Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s predilection for poker. The revelation that he enjoys the occasional cash game with some of his political allies was greeted rapturously by the poker community. As more level headed members of the industry predicted there has been little to no comment on online poker from the White House.
Now though, it seems as though the public may force the president’s hand. Obama set up the Citizen’s Briefing Book on his Change.gov website shortly before his inauguration, in order to gauge which issues the American public wanted him to tackle. Ideas were submitted in the form of short paragraphs, with users then given the option to comment and vote the issue up or down.
Submissions were closed and the issues collated ready to be presented to the president, and copies of the final edition have now been circulated to numerous White House staff. Suggestions were categorized and moved into specific topics, one of which was ‘technology’. Poker players will be delighted to hear that the number one issue in that category was the legalization of online poker.
A total of 44,000 different suggestions were posted, with 125,000 users casting 1.4 million votes. The suggestion that online poker should be re-legalized as an economic stimulus proved extremely popular, coming in 11th overall. The idea was posted by Aaron Huertas of Washington D.C. It read:
Let online poker players in the United States play legally and without fear of prosecution. Reform the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to exempt poker, a game of skill, from the law. Boost the economy by letting American companies and American players make money and pay taxes instead of sending online poker businesses offshore. Protect online poker players by regulating the industry to ensure that no one is ever cheated.
Figures from the poker industry have pounced on this news to further the cause of legal online poker in the United States. “Poker players around the country are speaking with one voice to protect the game they love, and the White House is hearing that message. The popularity of online poker continues to grow, and the fact that poker is the top technology issue – and the 11th issue overall – proves that this is not a niche issue, but a national public policy that this Congress and this president should advance this year,” said Poker Player’s Alliance Executive Director John Pappas.
His organization has been lobbying hard in support of Congressman Barney Frank’s new bill, which proposes the introduction of a regulated and licensed legal poker industry. The popularity of online poker among U.S. voters may well be enough to convince those in power that the time is right to repeal the UIGEA and restore online poker to legality.