I showed up early for Monday's South Carolina Senate subcommittee hearing. Up for debate and public input were two bills that would effectively make legal home poker games and charitable raffles.
South Carolina is one of two states in the country that bars raffles (thanks to Utah for making us seem less antiquated and ridiculous). The Palmetto State also makes any game with cards or dice illegal (read: poker, Monopoly, bridge) etc.
With that in mind, you might expect the decriminalization hearing on the 200 year old law to be ridiculous. You would be right, you just don't know how right you are. By the end of it, I was so frustrated I couldn't even speak clearly.
So, after the jump, I grade the major players' effectiveness (Note: this is for more than South Carolina poker players, as the national Poker Players Alliance had big role in the hearing).More in this Poker Blog! -->
I am naturally suspicious of people who use phrases like "call to action." It's one of those marketeer phrases that makes me cringe. That said, if you are a South Carolina poker player or one who travels here to play in some of the best home games around, you should be interested in this. Moreover, if you live in Greenville, South Carolina and don't join me on Monday night, you don't care about poker and your right to play it.
Monday March 30 at 5:30pm, South Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell will be holding two public hearings on a bill that would legalize home poker games and also expand charity gaming (including charity poker tournaments) in South Carolina.
I will be there and you should be, too.
Here's why.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Poker Players Alliance has just sent out notice of a poker legalization hearing in Charleston and Greenville, SC this month.
From the e-mail:
Playing poker in the privacy of your own home is a crime in South Carolina thanks to a ridiculous outdated state law signed 209 years ago. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell will be holding two public hearings to discuss S535 a bill that would legalize home poker games and also expand charity gaming (including charity poker tournaments) in the state. The first public hearing will be March 23rd in North Charleston City Hall and the second on March 30th in the Greenville County Council Chambers, both start at 5:30pm.
I plan to attend the March 30 hearing in Greenville. The PPA is looking for a large turn-out of pro-poker folks.
Monday, March 30th
Greenville County Council Chambers
301 University Ridge
Greenville, SC 29601
I'll likely have more on the subject in the coming days. In the meantime, if you'd like to RSVP for the hearing, you can do so HERE.
To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.
Only a few people asked my opinion of the 60 Minutes poker cheating piece. None of them really cared what I thought. Here it is anyway.More in this Poker Blog! -->
You may want to move.
Gamblers in Kentucky will no longer have access to some online casinos. Kentucky's Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin says some casino operators have begun voluntarily blocking access to Kentuckians.More in this Poker Blog! -->
PokerNews' Haley Hintze reports today that a number of people busted in the Palmetto State's latest poker raid will be opting for a trial by jury.
A few weeks back, the
jack-booted thugs local constabulary cited 38 people for violation of our state's antiquated gambling law (yes, the one that makes it illegal to play even some board games on Sunday). Usually, the notion of taking a misdemeanor ticket in front of a jury is pretty silly. In South Carolina, however, it's pretty damned smart. Those people who didn't pay their tickets? Well, they may never see the inside of a courtroom.
Police in Charleston called it the result if a "ten month investigation." They arrested 27 people, including an assistant prosecutor at an underground poker game.
The Charleston Post says the game was run out of the bottom floor of a two story house with games spread on several tables. The host started the games last year and they "just grew."More in this Poker Blog! -->
"I am not a biblical scholar," Rep. Barney Frank admitted of his inability to understand. The conservative mores of his colleagues on the other side of the aisle are confounding to some members of Congress. "But I can't find an exemption for horse racing!" The sport of kings' absence in the good book notwithstanding, Frank had a point.
The scene was Wednesday's House Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology hearing and a debate that should've been conducted before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act became a reality (UIGEA live blog ).
Frank, one of the UIGEA's most vocal opponents, was pointing out a common theme in America's stance on federal gambling law enforcement: hypocrisy. It's an environment where gambling on juiced up athletes and ponies is perfectly acceptable, but betting on a skill game over which the player can affect the outcome is not.
