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Poker Alliance and Students React to House Vote

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The United States House of Representatives approved a bill on July 11 that could restrict Internet betting businesses by banning the use of credit cards for online casino gambling.

"This bill strengthens enforcement and prosecution mechanisms in existing laws to prevent what otherwise would be illegal gambling," Pickering, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, said in a statement.

The bill will also amend the Wire Act of 1961, which bans gambling entities from using wire-based communications, by including the Internet. According to the Congressional Research Service, Americans bet an estimated $6 billion per year online, making up half of the worldwide market. This new bill could impact an estimated 23 million Americans who play poker over the Internet.

"I think it is something that needs to be done," said Ole Miss student Collin Hulbert, a senior marketing major from Memphis. "I think right now it's pretty much a free-for-all situation and gambling online can become a powerful addiction if it's not regulated. Not to mention, the way it is now, the money doesn't get taxed."

Holbert, who has played poker online for two years, said during the spring semester, he made "about $1,000" playing online poker after being introduced to the method by his roommate.

"Right now, I'm on a bit of hiatus from playing (online poker) though," Holbert said. "I felt like I was getting cheated out of some money, so I told myself I wasn't going to play for a month."

The biggest critic of the bill is the Poker Players Alliance, an organization with over 25,000 members.

"This bill would needlessly make outlaws of the millions of adult Americans who enjoy online poker, and is the latest example of how our representatives in Congress are ignoring real issues facing our country," the Alliance said in a statement released to its members.

The Alliance also said the bill's requirement of banks to block gambling transactions as "deputizing banks to monitor people's accounts and block wages."

The grass-roots organization urged Congress to regulate and tax online poker, rather than effectively ban it.

Another Ole Miss student who frequents online poker sites, Keith Woernle, said he sees the need for this bill from both sides.

"I think these sites are becoming more popular everyday, and with them being so easily accessible, more inexperienced people who are losing their money," Woernle said. "It makes you bet more money when all you have to do is click a button, and you don't see actually chips or money being exchanged right in front of you.

"But at the same time, looking at it at with totally selfish concerns, online poker can be a profitable endeavor," Woernle added, who said he has won $800 playing online poker since last August.

"But I don't believe it will affect people in Mississippi too much though, when everyone is at most one hour from a casino," Woernle said. A similar bill to the 'Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act' was shot down by the House in 2000. Senate leaders have not identified the bill as a top priority, but the bill's main champion in that chamber, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, said he would pursue it aggressively.

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