When I went head to head with Joan Rivers on the show "Celebrity Apprentice," I knew that I had to use a combination of toughness, charm, bluff, and know-how to make the final episode. But as a professional poker player, I am used to using all of those tools to get to the final table, and ultimately make a good living playing cards.
Professional and amateur poker players from around the country are using those same skills as they come to Washington this week to get Congress to regulate and tax online poker.
The Poker Players Alliance represents over a million poker players from around the country. The poker players play in all kinds of poker rooms, from the friendly, low-stakes game at the kitchen table, to the high-stakes, high-pressure games in the big casinos. We also represent online poker players, people who choose to match wits with opponents on their computers in the comfort of their own home.
Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, who became an instant celebrity when he won the World Series of Poker five years ago, honed his skills as a poker player by playing on the Internet, and he is not alone. Millions of Americans play online poker everyday, and they do so legally.
U.S. laws governing Internet gambling are unclear; while no one claims that playing poker on-line violates federal law, the Department of Justice takes the position that one federal law -- The Wire Act of 1961 -- prohibits all Internet gaming, including poker. However, courts have found that law to only govern sports betting. Rather than clarify what is and isn't legal, in 2006 Congress passed a law that told financial institutions to block payments for "unlawful Internet gambling" -- but then didn't clarify what that term means. This lack of clarity has created an unfortunate dynamic where millions of Americans play online poker but none of them play on American-owned websites.
Professional and amateur poker players are coming to Washington to deliver an online petition signed by over a 300,000 people in less than a month, asking Congress to regulate and then tax online poker playing in the United States. When is the last time an industry came to Washington and actually asked to be taxed? But poker players know that the current situation, where poker playing is legal but owning a poker-playing site is not, is completely unsustainable
There is a grassroots rebellion going on in America when it comes to poker. When the President asked the public to name their top issues through his government website, making Internet poker legal was among the top requests of the American people. The President knows about the popularity of poker -- he is an avid player himself. And he is not alone. Poker is a favorite Washington pastime among members of Congress, Senators, members of the Supreme Court, and even among the news media.
Proponents of a poker ban say it's all about kids, but protecting kids comes not through poorly prosecuted prohibition, but through common-sense regulation. The Poker Players Alliance will hold a forum on Capitol Hill during their fly-in, highlighting the efforts of several companies to make it more difficult - if not impossible - for kids to get access to poker playing sites. But these efforts are all for naught as long as Congress continues this unhelpful ban on American Internet poker companies.
When we come to Washington, we will meet with members of Congress, like Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Peter King of New York, who understand that the best way to protect kids, promote freedom and collect more taxes, is to create a licensed, regulated Internet poker industry in the United States. We will also meet with our opponents, lay our cards on the table and call their bluff.
I have played a lot of poker in my time, so I know a winning hand when I see one. Giving the American people more freedom, collecting more tax revenue for the government, enhancing regulations to protect children, and bringing more common sense to our legal system looks like a Royal Flush to me.