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    Jack Abramoff on gambling: “I could have stopped the UIGEA.” | QuadJacks Poker Radio Network Thursday January 26 2012

    Posted by Quad Jacks March 14, 2012

    Former lobbyist and author Jack Abramoff explains to QuadJacks how he would have effectively opposed the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 if he had been around to do so, just like he did with the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in 1999 and 2003.

    by Marco Valerio

    Jack Abramoff, author of the new book Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist, appeared on The Gaming World on QuadJacks Poker Radio on Thursday, and spoke at length of his many years representing gambling interests on Capitol Hill. In 1999 and 2003, Abramoff was instrumental in stopping the Internet Gambling Prohibition Initiative (IGPA), which was a precursor to what ultimately became the UIGEA.

    In 1999, U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a bill called the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which, if successfully passed, would have explicitly outlawed all forms of Internet gambling in the United States, with the notable exemption of horse racing wagering. The bill was likely on the way to being approved, since it was mostly supported by Republicans, who at the time controlled both houses.

    eLottery, an Internet company looking to continue providing online ticket sales, contracted Abramoff for the purpose of preventing the bill from being passed. Until then, opponents of the bill were mostly attempting to convince its supporters that online gambling was not such a big deal and that citizens should have reserved the right to do whatever they wanted on the Internet. This wasn’t working. So Abramoff and his agents were able to overturn right-wing support for the bill by utilizing an alternative method of persuasion.

    LISTEN to the 1/26 interview with Jack Abramoff on The Gaming World:

    [video url="http://www.quadjacks.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/TheGamingWorldJack.mp3" name="mp3" align="aligncenter" height="46"]
    Right click save as to download

    “I took a totally different tactic,” Abramoff told The Gaming World. “I went to the Christian groups, who I was friends with, and I said, ‘You’re about to legalize Internet gambling for the first time, for the racetracks. You’re creating an absolutely positively legal avenue to do Internet gambling.’ I drove that pretty hard, and they concurred after reading the bill.”

    Basing himself on the bill’s exemption for horse racing wagering, Abramoff was effectively able to make a substantially anti-gambling bill look like a dangerously pro-gambling bill in the eyes of principled anti-gambling lawmakers, and above all, their constituents.

    “That was the tactic, to basically come at it from the other side.”

    It worked. IGPA was rejected in 2000, but it was revived in 2003. Abramoff was able to defeat the bill’s passage once again, based on the same exemption for horse racing, which Abramoff claims could not be removed because removing it would have drawn a filibuster by a number of senators from Kentucky and California.

    Jack Abramoff had to terminate his lobbying activity in 2004 when he began being investigated for corruption and fraud charges, which resulted in a conviction and six-year prison sentence beginning in 2006. (He was released after three and a half years, in 2010.) 2006 was the year that then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) was successful in attaching a similar offshoot of IGPA, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), to the SAFE Port Act at the last minute, a move that has been described as “sneaky” and underhanded in retrospect by several gambling and political commentators.

    Suppose that Jack Abramoff had not been plagued and halted by his indictment in 2005, and that he had been able to continue his lobbying activities into 2006. Would he or could he have done anything to alter the course of the UIGEA’s history?

    He definitely thinks so.

    “If I were still lobbying, and assuming I would have kept representing the client I had, which I would have, I absolutely would have been able to beat it. I knew exactly how to beat this bill.”

    Abramoff says he would have employed the same strategies he used to defeat the IGPA the first and second times around. He recognizes that the UIGEA’s main characteristic of restricting transactions from banks to gambling sites was a “smarter” improvement over the IGPA, but he maintains he would have resorted to similarly exploitable exemptions, such as the UIGEA’s vagueness or tolerance of horse racing and intrastate gaming.

    Abramoff blames “feckless lobbyists” for having been unable to stop the UIGEA, especially since, in Congress, “it is much easier to play defense than offense,” but you need to play “aggressive” defense, as described in greater detail by Abramoff in his book, Capitol Punishment.

    “We dropped nuclear bombs all over the place, to make sure that people went along with us,” Abramoff continued on The Gaming World. “I doubt the lobbyists who were working on [preventing UIGEA] at the time did that, because the bill got through.”

    Abramoff emphasizes that “it’s easier to stop a bill than it is to push a bill through,” and therefore, for a bill like the UIGEA to get through successfully, “it either means the other side is not doing its job, or it’s an extraordinary effort on the part of those who are promoting it.”

    Asked if he thinks the bill’s last minute attachment to the SAFE Port Act would have caught him or anyone else too off guard before he could do anything, Abramoff dismisses the obstacle of this maneuver.

    “Goodlatte tried that [with the IGPA] when we were opposed to him. He tried to run the bill under the suspension rules, which are what enable you to sneak a bill through on the floor. We were just too vigilant. You can sneak things through if your opponent is sleeping. Not if your opponent is vigilant. I had people monitoring the floor 24 hours a day. Nobody snuck anything through against us.”

    How differently would history have turned out, had Mr. Abramoff been around to contest the UIGEA in 2006? What would the online poker environment be like in the United States today? Would Party Poker ever have withdrawn? Would PokerStars, and especially Full Tilt Poker, have experienced the same kind of growth and expansion? Would Black Friday ever even have happened? As fun as it may be to speculate, we will never know.

    *** ***

    The 40-minute long interview features additional key insight by Abramoff on several issues which pertain to the industry today. He recounts his other experiences and adventures in lobbying for the interests of Indian gaming groups, for which Abramoff received the nickname “Casino Jack.” He also describes the politics and lobbying of the gambling industry in Congress the way he has experienced them and often innovated them. He explains in greater depth why he thinks the odds are against the passage of an online poker bill, believing it to be not impossible, just very difficult.

    WATCH the 1/26 interview with Jack Abramoff on The Gaming World:

    QuadJacks – Thursday, January 26, 2012

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