Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Emily D. Swoboda

Q.& A. | Alfonse M. D'Amato

23 July 2008

As the chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Republican of New York, has been outspoken about his distaste for the manner in which Congress has handled -- or mishandled -- legislation dealing with Internet gambling in the United States.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which Mr. D'Amato calls "preposterous," kicked off a bevy of bills to counteract its effect. But none has had the success that the gambling enforcement act had in Congress in 2006.

He believes strongly in the legalization and regulation of online poker -- and online gambling for that matter, because it is necessary for the protection of people who have a right to spend their money on whatever form of entertainment they see fit.

It's been nearly two years since the act passed. Clearly, United States residents are going to continue gambling online, but Mr. D'Amato is concerned by the lack of regulatory security currently afforded to American I-gamers.

Mr. D'Amato, who is keynote at the upcoming Next Generation in Gambling conference in Montreal, spoke to IGamingNews by telephone on Tuesday about his upcoming presentation, the current state of United States federal policy and his baby, the million-member PPA.

    Q: Can you give me a little teaser about your presentation at the conference?

    A: I hope to spell out how this ridiculous legislation came to be. It was not in a traditional way; it was totally back-door. I will name names. I will name how the political power brokers passed this not to protect little innocent children, but to advance their own political career.

    Q: Looking in Thomas today, I saw that the Skill Games Protection Act has not moved since June 2007. Have you heard anything about its progress or its fate?

    A: We have been building an alliance in order to counteract the tremendously powerful lobbying groups, in many cases being directed by interests to hide behind the so-called Christian right and the social conservatives who say we have to protect our little youngsters. And who's behind them? You'll find the N.F.L. Here they are supporting these groups in a very surreptitious manner, who then run around the Hill telling Congress members that if they were to vote in any way to permit the use of Internet for online poker playing, they will then go into their districts and tell people how they are harming little children.

    That's a very powerful thing to overcome in an election year when a 30-second sound bite can be less than truthful and yet can be potentially damaging even to the best of the members of the Congress.

    With the deep voice saying: "Did you know that your congressmen voted to permit youngsters to gamble on the Internet? That the addiction rates for youngsters gambling on the Internet are soaring? Tell Congressman So-and-so how you feel."

    You know, that kind of message -- and I'm just paraphrasing.

    So, in an election year I think it's difficult to think that you're going to move effectively in provoking this preposterous legislation (the gambling enforcement act).

    But I do believe that we are educating and bringing about the feeling in Congress that there are much better ways to control the utilization of the Net by youngsters, and that's by having rules and regulations and not trying simply to ban it.

    Q: Speaking of 30-second sound bites, HR 5767 was very close in its vote. What was your reaction personally to the outcome?

    A: I was very hopeful that we could actually pass it.

    I'm not surprised, given the arm-twisting and given the fact that Congressman Bachus really made this a matter of party loyalty and read into the record some ridiculous facts, or ridiculous numbers that he tried to say were factual when indeed they were not.

    And indeed, if he really understood what the licensing would do, it would prevent youngsters who are now using the Net in gaming houses that are not controlled, not regulated, not supervised, to see that there are honest games.

    It (licensing) presents the total review of every game that would be played and the requirements that, if you want to put games like poker on the Net, you would have to also assure a methodology that would prevent underage people from using it. And there are computer programs that exist today to prevent youngsters from using it.

    So, today, while I'm not suggesting that all of the offshore gaming people who put poker on the Internet are unscrupulous, there have been some very serious charges that look like, in some cases, they may have merit, where some of the houses have been infiltrated by people who have taken advantage of the fact that there are not proper rules and regs and supervision. But if you had rules and regs you could assure that the games were protected against the kinds of things that were taking place.

    Q: I'd like to switch gears a little and talk about the PPA. What, in your opinion, has the PPA achieved in the first half of this year and where are you headed in this half?

    A: We took our membership up to one million.

    We have come very close in our last legislative effort with a 32-to-32 tie. I think that, hopefully, as a result, we have been able get our PPA members to call on some of the members of Congress who at the last minute felt compelled to vote against the King amendment to get them to reconsider.

    What we're doing is asking people to use their right to petition their members of Congress to say: "Look, we want our rights upheld and we're going to hold you accountable."

    I think it's going to work and I think it is working, and I look forward to getting that legislative effort passed before Congress goes out of session.

Q.& A. | Alfonse M. D'Amato is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda