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Poker News: November 16, 2007

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Copyright © Medill Reports, Northwestern University

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Another player is getting attention in the debate over the usefulness of an Internet gambling law that bars the transfer of funds between financial institutions and online sites, making it difficult for Americans to participate in online poker games.

Washington-based Aristotle Inc., a leading identity and age verification service testified before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, promoting its robust technology. The company relies on government-issued IDs to counter concerns about problem gamblers and access to minors.

The availability of technology that can deal with these concerns is gaining favor with opponents of the Internet gambling law. The Poker Players Alliance, claiming more than 800,000 members, sent representatives to Washington last month to make a case for online poker and to support legislation that seeks to ease restrictions and overturn the law that was enacted more than a year ago.

“The reality is it is very hard for a child to lose money gambling on-line--one needs to either have a credit card or a checking account to do so,” Annie Duke, considered by many the world’s top female poker player, told the committee. “I monitor my children’s online activity, and, frankly, that is my job, not my government’s,” the mother of four added.

Aristotle’s age and ID verification system, relyiing on public records data, requires users to enter specific identifying information, for example, a driver's license number, passport or national ID card number, or the last four digits of a Social Security number. That information could be cross-checked against existing databases of public records.

Paul Marcinkowski, 20, a sophomore at George Washington University, is an avid poker player who supports regulation of the online poker industry, even if it would mean placing an age restriction. He began playing in high school with friends, waging nickels and dimes and then used play-money accounts for online games.

“The biggest misconception is that people don’t realize how clean and regulated the online tournaments are,” he said, during a break between his classes. He would like to open an account soon with, placing $50 in his bank. “You can play online for as little as five and 10 cents and it’s often cheaper to play online than spend $12 at the movies.”

But the Family Research Council’s Tom McClusky, a supporter of the online gambling ban, argued Wednesday that families of pathological gamblers face financial, physical and emotional trauma, along with a host of other problems including debt and unstable family environments.

To counter the problem of compulsive behavior, Aristotle spokesman Michael Colopy, who has stayed neutal on the political debate, said the firm has developed a self-exclusion program. It would allow users to put their names on a confidential list of would-be player who wish to set up a blocking mechanism to control a possible addiction.

Annie Duke supported this proposal.

But she questioned the value of the existing ban on Internet poker. “The government is going to have to ban nearly every activity,” she said. “Shopping, day trading, sex, chocolate, even drinking water – these and myriad other activities…have been linked to harmful compulsions.”

One young American serving in Iraq echoed her sentiment.

“There is a reason that the same professional poker players are at the table every single time—it’s because poker is a game of skill and you improve over time,” said the civilian worker who asked that his name not be used.

He played regularly on, a site that shut down U.S. operations following the ban in 2006. He said that he could not deposit money in his online account until he sent apayment services company copies of documents that verified his personal and financial details.

“It’s a little escape for me just like watching a movie,” he said, in a telephone interview. “It beats sitting in the desert waiting for a mortar to land.”

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on November 15, 2007

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