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Gaming Guru

Lisa Mascaro
 

Looking in on: Washington

4 December 2006

WASHINGTON -- They like to think of it as the green felt revolution - the upset defeat of Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, father of the Internet gambling ban, in last month's congressional election.

Leach had been in online gamblers' sights ever since Congress passed the ban as one of its final acts before the Nov. 7 election. Stunned by the new law, the Poker Players Alliance rallied members to take their outrage to the polls and cast ballots against those who voted for the ban.

Now, the group plans to use Leach's experience as an example.

A postelection poll commissioned by the poker players suggests that gambling may have helped do in the 15-term Republican congressman. The poll of 1,000 voters by RT Strategies showed that, among voters for whom the gambling subject was a pivotal issue, Leach's Democratic challenger, David Loebsack, enjoyed a 5 percentage point edge. Leach lost by 3 percentage points.

As the group starts introducing itself to the new Congress that takes over in January, the poker players plan to highlight the poll as part of its lobbying effort.

The group wants Congress to exempt poker players from the ban and study ways of legalizing online play as a legitimate licensed and taxed business.

"It's not a warning," said Michael Bolcerek, president of the group that counts 125,000 members. "It's that people care strongly about this issue and will consider that in their voting decisions."

Online poker playing, he said, is an issue that members of Congress "need to deal with."

Bolcerek said the group also urged its members to support poker-friendly members of Congress, including Nevada's Republican Rep. Jon Porter and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who authored legislation to study regulating online gaming.

Berkley was re-elected by a landslide in which the online issue likely was relatively inconsequential. And though Porter won by a narrow margin, the group did not poll to see whether the green felt revolution helped sweep them to victory.

• • •

Holiday season has begun at the White House and the Bush family pets have prominent roles in the production.

President and first lady Laura Bush's famous pooches, Barney and Miss Beazley, have their images crafted in ivy topiary on the ground floor corridor. Same with first cat Willie. They're all apparently down the hall from Rudolph and company.

Barney and Miss Beazley, both black Scottish terriers, also are on the dessert menu - as cutout cookies.

The first lady showed off this year's White House holiday decor, which includes no less than 17 Christmas trees. The White House expects 45,000 visitors during the holiday season.