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Aaron Todd

Aaron  Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

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Convincing Congress to change its stance on Internet gambling

20 Jun 2007

By Aaron Todd

I met with Jim Gordon, a staffer for my Congressman, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), this afternoon. My Congressman has been holding "Open Office" hours for the last two weeks to let his constituents voice their opinions on issues we feel he should be addressing.

I talked about Internet gambling.

I told him that I believed that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was not an effective means of controlling Internet gambling, and I asked that Rep. Lynch take another look at the issue. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, recently held a hearing that explored the feasibility of regulating the industry, and there are several bills in the House that would change the U.S. stance on the $15.5 billion industry.

I'm pretty well versed in this stuff (it is my job, after all). And Gordon admitted that he didn't know much about the issue, so I did my best to educate him.

I explained that the UIGEA was passed because former Senate majority leader Bill Frist attached the bill to the Safe Ports Act. I explained that it's ineffective and that millions of Americans continue to gamble online today. And I detailed how the U.S. had lost a World Trade Organization case to Antigua as a result of its stance on Internet gambling, and that now Antigua and the European Union are demanding compensation since the U.S. seems determined to ignore the ruling by changing its international commitments in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

I also had plenty of information at my fingertips. I told Gordon that 23 million Americans play poker online. I told him that the Poker Players Alliance had seen its membership grow to over 570,000 in the last year. And I told him that Quantria Strategies estimated that regulating online poker alone could bring in $3.3 billion in tax revenues for the U.S. government.

"That could pay for a day and a half in Iraq," Gordon said.

I went in armed with ammunition, not to attack, but to educate. Gordon, who went into the conversation not knowing much about the issue, agreed that the legislation didn't seem to make much sense. Now he doesn't speak for how Rep. Lynch feels about the issue (he voted for the UIGEA last July), but I know that Gordon will pass my message along. Hopefully, my Congressman will reconsider his vote when the next piece of legislation on Internet gambling comes across his desk.

When Gordon and I were wrapping up our conversation, I guessed that he didn't think that he'd be talking about Internet gambling today, did he?

"We get all types of concerns in these meetings," Gordon said. "From the person who wants the crosswalk on their street repainted to people who are concerned about the war in Iraq. You never know what you're going to get."

Our Congressmen are busy people. They are pulled in dozens of directions by a variety of issues, some of which, to be perfectly honest, are much more important than the future of Internet gambling in America.

But I believe that most Congressmen, when presented with the facts, will agree that the UIGEA is not a good law. So let the education process begin. Write letters. Go to open office hours, if your Congressman offers them. Get a clear, well-reasoned argument for regulation across, and maybe the momentum for change will build.

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