The Committee hearing was one of the--if not the first--public discussions of the UIGEA, a law attached to must-pass port security legislation and spirited through the halls of the Capitol in the waning moments of the 2006 Congressional summer session. After nearly two years of being a burden only on confused government regulators, the law now threatened to disrupt the lives of many more people.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The House Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology (say that five times fast) is holding a hearing this morning to talk about the proposed regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. Given technology works the way it is supposed to, we'll be live blogging the whole of the hearing (you can find the live portion of the blog after the jump).
Scheduled to start at 10am ET, the hearing looks to be favorable toward the position that the UIGEA is an unnecessary law that puts the onus on American banks to serve as an unfunded law enforcement arm of the federal government. Then again, the way things work in Washington sometimes, it might turn out to feature balloon sculptors and Hoppy the Sad Clown.
Among the scheduled witnesses in the hearing are:
Links to transcripts of UIGEA hearing and additional letters -- HERE
******More in this Poker Blog! -->
Have you read this post from the one-and-only F-Train? It seems the Tax Man dropped a $636 past due bill on him this week for tournament winnings from 2006.
Well, I can report that F Train isn't alone. I, too, forgot a few thousand dollars in tournament winnings from the Coushatta Casino back in my crazy rush of 2005/2006. In fact, in my post, I included a picture of the very W-2 that would doom me.
And the government wanted a big piece.More in this Poker Blog! -->
One of my big fears here is having to report on the people I know. When we cover some particularly greusome accident I always check to see if the victim was a friend, that sorta thing. So it was with great distress that I read about a big poker bust.
In fact, thanks to the arrest report, I now know a lot more about people I met years ago.
Anyway, from conversations with police and various other reports, here's what we know....More in this Poker Blog! -->
Not sure whether to start this one with:
1) Good thing we're on a break
2) At least is wasn't robbers.
So, you choose. Details are very limited at the moment, so much so that I don't feel good saying any more than to offer this: one of the most regular G-Vegas games was busted Tuesday night by Greenville County authorities. If you're from 'round these parts, you know where most people play on Tuesday nights.
So, to recap the past three weeks in Carolina poker:
And now, apparently, a South Carolina bust. Two words: Damn it.
If I hear any more than I have, I'll update this post later. If you know anything more, drop me an e-mail or a comment. If not, we'll just stick with:
1) Good thing we're on a break
2) At least is wasn't robbers.
Update: BadBlood has done a little more work to confirm the above. He has details of the bust here.
Update 2: And it's in the news. Precious little information in the news story. Looks like Richard Walton of the Greenville News is working off the incident report only. You'll learn more from BadBlood's post. Nonetheless, here's the link.
Within a few hours of the news breaking yesterday, word about Mike Gracz and Chris Bell's poker raid outside of Raliegh, NC had spread just about everywhere. The reporting on the story ranged from standard to lackluster to a bit sensational.
Because we at Up For Poker have spent more than a little time in underground Carolina poker rooms, we took more than a little interest in the North Carolina bust. [Blind to the authorities: No need to follow us around looking to find the card rooms. We're on a break.] So, we asked a few questions and got a few answers from a loyal reader who has spent some time in the North Carolina room.More in this Poker Blog! -->
First up in my inbox this morning was news from BadBlood that Mike Gracz and Chris Bell (not to mention around 70 other people) were busted at a rural North Carolina poker game on Saturday.
The bust, perhaps, was to be expected. North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agents apparently hold gambling (and presumbly the illegal distribution of alcohol in said gambling parlors) among their top priorities. This time, some bigger name players got caught up in the raid.More in this Poker Blog! -->
For all of our South Carolina readers (including the new readers we apparently have from local environs--hi, folks), you can feel secure that at least one of your lawmakers has his head screwed on straight (or at least somewhat straight).
Rep. William Scarborough is trying to get home poker games legalized in South Carolina. Bob Pajich over at CardPlayer has actually done the grunt work for us. As it's not a typical "pay for coverage" piece, it actually contains some valuable information and seems to be about what I would've written, had I had the time, energy, or belief this bill had any chance.
You can read Bob's story by clicking here.
