Frist Bans Online Gambling Transactions; Millions of Americans Angry

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) pushed through a last-minute addition to the port security bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning that would ban financial transactions that fund “illegal Internet gambling.” By attaching it to a must-pass Port Security bill and holding a voice vote (so none of us can find out where our Senators stand), he was able to pass a law he had tried to ram through twice before.

According to the Washington Post story, the Democrats thought about growing a spine, but didn’t.

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), whose home-state casinos are split over the Internet gambling measure, briefly weighed scuttling the bill over the provision before agreeing to go along, aides said.

Now why would the House and Senate support a bill like this? Hint: Bill Frist in 2008. Another theory: being tough on gambling will wash away the sins of Abramoff.

House and Senate Republican leaders pushed hard to secure the Internet gambling measure, which some Republicans viewed as a chance to clear their names after they allowed disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to scuttle a similar measure six years ago.

This is a body blow for online poker, a game enjoyed by 20 million Americans. Party Poker, the largest operator, announced that they will stop accepting U.S. customers as soon as the President signs the law, something expected over the next two weeks.

There is an excellent FAQ on the new legislation in the 2+2 forums. If you want to continue the fight to save this American pastime, check out the Poker Players Alliance.

UPDATE: The Libertarian Party has a press release on the issue.

“This goes beyond the absurd,” exclaimed Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee. “Using the supposed War on Terror in defense of this legislation designed to legislate morality is sickening. Using this same reasoning, Congress should close Vegas as 9/11 Hijacker Mohamed Atta made a least two trips to the ‘City of Sin’ before setting out to murder thousands of Americans.”

Nicholas Sarwark

Mr. Sarwark lives in Colorado and keeps poor people out of cages for a living. His views are his own, not his employer's, his wife's, or his dog's. They are also awesome and always right.

  1. Is this pig running for re-election? If so, how much you wanna bet this maggot gets re-elected? Yes, people are that stupid.

  2. Maybe those 20 million Americans in addition to the newcomers who were planning to play online will realize the extent of the government’s intrusion on our private lives.

    One of my best friends (a Republican) is a avid poker player and has won over $1 million playing the game. He is now rethinking his support for the morality legislation pushed through by the Republicans. Not to mention that he had several hundred thousand dollars taken from him when he won a large tournament in Europe.

    Why does the government think they have a right to his money when people get together and gamble with their own money? Why should I have to pay the goverment when you and I agree to sit down for some some heads up poker and I win? And now, why does the government have the right to stop my concentual action of gambling with my money?

  3. There could be 20 million Libertarian voting converts if the LP targeted them properly.

  4. Equal Opportunity Cynic: I don’t post there, only read.

    Mike: Frist is resigning at the end of his term to seek nomination for the Presidency.

    Also, I’d like to see a press release from the LP office decrying this sort of unrelated bullshit being placed in a port security bill just to score some political points. It’s truly despicable, regardless of how one feels about the morality of gambling.

  5. Good idea on the press release. The LP should definitely target these online gamblers, but unfortuntally we don’t really have the funds to make a huge impact. I’m going to start going to some of these poker forums to explain to them the Libertarian position on the issue to try to get some converts.

  6. What we need is a poker celebrity to run for President or Vice-President and reach out to those 20 million poker players telling them they’re libertarians.

  7. has plans to promote legislation that will require Congress to limit bills to one subject matter, so that this kind of thing won’t happen.

  8. Since this only covers the payment portion, avid gamblers will find workarounds. It will still have a massive impact, but suddenly there will be a whole lot of people gambling that are “non-US.” I have to think this will just wipe out overnight the sports betting industry in the caribbean and central america who depend so heavily on US only revenue.

  9. I’m a regular online poker player, who USED to vote republican. My poker site has indicated that it will cease doing business with US customers in about 2 weeks. So 3rd party work arounds won’t work in my case. Now I don’t make a living at the game, but i do make a profit every year. I’ll probably take a hit of about 7% of my total income. I’ll have to scramble to cover some bills, but its not as serious a hit for me; as for people I know that play for a living(some make a good one at it). I feel for them, and wish tehm well. All we did was follow the American dream of free enterprise, only to be slapped down by “Nanny Sam”, ain’t calling the bitch Uncle Sam anymore. The way the snuck this thruogh, attached to a bill no one was goint to vote agaisnt, just ain’t democracy. If you like poker; remember this at the ballot box. Even if you don’t; remember this at the ballot box, its about freedom. Freedom of choice and association. I’m “ALL IN”..are you??

