Wexler bring UIGEA fight to Vegas
Vin Narayanan, Casino City
Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) brought
their fight to repeal the UIGEA and legalize Internet poker
to the World Series of Poker last Monday.
chairman and chief lobbyist for the PPA, urged poker players
before the start of play to write their Senators and Congressmen
and ask them to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement
"Why should Americans
not be able to play poker online when they can bet on the
ponies online?" D'Amato asked the cheering crowd before
he kicked off Day 1D play by yelling "Shuffle up and
Later that afternoon, the large
field of competitors paused to hear Wexler talk about returning
online poker to American players.
"A few months ago, the
government made a big mistake," Wexler said, referring
to the passage of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement
Act. "They butted into the lives of Americans told
them they couldn't play poker."
is as much our pastime as baseball," Wexler told the
audience. "It's a game of skill," Wexler said
as the crowd cheered. Then he urged the players to write
their representatives and support his proposed legislation
that would Americans to gamble on skill games, including
The crowd roared its approval,
and Wexler and D'Amato continued their tour of the WSOP
and Wexler also made time to sit down with Casino City to
discuss repealing the UIGEA and creating a skill game UIGEA
exception for poker.
AD: I'm fighting for the disenfranchised
poker player. They've lost the right to play on the Internet.
They should have the right to play on the Internet the same
way Americans have the rights to bet on the ponies on the
Internet. They've disenfranchised us. They've disenfranchised
the poor poker player. That's why I've joined this crusade.
They've made us second class citizens. They've made us thieves.
That's the implication (of the UIGEA). We're a country of
VN: What did you think of the
It's quite something. But imagine how much greater and more
spectacular it would be if you had players playing on the
Internet. What a competition that would be. That's the kind
of thing that this can eventually be. But the legislation
that was surreptitiously attached to the Safe Ports Act,
the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act prevents that.
It's one of the most hypocritical pieces of legislation
ever passed and it was done in a duplicitous way. It says
you're engaged in a criminal act if you're playing poker,
but it's okay to bet on horses, or lotteries, which is every
bit the gambling – if not more than poker.
(At this point, PPA president
Michael Bolcerek interjects and reminds D'Amato that the
UIGEA just makes financial transactions illegal, not poker
AD: Let's not be lawyers about
this. It deprives you of the opportunity to play poker.
It makes you deal with criminals. Anyone engaging in the
wire transfers is guilty of criminal conduct. Essentially,
they're banning you from playing poker. They're saying you
can't do in you home what you can do by walking down the
street to a casino.
VN: What about underage gambling?
AD: If you want to stop youngsters
from gambling, why don't you ban horse racing? At least
under the legislation proposed by (Barney) Frank, who's
been heroic, and Wexler, they (online casinos) will have
to use all kinds of sophisticated programs to prevent underage
people from playing on the Internet. The technology works.
And we will show Congress it works. All this sanctimonious
business about how we don't want our kids to gamble on the
Internet; I thought that fell on the mamma and poppa. I
didn't know big-brother government should step in. I'm going
to be 70, why should I be precluded from gambling online.
VN: What type of pressure does
the WTO ruling against the U.S. bring?
AD: Now we're looking down
the barrel of powerful cannon that's going to blow our trade
to smithereens as a result of the EU, Australia, and others
bringing the same action (as Antigua) against the U.S. It
will result in billions of dollars in penalties. And some
of the biggest companies will be hurt when their IP is infringed
upon. (Antigua and Barbuda is threatening to lift copyright
protections.) Whether it's the entertainment industry --
Time Warner, Disney –- or Microsoft, and a number
of other leading technologies, the damage will be real.
VN: The EU says they want access
to new markets rather than money for compensation in the
WTO case. Doesn't that lessen the pressure the U.S. might
AD: It's going to be billions
of dollars we lose if that happens. Carried to its logical
conclusion, it will be a colossal trade war. I can see a
scenario that some that will want the sugar quotas lifted.
And others will want another market opened. It will turn
into a huge battle. And we're wrong. We shouldn't be involved
in this battle.
VN: Many industry experts have
called for study on online gaming. They claim it's the only
way to get data that Congress can use to pass a future law
regulating online gaming. Yet you're pushing directly for
a repeal or skill game exception. Why?
AD: You're hearing that from
certain segments of industry. And those segments are anxious
to protect their businesses. You're not going to stop the
Internet and its utilization for all kinds of economic and
commercial activities. The same companies (that want a study)
will be pushing for repeal soon. Some are already. Others
will move in that direction. And you can study this until
the cows come home. But it's not going to change.
VN: How are you going to get
the votes needed to pass any legislation?
AD: We're going to pick up
the votes -- I'm just not sure we're going to pick up the
votes before the WTO violation of law on our part. The WTO
ruling plus a million members (editor's note: the PPA currently
has almost 600,000 members) gives us critical mass. But
members have to call Congress and write into them. And not
just a form letter. The have to tell them what they think
and feel. And the educational process we're engaged in before
the mark up for the Frank bill to show (Congress) that programs
keep youngsters on the Internet away from poker will help.
VN: I know you love to play
poker Senator. How come you're not playing in the Main Event?
AD: I didn't enter the World
Series because if I did, I would obviously make the final
table, and that would take a week. Unfortunately, I have
some things to do back in New York, so I couldn't enter.
VN: Why go for a skill gaming
exception rather than an outright appeal of UIGEA?
Barney (Frank) wants to undo the whole law. I went after
poker and games of skill because that's the best argument
that Americans understand. 'Why can you play in your kitchen
and not online?' Poker is a game of skill where there's
no house. You play against other people who want to play
you. I would also favor an outright appeal as well.
VN: You're obviously passionate
about the issue. Why?
RW: People are passionate about
games of skill, like poker, and Congress has no business
dictating the venues in which they're played.
People have been playing (poker)
on the kitchen table, in the house, and in the halls of
Congress for centuries. The idea to ban it on the Internet
is illogical. Add on (legal) betting on horse racing and
lotteries online, and there's no legitimate case for not
letting people bet on poker online. We'll prevent underage
gambling with the technology. And money laundering too.
VN: What kind of impact has
the WTO ruling against the U.S. had?
nations are bringing the U.S to task. And an amended schedule
has enormous financial implications as well. But we shouldn't
be violating the WTO. We can't expect China, India and Europe
to respect the WTO if we don't.
VN: Have you heard from the
Microsoft's and Disney's of the world asking about Antigua
and Barbuda's threat to suspend copyright protections?
RW: We haven't yet, but we
will. And rightfully so. The prohibition of online poker
and games of skill are just registering with people. They're
just learning what the ramifications will be. And that will
affect all sorts of elements of our economy.
VN: Any final thoughts?
RW: Prohibition didn't work
when we tried to outlaw alcohol. And it's not going to work
if we try to outlaw poker. It's going to result in poker
players using offshore sites that expose them to financial
fraud. It's counterproductive.
VN: Do you play poker?
RW: I play casually.
VN: What did you think of the
RW: I wish more people could
see the WSOP. It shows there's an extraordinary enthusiasm
for the game of skill.