On Thursday afternoon, American poker advocacy group the Poker Players Alliance issued a call to action. They are requesting signatures on an open letter addressing the congressional testimony given by a representative of Commerce Casino.
The testimony in question was made by Tom Malkasian, vice chairman of the Commerce Casino board. Last month, he appeared before the congressional Financial Services Committee to give the official stance of Commerce Casino on HR 2267, a bill that proposes to legalize and regulate online gambling in the U.S. He began by thanking the bill's sponsor, Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, for his initiative on the issue of gambling regulation, but went on to explain that the Commerce board of directors oppose the bill in its current form.
The core of their argument is that by allowing online gaming operators to be based off-shore rather than in the U.S., the bill is passing up an opportunity to bring jobs and tax revenues into the country. They take issue with the projected revenue figure of $42 billion so often touted by proponents of HR 2267, saying instead that that figure underestimates how many of the licensed operators will be based outside of the U.S. They also argue that regulating online gambling through HR 2267 would give a tremendous competitive advantage to "overseas sites beyond the reach of US law enforcement" that have continued to offer online gaming for U.S. customers in violation of current laws. Though no companies are named, it's clear that Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker fall into that category and will receive some sort of penalty if the Commerce lobbyists get their way.
The PPA's response letter states that Commerce directors are putting "narrow corporate interests ahead of the interests of America’s poker players." They explain that HR 2267 will benefit poker players by creating safety and consumer protection standards that are absent from the current U.S. online gambling market. The letter harshly condemns Commerce Casino for their stance, writing, "your organization demonstrated complete disregard for every poker player who has ever patronized your establishment."
The open letter also raises a new issue not addressed in the congressional testimony: an isolated California-only online poker network. According to the PPA, Commerce Casino is pushing for state legislation that would allow the creation of such a network, effectively sealing off California from any potential national gaming networks. By setting a precedent for sequestered single-state networks, such legislation would limit the choices and freedoms of poker players across the country.
The PPA has created a website dedicated to organizing opposition to the testimony. In addition to asking for signatures on their open letter, the website encourages visitors to email, call, or tweet Commerce Casino to request a change in their stance on the bill. As of 3pm Friday, 5494 people have signed their names to the letter, including such notable pros as Doyle Brunson, Tom Dwan, and Joe Sebok.
To stand with the PPA against the Commerce Casino, click here to sign the letter.
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