  10. I actually think this is one of the best things to happen in The States! Why? Most citizens don’t care if a pothead gets done, or a drink driver, or an embezzler etc. But 20,000,000 ordinary yanks that like playing poker??? Nanny Felcher is sticking her straw into the business of 20 million PAYING CUSTOMERS! 20 MILLION RISK TAKERS. 20,000,000 people with the balls (sorry Michelle S, metaphysical balls 2U) to lay it on the line. Get ENOUGH people pissed off and the rumbles start. “It’s gonna get worse afor it gets better”.

  11. What, not taxes, not invasion into our personel lives, not the war on (some) drugs, not immoral military invasions, but fucking on line poker? I don’t mean to be a cynic but if it takes banning line poker to moblize the masses then the LP party is screwed in a much deeper sense. I agree that this will piss people off (i also distrust the 20 mil number, don’t know how they collected that data), but I think the genreal population has to short a memory. A gas drop, slight tax break..etc..and they will forget this online poker issue. Of course the banning of online poker is fucked up, I just don’t think it will cause the plebs to rebel

  12. Skully,

    I’m in roughly the same boat as you. I plan to move closer to live games (although Foxwoods is only 80 miles away), beat them for all I can since they tend to be much easier, and hopefully one day have some left often to donate to worth causes including Libertarian ones. We’ll see….

    I guess it makes me feel better that the stupidity that got us Nanny State Republicanism is the stupidity that leads people to conspicuously consume by dropping several hundred at a poker table.

  13. kcjerith, get fuckn real dude, it is toilet paper n cigarettes and a bet that gets the masses involved, not hi-falutin wankers of a libo bent. The ordinary Joe could not give a virgin’s pube re libertarian splittin’ of participles or left Vs right crap. Um, it’s called a ‘Bell Curve’…

  14. has plans to promote legislation that will require Congress to limit bills to one subject matter, so that this kind of thing won’t happen.

    Sandra, good luck with that. There are already rules against putting non-germane language in a bill that’s in the conference committee. The problem is that the Congress will ignore the rules when they want to. Crafting a proposal with teeth would be a tricky thing indeed.

  15. This is one of the most purely totalitarian anti-free market actions taken by Dondero’s self-righteous Bible humping sect, and I love it… Because my hardcore GOP father-in-law is also a hardcore Party Poker player. How many others are there like him??

  16. sometimes I’m embarassed to be an american. The world must think we’re a bunch of spineles pansies.

  17. Get real? Ok Greginoz, we will see this november if you are right. We will see who has a firmer grip on reality, yeah, LP wins in a landslide because of fucking poker. sure thing

  18. undercover_anarchist: Couldn’t agree more. As I stated earlier I used to vote GOP about(90% of the time). In 40 days I will be pulling the lever for Hillary,, as sick as that makes me; what the GOP did here makes me sicker. They should be thrown out. The GOP used to stand for free enterprise & small gobernment. Apparently not anymore. I hope your father in law bails on the GOP this fall too. They sure as hell bailed on him.

  19. Equal opp cynic: I know Hillary dosen’t need my vote, nor is she the better choice. It more a slap in the face to the GOP for their principle abandoment. I have family members who I now consider “kool-aid” GOP. Because they still support the GOP, even after this example of their power grab. They think I’m betraying princples, instead of the congressional GOP doing that. So voting for this clam is my way to make a statement to my “sheep” family members, who are more concerned with politics and remaining in power; then with the betrayal of freedom and opportunity this country was founded on. I won’t be popular at family event’s this holiday season(especially if the Dems retake congress). But I’m taking a stand on principles not politics. What the GOP did is far more dangerous to freedom & opportunity, then if the spineless Dems run(or cut & run )from the war on terror. Who care’s if we win the war, if were less free at home. The terrorists would ban poker too, not much difference there.

  20. Skully,

    Obviously your vote is a matter of conscience for you, but I would think voting Libertarian would also provide a “slap in the face” to the GOP. Of course only you can decide if the Democratic candidate better represents you than the Libertarian does.

