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American Gaming Association Pushing for Online Poker

Card Player Talks With Frank Fahrenkopf, President and CEO of AGA


The American Gaming Association (AGA) is currently working towards an online poker bill, which will likely be drafted and introduced to Congress in the next month or so, as lawmakers and casino executives have been in discussions since the events of April 15, according to Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., President and CEO of the AGA.

The potential federal legislation would align fundamentally with the constitution, allowing states to decide on the issue. “You have to make sure each state has the right to say yay or nay,” said Fahrenkopf, who supports the Department of Justice going after gaming entities that are violating federal law.

While the AGA’s job is to promote and protect the country’s gaming industry, it has remained neutral to online gaming bills that have come before Congress in the past, as well as individual state bills to provide internet poker. The only real solution to the problem, according to Fahrenkopf, is to have the federal government get its act together.

“I have a hard time understanding, other than California and Florida, where you are going to have enough liquidity and players that would really make an intrastate poker site worth it. States are free to do what they want, but it’s hard to see how state-by-state legislation is the way to go. We don’t get involved at the state level at all. My job is at the federal level here in Washington. I don’t go in and lobby for or against anything in the states."

If a blanket law was passed for the United States, the country could protect an estimated 15 million Americans who go online to gamble, and tax a poker share that could provide about $2 billion annually in tax revenue. For Fahrenkopf, one of those benefits takes priority, as the major selling point of federal legislation is not dollars or an estimated 10,000 new high-tech jobs.

“I view online poker legislation as an anti-crime-consumer-protection bill,” he said. “Now the result is also that it will generate some revenue. It will generate some revenue for the states involved, the states where the bettors are, and revenue generated to the federal government because there will now be tracking on winnings. People who are winning at online poker will have to pay income tax.”

Frank FahrenkopfFahrenkopf said that if Congress doesn’t act quickly, players will be forced to engage in action on an estimated 1,000 remaining foreign operators, who may be less trustworthy than those who were indicted on April 15. “I am convinced, and I am telling members on the hill, that the vacuum left by PokerStars and Full Tilt, will be filled shortly, and we will be back to where we were before the indictments were handed out. That’s just the way it is.”

Protecting people, whether it be consumers, sinners, or people who the government thinks are incapable of choosing what to do with their own money, has been an argument on both sides of the aisle on the issue of regulating online poker.

“We poll every year to get the attitudes of the American people towards gambling,” Fahrenkopf said. “The polls have been very consistent over the past 14 years. We know that 80 to 85 percent of the American people have no problem with any form of gambling, whether it’s for themselves or others. But there is a hardcore 15 percent who are opposed to all forms of gambling, and it’s on religious and moral grounds. You are never going to change those people’s minds. They are opposed, and it is apart of their religious dogma. There are many people in Congress, in both political parties, who are against gaming of any sort. You have those on the far right, who usually tend to be libertarians, take the position that any sort of gambling is a sin, and that they have a duty to protect people and prevent them from spending eternity in hell with the devil.”

“Now the democratic side that opposes this, tends to be the more liberal democrats and they don’t care about the sinning, but they don’t think people are smart enough to make their own decisions on how to spend their own money, and the government has to be this paternalistic entity. You have this strange marriage between the extreme right and the extreme left, and you are never going to get those people to change.”

Thus, according to Fahrenkopf, the message has to be conveyed to those in the middle, but it will be a very difficult sell. Knowledge about the technological capabilities to excluded underage gamblers, confirm player identities, ensure fair play, limit problem gambling, restrict bets from jurisdictions that prohibit online gambling, and ensure that gambling websites are not used for money laundering and other illegal purposes, is something that is lacking in Congress.

“There is a technological challenge we need to meet,” Fahrenkopf said. “I just came from Capitol Hill, and I sat down to meet with the chairman of a very powerful committee in the house. He is a very smart guy and has been in congress a long time, and the first question out of his mouth was about whether, in regards to the new legislation, someone in a place where it’s illegal could gamble online.”

