Fossilman, the Professor and Jesus go to Congress

Discussion in 'Games of Chance' started by JackT, Apr 7, 2006.

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  1. JackT


    Here's an article that was recently in a NJ paper about three poker pros petitioning U.S. Congress in support of online poker. Banning credit cards seems to be yet another (largely ineffective) tool in the government's arsenal to stop the proliferaton of online gambling in the U.S. Interesting stuff.

    In poker showdown, star dares Congress to fold
    Wednesday, April 05, 2006
    WASHINGTON -- Having conquered Las Vegas, the Fossilman is taking on Washington.

    Greg "Fossilman" Raymer -- a professional gambler and winner of a 2004 record poker purse of $5 million -- was on Capitol Hill yesterday, lobbying against legislation that would tighten restrictions on online poker.

    Trading Vegas card rooms for the halls of Congress, Raymer and two of his professional gambling colleagues, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, made an unusual lobbying trio. No Gucci loafers for this group.

    The first-time lobbyists said they represent a constituency of millions of American poker players who have largely been silent in the political debate over online gambling.

    The gambler/lobbyists were here to oppose a bill that would ban the use of credit cards to play at online casino sites. Although it is illegal to run such a site in the United States, many other countries, including Great Britain, permit it, and Americans can easily access those foreign sites.

    "Online gambling doesn't just hurt gamblers and their families, it hurts the economy by draining dollars from the U.S.," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), the bill's sponsor. "Our children have been placed in harm's way as online gambling has been permitted to flourish," he said.

    Nonsense, said the Fossilman and his pals.

    "Why should this be prohibited just because it's on the Internet, when it is not prohibited otherwise?" Raymer said, adding that it should be the job of parents, not the government, to protect kids from all online threats.

    Radley Balko, a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said a credit card ban would have little effect. "First of all, it can't be stopped," Balko said, adding that gamblers could easily find alternative online payment services to place their bets.

    Raymer, Lederer and Ferguson are major figures in the poker world, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, in large measure because of online tournaments and coverage of the game on television.

    Raymer himself gained entrée into the 2004 World Series of Poker by winning on an Internet poker site. With his trademark lizard-eye hologram eyeglasses, he bested 2,500 entrants to win the $5 million prize, then the largest in poker tournament history.

    Asked to compare lobbying with poker playing, Raymer said there's no bluffing when it comes to fighting legislation. And because another bill can come along at anytime: "I don't think there is going to be an 'all-in' position."

    Ferguson, looking the part of the gambler in his beard and black cowboy hat, said online casinos have helped many players get their start and that Internet poker players are no longer looked at as mere amateurs in professional card rooms.

    "Players that have learned how to play poker on the Internet ... they come into the casino and do really well," he said.

    The three gamblers, all of whom acknowledge ties to online casinos, were representing the Poker Players Alliance, a group of some 20,000 players that is not funded directly by online casinos.

    Michael Bolcerek, president of the alliance, said poker is an "all-American game" enjoyed by presidents, congressmen, Supreme Court justices and ordinary people. A recent poll conducted for the alliance showed 74 percent of Americans don't believe the government should prevent poker playing on the Internet.

    Bolcerek said his group supports legalizing online gambling, with government regulation and taxation just like regular casinos.

    The American Gaming Association, which represents casinos, is neutral on the bill. Although online gaming does offer some competition to regular casinos, the industry would prefer to be able to enter the online world legally in the United States.

    Likewise, the National Council on Problem Gambling also is staying out of the fight, saying the legislation does not go far enough in addressing compulsive gambling through prevention, education, treatment and research.

    "We are very much concerned about the proliferation of gambling on the Internet, but simply trying to ban it does a disservice to dealing with this disease," said Keith Whyte, the council's executive director.

    While known nationally as one of the top pros in the poker world, Raymer showed a surprisingly keen understanding of the law and the legislative process. Before he became known as the poker-playing Fossilman -- for his passion for collecting fossils -- Raymer was a patent attorney.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2006