  21. EO cynic:I actually agree with you,that a Libertaian would represent my view better then the Democrat. My views tend to run between conservative & Libretarian. Problem is the Libretarian can’t win in NY. Voting for Russell, won’t have the same shock value to family & friends, as voting for Hillary will. She’s going to win here anyway, so all I’m really doing is wasting my vote to make a point. I’m trying to get my GOP friends & family to put down the “kool-aid” and realize how the party has abandoned them, maybe get some liberatarian converts. The other option was to stay home on election day, but I’ve never not voted in an election. I will be paying more attention to the Liberetarian party and its candidiates from now on. Maybe by the next election in 08′ the party will grow in prominence. The current 2 parties of Bozos ain’t working for us, that’s for sure. Good luck to ya at Foxwoods, maybe I’ll see ya there someday. Maybe trying to win a seat at the World Poker Finals next month.

  22. You might say something is wrong if it takes an online poker ban to get massive amounts of people interested in the LP, but I say fuck that. We’ll take all the help we can get. And if people get interested, for whatever reason, they may become more educated about what we’re trying to do.

    But who says they’ll vote for L’s? It’s much easier to just check the D box. Frist (R) will take the blame with poker players even though Democrats voted for the bill (they arguably had to since it was tacked onto port security).

  23. But who says they’ll vote for L’s? It’s much easier to just check the D box. Frist (R) will take the blame with poker players even though Democrats voted for the bill (they arguably had to since it was tacked onto port security).

    Our lawmakers don’t “have to” vote for any bill. The difference between a Libertarian and a Democrat or Republican is that the Libertarian is far more likely to stand up for integrity and not roll over for the Congressional leadership.

  24. Problem is the Libretarian can’t win in NY.

    If you’ve placed a bet on the Libertarians at the parimutuel window, this is quite an acute problem. If you’re voting to make yourself heard rather than trying to pick the winner, not so much. :)

    But it’s your shock value to allocate, and I agree that voting for Hillary should do the trick in that regard.

  25. But it’s your shock value to allocate, and I agree that voting for Hillary should do the trick in that regard.

    Did Senator Clinton try to stop the online gambling bill? Does she oppose it?

    If the answer is no, and you still vote for her, there’s no message sent.

  26. I also like this reply to the 2+2 thread:

    This event has me seriously considering the Libertarian Party.

    From the top of their web site:
    Smaller Government… Fewer Taxes… More Freedom…

    You know, I thought that is what the Republican party stood for. I don’t know how well the Libertarians deliver on this, but the Republicans sure as hell are not anymore (if they ever really did).

    Or this:
    As a lifetime Republican, I’m fed up. This press release just adds to my overall frustration, with the two party system.

    I’m contacting my elected GOP officials and my state GOP headquarters and letting them know I’m leaving the party. I will stop contributing and voting for the GOP.

    Or: Im a libertarian now.

  27. “Our lawmakers don’t “have to” vote for any bill. The difference between a Libertarian and a Democrat or Republican is that the Libertarian is far more likely to stand up for integrity and not roll over for the Congressional leadership.”

    The average joe will see the port security bill as a “had to vote for” bill. That’s the problem. The poker thing will result in far more R’s switching to D’s than R’s switching to L’s I think.

  28. It passed the Senate on a voice vote, so we’ll never know for sure. There were two dissenters in the House, so the odds aren’t looking too good (npi) that mine is one of them — I’m not even going to bother chasing down the names of the two.

    The Republicans are more at fault than the Dems, of course, because they slipped this rider into the bill. And as pernicious as any loss of liberty is, one could even argue that it pales compared to the loss of liberty if the Republicans manage to stop the bleeding before the election.

    Of course, if the Democrats really cared about liberty, repealing this provision would be one of their first acts once they take the majority. If ifs and ands were pots and pans….

  29. I am a member of the Poker Players Alliance and an avid player with over 30 years of experience. I have not played at all for the last 6 months since I am running for State Senate in Texas.

    I am also the lobbyist/spokesperson for Texans for Poker. I intend to introduce a lot of pro-poker legislation after I win. I am in a winnable 2 way race, but I need more funds to make my radio push. Please spread the word among Texas poker players and other other USA poker players about my race. If poker players ante up in a big way, I will be happy to give them a huge portion of the credit for my success and thereby put the political world on notice that poker players are ready to start swinging races.