Dan over at Pokerati is relentless and inspiring in his coverage of the recent poker room busts around Dallas. His most recent post offered a humorous look at SWAT team hand signals. As I happen to know members of law enforcement also play poker, I think there's a decent chance they use hand signals while they play. Or if they don't, they should.
I'm too tired to fully explain how happy this makes me. Suffice it to say, after serving fifteen terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, the man who once said of Internet gaming, "You just click the mouse and lose your house," is now going to have to figure out what to do with his life.
In a race that Republicans ignored because they didn't think it could be lost, in a race the national media ignored because they didn't see it as a potential pick-up for Democrats, in a race that even the candidate didn't think he could lose, Rep. James Leach (R-IA) lost his seat to a guy named Loebsack.
Damned right. Jim Leach got Loebsacked.
There's a part of me that wonders if we could've held UIGEA at bay for a few more months. If we had, we might never have seen it. Bill Frist needed Jim Leach to win the Republican Presidential Caucuses in Iowa. Leach wanted his bill passed. Now, Leach has been Loebsacked. I regret voters couldn't turn out to knock off Senator John Kyl. For now, I'll have to be happy about Leach looking for a job.
More fallout, here's a statement from FirePay:
SUBJECT: New FirePay policy for US account holders
On September 30, 2006, the United States Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
Once President Bush approves the Act, FirePay (www.firepay.com) will no longer allow US consumer payments for online gambling merchants.
Beginning the day President Bush signs the Act, FirePay will decline any purchase transactions from US FirePay account holders at any gambling merchant site.
Ten days after President Bush signs the Act, FirePay will decline any transfer attempt made by any online gambling merchant to a US FirePay account.All US FirePay accounts holders will continue to be able to make purchases and receive payments from non-gambling, online merchants, as well as "Deposit From" and "Withdraw To" their US bank account.
CJ's Thoughts: I'm glad I signed up with Neteller instead of Firepay, but I wonder if there's pressure on Neteller to do the same. I guess that's why I pulled most of my money offline except for a small stash at FTP and Stars.
My freshman year health teacher, a crazy Pole, once told me that pulling out is the least effective form of birth control. All I know is that it's 4:23am in the USA and CNBC World is showing me this on my television.
Now, I'm going to bask in the irony that I'm covering the WCOOP Main Event, the biggest online poker tournament in history.
Update below the cut
The seedy side of politics is ugly. Always has been. Always will be. What today has ensured for me is that I will never, ever vote for Bill Frist for anything. In fact, I will campaign vigorously against him.
Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) has a great deal of sway over the Republican caucus that will help launch a potential 2008 GOP nominee. Rep. Jim Leach wanted an internet gambling bill passed this session. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) made this happen. Sen. Bill Frist will be running for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Quid pro quo is alive and well.
The Port Security Act is a long overdue piece of legislation that's designed to make this nation safer. It took Congress five years after 9/11 to finally make this happen, and in its haste to get it done before a mid-term elections, this Congress "didn't have time" to also protect our mass transit. They did, however, "have time" to add a new bill designed to curb internet gambling.
What this Congress is saying, then, is that it is more important to attack the scourge of online gaming than it is to make sure our buses and trains do not blow up. This is the Congress we elected. This is the Congress we have to get rid of.
By an overwhelming margin of 409-2, the House moments ago passed the Port Security Act. The Senate will soon vote where it will pass by a similar overwhelming margin.
On the bill itself, let's remember that it doesn't make onling gambling illegal. Online gambling is already illegal in most cases. Instead, it makes it much more difficult for existing online gambling sites to do business with Americans. It makes it harder for Americans to perform any financial transactions with online gaming sites.
However, just because it makes it harder doesn't mean it makes it impossible. I have a tremendous amount of faith in the international business community to outsmart this bill. After all, when we're ranking the collective intelligence of different groups, the U.S. Congress ranks just ahead of lobotomy patients and just behind slightly retarded monkeys.
Updated after the jump
They failed in their attempt to attach the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (H.R. 4411) to the massive defense spending bill, but that didn't stop a coalition of lawmakers lead by Sen. Bill Frist from trying again, and this time, it might just work.
