In a Wall Street Journal Law Blog today, Dan Slater reports on a rally led by Harvard University Professor Charles Nesson against pending provisions of a resort casino bill which would effectively criminalize poker in Massachusetts. Nesson, a Harvard undergrad and law school grad, turned prof, has argued many cases in front of the United States Supreme Court and was co-counsel in the case against W.R. Grace (which was later made into the book and movie, A Civil Action). But, most importantly for the poker playing community, he founded the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS) which is “currently leading a project to ratify university as a meta player in cyberspace, to legitimize and teach poker and the value of strategic poker thinking…”
Nesson is leading the charge as an academic seconding what the poker playing community has been saying all along. According to their website, the GPSTS “views poker as an exceptional game of skill that can be used as a powerful teaching tool at all levels of academia and in secondary education. We use poker to teach strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment and money management. We see poker as a metaphor for skills of life, business, politics and international relations. Our goal is to create an open online curriculum centered on poker that will draw the brightest minds together, both from within and outside of the conventional university setting, to promote open education and Internet democracy.”
As far as the rally, according to the Wall Street Journal Blog, Nesson timed it yesterday to precede a hearing about the bill held by the joint committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Nesson calls for an explanation of Governor Patrick’s anti-poker provisions which would sentence poker players to fines of up to $25,000 and a two-year jail sentence. “I don’t think filling our expensive jail cells with poker players is what Massachusetts voters had in mind when they elected Deval Patrick,” Nesson said.
According to the Journal, Nesson has been fighting to legalize internet poker for some time alongside fellow Harvard University Professor, Alan Dershowitz. Nesson said in the Boston Herald he was “affronted” when Congress banned online poker and other types of Internet gaming last year. “The idea of Internet freedom is a core notion of modern political freedom,” Nesson said. Dershowitz argues that because poker is game of skill it should be legal. “It’s certainly not a game of chance. It is ridiculous to call either poker or sports betting a game of chance.”
Nesson also claims that playing poker has tremendous benefits to lawyers-in-training. “It’s really the poker way of thinking that is the most deeply intriguing thing to me,” Nesson said. “The essence of poker is this business of seeing from the other person’s point of view.” Nesson explains that to his students that “if they want to do something useful in their outside time, they should play poker.” With such famed Harvard Professors behind the wheel, bans beginning to be lifted around the world, and studies presenting the huge amount of tax dollars the government can make from online poker, it seems that online poker laws may be unraveling.