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The Government is Missing out on Big Bucks

Sometimes they ask if I’m a girl, and I almost always say yes, because, well, the best poker bluffs are not played at the table but in the minds of my opponents.
I guess I can understand why they wonder.

My family and friends know me as Dave, the always-in-need-of-a-haircut newspaper reporter, but in the PokerStars online card room I’m known simply as IvyButton, a somewhat conservative player waiting patiently for the right moment to go all in.

The screen name is the combination of a nickname (Button) a girl I was dating called me when I opened the account in January and an homage (Ivy) to being the single stupidest person ever accepted to an Ivy League school.

I guess the guys online are thinking more Poison Ivy — the sexy Batman villain — but if they ask, and they do, I like to play along and be young, blond and available. If they are trying to get my number they are not as worried about their cards, giving me an advantage.

Anything to win that $5 tournament.

Such is the odd world of online poker, where millions of dollars are bet in small and large amounts from computers around the world, but one that appears is coming to an end, much to the chagrin of recreational gamblers such as myself.

This past week, Congress unexpectedly approved a bill to make it illegal for banks to process payments to gambling Web sites. The measure is expected to be signed into law by the president in the next few weeks. The law is supposed to extend to online pay services, such as Neteller, which I use, essentially screeching the industry to a halt.

So while the sites — which are based outside the United States — will remain operational, it will become impossible to legally deposit or withdrawal funds into the accounts.

This bill was introduced and passed as a political move. No member of Congress would dare vote against an anti-gambling bill a month before the November elections. That’s like being in favor of kicking kittens.

It’s just hard for me to see the harm in coming home and playing cards on the computer after work, except that my elected leaders think it’s morally wrong.

If I play poker for two hours and lose $10 and enjoy myself, that is the same as plunking down $10 to go to the movies. Are there people who cannot handle gambling? Of course, but they make a choice to play and there are places to go if they need help. I do not see how gambling is any worse than alcohol or smoking, yet those are still legal.

The simple answer, of course, is that those two “sin” industries are regulated and online gambling is not. Instead of essentially banning online gambling, the United States should allow these companies into our borders and regulate them. Give the money to schools, old people, cancer research, whatever. Some states without much going for them — North Dakota — have offered to host these companies.

I say let them in and that way the players, the companies, the government all win. It would help everyone involved, well, I guess except the guy two seats over trying to get my number.

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