Sometime tomorrow or Saturday, the Senate will vote on a major ports security bill (H.R. 4954), and because no lawmaker wants to go into a mid-term election saying they voted against port security, the bill will pass by a wide-margin. It's these "must-pass" bills that become dumping grounds for pet legislation that wouldn't pass on its own merits.
Some Senators tried and failed to tack on a bill that would protect phone companies who released subscriber information to the government as part of the surveillance program. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's pet legislation is a court security bill. Frist's is the Senate Majority Leader and is pushing the gambling bill.
It'd be easy if we could just blame the Republicans, but we can't. Our station did an interview with Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu this week and asked her about efforts to add the gambling bill to "must-pass" legislation. She told us she was in favor of the bill and would be in favor of any efforts to get it passed. Unfortunately, it sounds like the support is there to sneak it through.
So what can we do now? It's going to take action to stop this from happening, and that means you picking up the phone and calling your Senator... or, for that matter, any Senator. You have to make it clear to them that you do not support turning an important port security bill into a dumping ground for pet projects that will not get full debate. And make it clear that if they let these bills get tacked on, you will not be voting for them the next time their seat comes open. Names and phone numbers for all 50 candidates are listed below (courtesy the Poker Players Alliance):More in this Poker Blog! -->
Over the past 24 hours, there have been a series of reports telling us that the dreaded internet gambling bill is both alive and dead. In recent weeks, we've reported that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) had hoped to sneak the gambling bill into the massive Defense Department 2007 Appropriations Bill.
That bill has now passed through the conference committee, but it doesn't seem to be headed for guaranteed passage, nor is it clear that the gambling bill will ever be attached. Currently, House Republican leaders are holding up the bill hoping to add unrelated bills on immigration and court security.
Lawmakers are scheduled to leave Washington at the end of the week to campaign for November's midterm elections. If the bill isn't passed by then, it likely won't be addressed until later this year at the earliest. That could be a problem considering Oct. 1st is the start of the new fiscal year.
As recently as the end of last week, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young (R-FL) said he was assured by GOP leaders that it would be a clean bill with no "extraneous issues, no anomalies." It would seem that amendments regarding immigration, court security and internet gambling would be "extraneous."
At this point, if I had to lay odds, it'd be 4/1 against the internet gambling bill getting attached to the DoD spending bill. The last amendments added to the bill were added on September 7th. No additional text has been added since. Let's hope the fight over immigration and court security help keep internet gambling on the back burner.
If you thought the internet gambling bill was dead in the U.S. Senate, you're sorely mistaken. It seems that we have a mechanic on Capitol Hill. The deck may be stacked against us. Okay, I've run out of poker cliches.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may be attempting a legislative trick to get this bill passed. The Associated Press is reporting that Frist is planning to tack the internet gambling bill onto a massive defense authorization bill that deals with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why would he do this? It's simple.More in this Poker Blog! -->
At long last, South Carolina's antiquated gambling laws are being challenged in court. Last year, some friends of Up For Poker were playing a friendly tournament in a neighborhood clubhouse when they were raided by a suburban swat team that didn't have any drug dealers to bust that day. Under 1802 South Carolina law, the guys could've been playing Monopoly and been charged with the same crime.
Now, a local attorney has taken up the case of five of the players and is currently appealing to the good senses of a local magistrate judge to take a hard look at the law and question how it can be that playing Euchre on a table in my local watering hole can be illegal.
The local players, one of whom likes to play big pots with AQ on an AK8 board, were charged with violating this part of the South Carolina gambling law:
SECTION 16-19-40. Unlawful games and betting.
