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Poker Players Seek Online Gambling Reform

A gambling trade group is pushing Congress to once again legalize online poker.

It's National Poker Week and poker players are descending on Congress in an effort to convince lawmakers to once again legalize online poker.

With scores of meetings scheduled this week with Congressional staffs, the Poker Players Alliance, a gambling trade association, is pushing Congress to scuttle its 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits financial institutions from taking online payments for gambling. The poker players alliance also is campaigning for poker -- which it calls a game of skill -- to be exempted from the Act.

The Act has been widely criticized for being unenforceable, possibly unconstitutional, and unworkable, but its presence complicates the online gambling landscape.

The Poker Players Alliance, whose chairman is former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY), is supporting legislation sponsored by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who favors regulating online gambling rather than outlawing it. Frank is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

The alliance is hosting a poker tournament Tuesday with the proceeds to go to the USO and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The trade group, which is supported by a Canadian online gambling operation, has been working to explain to Congressional staff members how online gambling can be regulated.

The poker players group is also asking that several million dollars of winnings that are due to online poker players be paid. The federal government recently froze more than $30 million in poker players' accounts.

The majority of online poker players hail from the United States, while most of the gambling sites are hosted by sites outside the country, usually in the United Kingdom.

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