Despite a need to educate U.S. lawmakers on technological issues surrounding online poker, the live version of the game has immense popularity among the leaders in Washington, perhaps providing online poker with its one true hope for the future. According to Fahrenkopf, there are poker games going on every night between members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices, and that President Obama likes to play poker. “It is more politically acceptable in the climate of Congress today to go with poker. It is just a fact of life.”

While the technology exists to create a relatively safe atmosphere of online poker, or at the very least a system that would fine and severely punish operator offenses, Fahrenkopf said that the gaming industry needs to adapt or face the severe consequences by ignoring the demand of a new generation of players. “We live in the digital world. My job is to do what I can for the best interest of our industry. I don’t want to see us go the way of newspapers and bookstores, and other industries that have not responded to the digital world we live in.”

Even though it seems like the impetus to establish federal legislation for online poker is at its highest in history, Fahrenkophf acknowledged that the chips will fall where they may. “This is going to be a hard slog. This is not an easy piece of legislation to pass. We saw Barney Frank’s bill being introduced in two separate Congresses, and it was only in the last Congress that it made it out of committee, and he was the chairman of the committee at the time. We have to be lucky, as well as good in what we do.”

Poker players everywhere are accustomed to the notion that sometimes no amount of skill at the table can overcome a rush of brutal beats in a given session. Like the game itself, efforts to make it finally regulated by the federal government are part of a long-term project. Grinding out the edges, and with regards to legislation, what many lawmakers believe to be a commonsense issue, seems like the game plan.

“We have a strange anomaly where it is not against the law for me to place a bet on the internet," Fahrenkopf said. “I am not guilty of any crime, but there is no U.S. company or licensee that can accept the bet. It is all offshore people. There is a product a lot of people want, and there is no one in the nation that can legally provide the product. It is just insane, and prosecutions and prohibition just aren’t going to be successful.”



10 years ago

"You have those on the far right, who usually tend to be libertarians, take the position that any sort of gambling is a sin, and that they have a duty to protect people and prevent them from spending eternity in hell with the devil."

This man does not understand anything. Libertarians believe you should be free to do whatever you want with your money. Look up what Ron Paul thinks should happen with regards to internet poker. The religious right is not the same as a libertarian.


10 years ago

Agreed, he lost all credibility when he passed on this "nugget" of misinformation. As a Libertarian I question why the law and regulation is even needed. Just strike the old laws pertaining to poker and leave it alone. If the government regulates poker like they run the rest of the country we are screwed anyway. As far as the anti-gambling faction---they don't have to play.


10 years ago

Untill we discard our apathy of the political process,the so-called Moral Majority (which is neither) will continue to rule over us.
Regardless of how discusted we may be of our political system,we need to remember that we still outnumber these bastards.So find out who they are in your state and vote them out of office.(simple but not easy)


10 years ago

@ strike, you are ill informed regarding Ron Paul. He is not anti-government; he is a libertarian and is in fact not anti-anything! He is pro-constitution!

I find it rather ironic that the leaders in Washington that preach family values love their private poker games so much. When I think of the contrast between their private live poker games that are most likely accompanied with a lot of alcohol, drugs and a few hookers verses my private on-line poker play when I silently sit in my office playing poker to the sound of my dogs lying at my feet snoring and my wife laughing in the living room as she watches Dancing with the Stars.

I think I’ll keep my family values and they can keep theirs.

By the way, I consider myself a libertarian and am quit disgusted with the ignorance displayed by Fahrenkopf per this quote “There are many people in Congress, in both political parties, who are against gaming of any sort. You have those on the far right, who usually tend to be libertarians, take the position that any sort of gambling is a sin, and that they have a duty to protect people and prevent them from spending eternity in hell with the devil.”

Really? This is the guy speaking with congressional leaders?

The fact is, once government gets involved in on-line poker watch out, the best players in the world will not be able to make money after the government takes their rake!