If any person shall play at any tavern, inn, store for the retailing of spirituous liquors or in any house used as a place of gaming, barn, kitchen, stable or other outhouse, street, highway, open wood, race field or open place at (a) any game with cards or dice, (b) any gaming table, commonly called A, B, C, or E, O, or any gaming table known or distinguished by any other letters or by any figures, (c) any roley-poley table, (d) rouge et noir, (e) any faro bank (f) any other table or bank of the same or the like kind under any denomination whatsoever or (g) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes, except the games of billiards, bowls, backgammon, chess, draughts, or whist when there is no betting on any such game of billiards, bowls, backgammon, chess, draughts, or whist or shall bet on the sides or hands of such as do game, upon being convicted thereof, before any magistrate, shall be imprisoned for a period of not over thirty days or fined not over one hundred dollars, and every person so keeping such tavern, inn, retail store, public place, or house used as a place for gaming or such other house shall, upon being convicted thereof, upon indictment, be imprisoned for a period not exceeding twelve months and forfeit a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, for each and every offense.
While you try to soak up the intricacies of the law (and start your Google search for whist), wrap your head around this section of the same law (my emphasis added).
SECTION 16-19-70. Keeping gaming tables open or playing games on the Sabbath.
Whoever shall keep or suffer to be kept any gaming table or permit any game or games to be played in his house on the Sabbath day, on conviction thereof before any court having jurisdiction, shall be fined in the sum of fifty dollars, to be sued for on behalf of, and to be recovered for the use of, the State.
Seriously, under a strict reading of this law, I can't play football with my kid during the Chiefs game this Sunday without fear of being fined. Reasonable people would say, "Well, the cops aren't going to waste their time busting you for a game of Pinochle." I'd say, "The cops have a lot of time to waste, apparently. Several of them were caught playing poker on shift a few months back." (Note: If you read that article, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The game was poker.)
So, the current case is the one that has appeared in CardPlayer several times in the last year or so. It's a case that pretty much defines the silliness surrounding the Raging Assault on Poker's Emergence.
Based on what I know about the current case and the judge, I'd say there is a 35% chance the judge, Hank Mims, will take any sort of stand here. Hank is a reasonable guy and a little on the eccentric side, but probably doesn't want to get involved in the fight. That will likely mean the poker players will have to stand trial. This will not be the kind of thing you see on Court TV. It will be held in a small courtroom in Greer, SC and likely last for just a couple of hours.
The real action, if there need be any, will happen when the verdict comes in. Guilty or Not Guilty, this case will be headed for an appeals court faster than the Greer Swat Team can storm suburban clubhouse. It will be in that appeals court where the law and the people who support it will face the most important scrutiny. Simply put, no person who considers himself reasonable can read the South Carolina gambling statute and with a straight face declare it constitutional.
Perhaps my favorite passage from the entire hearing:
"As avid poker players, they knew Texas Hold 'Em was gambling, the records say. One of them had a license plate that reads, "THENUTZ," a poker term for the best possible hand, the prosecutors filing says."
Where's the wit of Wicked Chops Poker when you need it?
Some of you know my sister, Jen. Some of you have played with her in the WWdN. She's trying to do her part to knock some sense into our Representatives, starting with her own, Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz. She emailed him to ask why they were spending so much time on a small issue when there are more important issues in the world, and to ask why he was in support of the bill at all. Here's his response (surprisingly, it doesn't read like a form letter!):More in this Poker Blog! -->
In case you're not a forum reader or missed the announcement at PokerStars, you should be aware that this is going on tomorrow. I find this to be one very cool effort. Many kudos to the PokerStars, P5s, Wicked Chops, and PPA folks.
Fom the PokerStars Poker Blog:
PokerStars is joining with the Poker Players Alliance to give its American players the chance to tell their Senator what they think about the efforts to ban online poker. On Tuesday, September 12, between 9:00am ET and 5:30pm ET, you can call 1-800-289-1136, listen to the recording from Greg â€œFossilmanâ€ Raymer, punch in your zip code, and you will be transferred to one of your Senatorsâ€™ offices free of charge. You don't have to be a member of the PPA to use this number. Click here for more information.
PokerStars will also be running $1 PPA membership drive tournments with a $5,000 added prize pool. You can find the tournaments by clicking "Tourney" and "Special." Click here for more information.
For background on this story, please start here.
The arrest of Peter Dicks of SportingBet.com has opened a number of questions, some of which we won't get answers to until a trial, or perhaps never. I've tried to get the answers to some:More in this Poker Blog! -->