Poker Partisans Up Ante with a Protest; at Issue Is Whether Betting Will Be Regulated or Banned Online

Article excerpt

Byline: Clare Courchane, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

An angry full house of poker players descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday to protest the federal crackdown that abruptly closed down three of the leading Internet poker sites in April.

We're deeply concerned about losing our rights, said former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, the chairman of the Poker Player's Alliance, a nonprofit group that helped organize the rally outside the Capitol. It's about rights of what you can do in your own home on your own time.

The protest comes just more than a month after FBI agents seized three major online poker websites - Full Tilt, PokerStars and Cereus - and charged 11 executives with bank fraud, operating illegal gambling businesses and money laundering.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the crackdown was meant to put new teeth into a 2006 bill meant to regulate online gambling and the estimated $6 billion industry that has grown up with the online poker boom. The Poker Player's Alliance and other poker groups say online poker is a right and the government should work to regulate it instead of trying to prohibit it completely.

Mr. D'Amato said the gathering was an attempt to put a face to the 10 million online poker players in America. He said the best course would be for Congress to not only make online poker legal, but also to regulate it strictly.

We believe in proper rules and regulations, and for them to be followed, said Mr. D'Amato.

Linda Johnson, a professional poker player, said the government move had been disastrous for her both financially and personally.

It's not just a loss of a source of income. It's my hobby, my passion, Ms. Johnson said. I travel over 200 days of the year, and at night in my hotel room I love to play online poker. And I often play it at home. …