  30. Re – alternate funding: You do realize that there is a gaping hole in this legislation. It bans credit cards and bank transfers – but not electronic checks (or paper ones, for that matter).

    According to this article (on ESPN, of all places) the banking lobby insisted on – and got – an exemption for checks because banks don’t want to have to track the huge volume of checking transactions that occur each day. IIRC many gambling sites already support e-check deposits, and the others are bound to follow suit. So at the end of the day, this looks like nothing more than show legislation that keeps the long-term status quo more or less intact.

    This isn’t meant to excuse Frist’s chicanery at all. In fact I’m pretty much done with the GOP as it exists now. But this legislation no longer pisses me off; now it just cracks me up.

  31. Joshua,

    If several of the larger sites, such as Party, won’t take business from the US what does it matter?

    Now, granted, if this loophole is viable they’re either ignorant or suicidal to block all US business. Maybe they want to play the role of “good corporate citizen,” but that’s probably not a positive-EV strategy.

  32. EOC,

    Only a few of the poker sites have definitively said they’re pulling out of the U.S. market once the bill is signed. Party and a few others may be pulling out (in Party’s case, only because its investors got spooked), but Full Tilt, UltimateBet, Absolute and several other sites have said they’re sticking around at least until the specifics of the new regs are worked out (which could take up to 9 months), while PokerStars, Paradise Poker and a few others are undecided. Here’s a more complete breakdown of each poker site’s stance.

    My gut feeling is that (1) most of the sites on the fence (especially Stars) will ultimately decide to stay, especially once they discover the checking loophole, and (2) those who are pulling out now will end up regretting it big time.

  33. Thanks whitepotatoe, unfortunately many people never look at the wasted vote argument from a rational standpoint. If they just examined it and realized that they are being conned into voting for the “lesser of two evils” we would already have a much higher percentage of the vote.

  34. Talk about in your face marketing. Why not have our friends at the LP contact these folks and ask them to include the LP in all of their “thanks for your business but we have to let you go” emails to their US customers.

    Nothing would piss off the GOP and DEms then these folks letting their now former customers know that there is a political party that wants them to be able to gamble on-line.

    20 million customers? That’s 20 million votes folks.

  35. Lifelong Republican here…until now! I am a 2+2er also and I emailed many high-ranking members of the LP yesterday and officially joined today. I was pleasantly surprised to get a personal reply by one of the top people in the LP. Refreshingly, it was full of substance. Suffice it to say, I loved the Republicans wholeheartedly when they removed the federal speed limit in the mid-1990’s…but now the party is an abomination. It took this to make me realize that. To the LP: there are 20 million pissed-off people out there…more than half of them are “leave-my-ass-alone” Republicans who are now realizing that era is gone. Find the big money LPers now and get them to capture these lost souls before the donks or elephants can pander (lie) to them. I will not post my entire 2+2 diatribe here but I will provide a link, only then did I find out I was libertarian:

  36. One newsletter I get had an article on this today and I agree with what will happen.

    This happened on the same day as the Harrah’s buyout. Not a coincedence. In a year or so, Congress will loosen the ban, but regulate it and the big casinos will get into the business. This legislation is to clear the field and eliminate competition from those big casinos.

  37. Oh and welcome to the fold, Mempho. We are engaged in a long, hard struggle. Don’t let people try and sell you on victory tommorow – that’s just unrealistic.

  38. THe number of American poker players is actually closer to 50 million, if you consider all the people who only play offline.

    The major impact of the gambling bill, and the resulting exodus by some of the most responsible, licensed operators, is the effect on players – as the industry goes underground, it leaves us more unprotected than ever.

    We have formed a coalition to fight the gambling ban – Poker Patriots. Poker Patriots will strive to create a community of players and advocates with a purpose – to reverse the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and demand the US government license and regulate the industry.

    It is inherent in all American poker players to defend their rights against the special interests that created the bill and become Poker Patriots. We call on them to join the fight for the right to play at


    Doug Savoy
    Poker Patriot

  39. THe number of American poker players is actually closer to 50 million, if you consider all the people who only play offline.

    How can you possibly know how many there are?