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Duke said it was hypocritical to permit online bets on lotteries and horse racing and not provide the same allowances for a more skill-based game such as poker.
Poker, she said, is like options trading, where brokers make rapid decisions under conditions of extreme uncertainty. She said the critical thinking going into each poker hand was similar to the decisions people made every day, from shopping habits to personal relationships.
Goodlatte, however, argues that it would be a mistake to categorize poker with other skill games.
"There's just no comparison," he said. "Card games . . . are games of chance with some skill involved in bluffing. But each hand you are dealt is total luck."
Federal law distinguishes games that require a certain level of intellectual engagement to succeed from those in which players rely largely on luck to reap rewards; it regulates the latter more rigorously. By being classified as a game of skill rather than a game of chance, poker would face fewer legal restrictions. The World Trade Organization has ruled that U.S. online-gambling restrictions violate international trade agreements. The United States responded by withdrawing from a WTO provision regulating gaming issues. Naotaka Matsukata, a former policy planning director for the U.S. trade representative's office, said that unprecedented action by the United States could undermine both U.S. negotiating credibility and the WTO as an institution. "It really takes the spirit of what the WTO is about and turns it on its head," Matsukata said. Several countries, including the European Union, are seeking up to $100 billion in compensation from the United States for its online-gambling restrictions.
Frank's and Wexler's bills are awaiting consideration in committee. Steven Adamske, a spokesman for Frank, said that Frank's bill would move forward when it garnered sufficient support. Josh Rogin, a spokesman for Wexler, said he hoped hearings would be held early next year. John Pappas, vice president of government affairs for the Poker Players Alliance, said he would like to see a victory at the end of the current congressional session. "We think we have a pretty strong hand, and we're going to continue to play it until the end," he said.