act.
The hearing was more contested than past hearings on this issue, as Venetian / Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its CEO, Sheldon Adelson, are bankrolling an anti-online gaming effort to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Adelson and his organization, Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, are lobbying Congress and states like California and Pennsylvania for prohibitions on online gaming. Unlike past ban efforts where Internet poker was an incidental concern to prohibition proponents, Internet poker is firmly and specifically in Adelson’s cross hairs.
Las Vegas Sands Vice President of Government Relations and Community Development Andy Abboud testified on behalf of this coalition at the hearing. Joining Abboud in seeking a ban of online gaming was Les Bernal, national director of the anti-gaming group Stop Predatory Gambling.
We were represented by PPA Executive Director John Pappas, who did an outstanding job in making the case for Internet poker. Joining Pappas in arguing for a federal green light on online poker, American Gaming Association President & CEO Geoff Freeman was also very effective in making his case to the subcommittee. Law professor Kurt Eggert and Dr. Rachel Volberg rounded out the hearing witnesses.
The hearing featured some lighthearted moments, including Rep. Barton stating that, given the frigid weather, the fact that he arrived to the hearing early after flying in from Dallas-Fort Worth that morning showed that God supported his bill to license Internet poker. Countering him on that point was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). She argued -- tongue firmly in cheek -- that the bill number, HR 2666, suggested otherwise. Not to be outdone, subcommittee Chair Lee Terry (R-NE), whose district includes Omaha, Nebraska, suggested that Texas Rep. Barton’s bill needs to ensure that states have the authority to choose which forms of poker would be allowed within their borders, so that they could ban Texas Hold ’em and allow only Omaha if they wished.
The hearing focused considerably on states’ rights, with much of the discussion devoted to the fact that sites in three states – New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware -- are already up and running. Venetian / Las Vegas Sands’ Andy Abboud tried to walk the fine line of suggesting that brick-and-mortar casinos are desirable while Internet poker is so harmful to our nation that Congress needs to step in and ban states from allowing it, including the states that have already gone forward, by repeatedly quoting the coalition’s mantra -- “Internet gambling takes gambling too far.”
Abboud’s argument was rather ineffectual early in the hearing, and only got worse. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) inquired about Venetian’s marketing of Cantor Gaming’s mobile gaming devices, saying outright that it seemed hypocritical. Rep. Barton then drove the point home when he displayed a Venetian ad for mobile gaming and pressed Abboud for an explanation.
Abboud tried to argue that Venetian’s remote gaming is okay while all others need to be banned because Venetian’s remote gaming requires customers to interact with a person at the casino cage and that it takes place in a regulated state. The attempt to answer this fell so flat that Rep. Barton cut him off mid-answer and asked him not to try to filibuster the remaining time.
It was a very positive hearing for the poker community. I encourage you to check out the new PPA hearing page for all the detailed information you will need on this hearing. And, of course, if you have not yet watched the hearing, please be sure to do so:
Meeting with Two Plus Two
While on vacation in Las Vegas with my wife, we had a chance to meet with Mason Malmuth and Mat Sklansky. We all had terrific discussions on the future of poker, the House hearing, and optimal strategies for waging the fight for our game. I thank Mason, Mat, and Two Plus Two for their strong support for PPA and for the fight for our right to play poker.
Mat Sklansky, Rich Muny, and Mason Malmuth at the Two Plus Two office
U.S. v. DiCristina Update
Efforts also continue on the legal front. Recently, PPA reported that the defense in U.S. v. DiCristina had filed a request to have the case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The DiCristina case was the ground breaking case where, after review of exhaustive evidence, a Federal District Court judge found poker to clearly be a game predominantly of skill and ruled that, as a game of skill, it was not covered by a specific federal gambling law (the Illegal Gambling Businesses Act - IGBA).
Sadly, however, this past summer the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed part of the case and ruled that IGBA did apply to games of skill so long as they are also illegal under state law. The idea that poker games, especially small social poker games such as Mr. DiCristina's, should be treated the same as illegal lotteries, numbers and craps games is just wrong, and something PPA has fought since its founding. Accordingly, PPA, along with other members of the poker community, have joined Mr. DiCristina in asking the SCOTUS to review the case.
You can find all the briefs supporting the appeal at the PPA website, including one from PPA, another from a group of professional and amateur players, and one from poker historian (and author of Cowboys Full) James McManus. I encourage everyone to check these out.
Webcast: Poker Advocacy with Rich Muny
The Poker Advocacy with Rich Muny webcast airs live each Monday at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on OnTilt Radio. I was recently joined by Marco Valerio, Diamond Flush & Mike Gentile for a great panel discussion on the House hearing, New Jersey online poker, and poker advocacy. If you missed the live webcast, I hope you will listen to or download the free podcast and check it out. It is available as a directly downloadable MP3 file (right-click to save, left click to listen) or as a free iTunes download.
Each show features great guests and the best discussion on poker legislation. Please be sure to tune in each Monday evening for the live webcast!
Join PPA Today!
Thanks to the terrific generosity of Two Plus Two Publishing, PPA is able to provide all new, renewing, and current dues paying members with a downloadable PPA edition of the acclaimed book, Fundamentals of Poker, authored by Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis.
Whether you are a novice poker player looking to learn a new poker game or a seasoned veteran looking to brush up on your fundamentals, this book is a valuable resource to any poker player. At just $15 per year, great benefits like this and many others continue to keep PPA membership the best bet in poker.
I hope you enjoy this e-book, either for yourself or as a superb primer for a friend or loved one new to the game.