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    Drawing Against a Made Hand

    Posted by Coffee April 3, 2014

    Last Wednesday, two bills were introduced into the United States Congress that aimed to reform the Wire Act so that it covers internet gambling. In effect, these bills would signal the end of the poker-playing era online until new legislation could make it legal again – and it is unknown when such legalization might occur. The two main sponsors of the House and Senate bills, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Senator Lindsey Graham, are both staunch Republicans who presented the bills on moral grounds.

    Never mind the fact that Sheldon Adelson’s money is behind at least one of these bills and one of these legislators (Las Vegas Sands donated several thousands of dollars to Lindsey Graham). Never mind the fact that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, will likely not let these bills reach the Senate floor due to his ties to competing casino contributors. These facts are disturbing, but miss the real problem that we face.

    Good poker players know the danger of drawing against a made hand. I feel as though we are beginning to be in that position with regard to our policy stance. Simply put, anti-gambling advocates – the ones that vote, not Mr. Adelson’s anti-competitive position- feel the way they do out of deeply-held beliefs. They don’t view gambling as simply a minor nuisance – it is a destructive influence in our homes and in our cities and in the minds of our children. Their fervor cannot be tempered by reason on this point, because gambling, and indeed, most vices, is immoral both politically and religiously.

    Most poker players love the game. However, it does not rise to the level of importance of a religion – it is merely a nice way to spend time and try to make a bit of money. More troublingly, the two prevailing attitudes about gambling in the general public seem to be either negativity or apathy, rather than negativity and positivity. In this dichotomy lies our deepest problem.

    Most people simply wouldn’t care if gambling disappeared. So many more issues are higher on their priority lists. Ultimately, this leads to a paradigm where the only voices we hear are the negative ones.

    Frankly, I don’t have many solutions for this problem. I’m not sure I believe that these bills will be the ones that drag online poker to its grave. However, I’m worried because of the trend they might portend – a trend where beating up on gambling and poker is an easy and mostly-victimless way for politicians to score points with their constituencies. Unfortunately, we’re the victims, and it seems that we could become a casualty of living in a democratic system.

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