WSOP 2011 to Welcome Online Poker-Friendly Joe Barton

2011 WSOPThe World Series of Poker (WSOP) will welcome a very special guest tomorrow morning as Texas Republican House of Representatives member Joe Barton lives the dream of any poker fan by making the “shuffle up and deal” announcement to begin play at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Barton isn’t the first member of the United States Congress to say those four famous words, following on from the likes of Democratic House of Representatives members Barney Frank, of Massachusetts, and Nevada’s Shelley Berkley, although the 61-year-old might actually appreciate the significance slightly more as a true poker fan.

The many curious poker pros and amateurs hoping to gain some inside knowledge of how his licensing and regulating bill for online poker is progressing will no doubt also welcome Barton to Vegas.

Barton aims to have the bill introduced this week, although that may now be impossible, but his meeting last month with members of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) at a rally in Washington DC certainly gave hope for the future following the disastrous day that was April’s ‘Black Friday’ when several poker websites were shut down by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

Without doubt, John Pappas, the PPA’s executive director, remains hopeful that Barton might be able to make the momentous announcement that “he dropped the bill and here is the bill number” while in Vegas for the WSOP.

However, even if it is impossible for Barton to confirm the bill’s adoption, Pappas would still be happy to hear that he “will drop the bill” in the near future. The millions of Americans that have been left in limbo since April 15 would undoubtedly welcome either statement as a positive move for online poker play.

Barton is definitely a friend to online poker players throughout the USA, and even used his page on social networking website Facebook to gather opinions from many of the game’s participants on how the government can assist in making poker available again to those wishing to enjoy Internet gambling.

He also discussed the bill with Pappas – who understands the ins and outs of Capitol Hill better than most, having been involved in high-level political consulting and policy-making in Washington DC for the past 13 years – and other PPA members, taking suggestions on how his early drafts could be developed before being presented.

While Pappas appreciates Barton’s consultation with the PPA, he also realises that “no bill will impress everybody”, although he hopes every poker play will “rally behind” what he considers to be a “good bill”.

Additionally, Pappas reckons “the bottom line” is that the bill will “give adult Americans the right to play poker on licensed and regulated sites – that is what is important”.

But Barton’s Internet bill is not the only one to be introduced to Congress recently, with Republican House of Representatives member John Campbell (California) taking over Frank’s bill after it last year went through the House Financial Services Committee.

Then there is Washington Democratic member Jim McDermott’s complementary legislation – which he reintroduced last week – that highlights a tax arrangement to be implemented if the Frank/Campbell bill is passed.

Unfortunately, neither of those bills is likely to make any great impact as they pass through disapproving committees and take in the much wider area of general online gambling rather than concentrating on Internet poker – unlike Barton’s bill – with Pappas pointing out that, although the PPA is right behind Campbell, “the Senate has made it clear that a poker-only bill is something they are more interested in tackling”.

But Pappas reckons Barton’s bill could well be used to form future law relating to online poker as is provides “an important step in earning support of Republican leadership for a bill we believe the Senate is more likely going to support”.

Meanwhile, Pappas has also held a “two-hour conference call” with lawyers in relation to ‘Black Friday’ and how to help American poker players gain access to their accounts that were frozen in online sites such as Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker.

Those poker websites quit the USA when owners were prosecuted on April 15 and, although PokerStars has since started making payments to customers, players with other poker websites have not yet received any cash back.

Pappas added that the PPA are “looking at every option” available to help those players left waiting and may even attempt to “get money directly from the Federal government”, although he admitted that option is unlikely to bear any fruit.

His ultimate hope is that websites will “be able to refund” players without any government intervention and, while confessing that the PPA is “limited in terms of what we can do”, Pappas aims to be able to provide “guidelines on what players” themselves can accomplish to ensure that their money is returned shortly.