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December 19, 2014

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THE INSIDE STRAIGHT:

Hope for online poker advocates

House bill would undo 2-year-old restrictions on U.S. players

With the congressional session winding down in Washington, some gamblers and online poker advocates were caught off guard when the House Financial Services Committee recently introduced, then passed, a bill that would overturn much of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The bill, HR6870, would likely make it easier for Internet poker players to make deposits and cash out winnings online.

The enforcement act, signed into law by President Bush in 2006, severely restricts financial transactions linked to online gambling. After its passage, several major poker sites pulled out of the U.S. market.

Efforts to overturn the law are followed closely in Las Vegas, which has become the de facto home of many major players with online gambling interests.

Jay Lakin, the co-owner and vice president of Poker Source Online, praised the committee chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., for leading the drive against the enforcement act.

“The fact that Barney Frank introduced HR6870, the Payments System Protection Act, on a Thursday and had it marked up Tuesday shows that he’s motivated to overturn the UIGEA,” Lakin said. “Maybe there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Although approval of the bill generated praise from poker players, one of its provisions has to worry online sports betting advocates. The bill evidently would expressly prohibit financial institutions from approving transactions linked to sports betting.

Many serious sports bettors in Nevada, the only state with legal sports betting, would like to have some online “outs,” or sports book accounts, to complement their casino sports wagering — without fear of treading in a legal “gray area.”

Some big offshore sports books already offer an online poker room as part of their operation, though. It’s possible others could add poker if they believe they could take advantage of a U.S. law that permits online financial transactions linked to poker.

In other words, perhaps U.S. citizens could deposit money into the poker room of a particular online gambling giant, then transfer the funds into the sports book of the same operation and bet sports to their hearts’ content.

It’s unclear how lawmakers, if they remain dead set against sports betting, would address such potential loopholes, according to Dan Cypra of Pocketfives.com, a poker insiders’ Web site.

“There are probably a couple of ways it could go, depending on how it’s enforced,” Cypra said.

Regardless, Cypra believes the ongoing economic turmoil in the United States could prompt more lawmakers to look toward online betting and its ancillary financial businesses for new streams of revenue.

“The longer we struggle with the economy, the more important online gambling becomes,” Cypra said.

Poker for a cause

The Hacienda near Boulder City will host the second annual Shane Patton Scholarship Fundraiser, a no-limit Texas hold ’em tournament, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the hotel’s banquet room.

Sign-ups begin at 5 p.m. for the tournament, which carries an entry fee of $50 with $20 rebuys available for players who bust out early.

Half of the prize pool goes to the Shane Patton Scholarship Foundation, which honors the memory of Patton, a 2000 Boulder City High School graduate who died in Afghanistan while serving as a Navy SEAL.

Patton was killed along with 15 other U.S. servicemen when their MH-47D Chinook helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission.

The incident was the basis for last year’s best-selling book by Marcus Luttrell, “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”

Since last year’s benefit tournament at the Hacienda, the Patton foundation has awarded seven scholarships to Boulder City High graduates.

The other half of the prize pool goes to the tournament’s top finishers. The payout structure will be determined by the number of entries.

To register early, call Grant Turner at 375-6923.

Contest update

Las Vegas poker pro Bill Edler won the first opening-round match in the “Money Talks” football handicapping contest sponsored by Leroy’s sports books, with a second pairing scheduled for tonight at the Riviera.

Edler went 5-2 against the point spread in his seven picks to knock out Sal Selvaggio of Maddux Sports (4-3) last week.

In this week’s match (10 p.m., KLAV 1230-AM), Ken “the Shrink” Weitzner faces Minnesota-based Vince Armstrong, a newcomer to the $5,000-entry contest.

Weitzner, a former psychiatrist who owns the Eye on Gambling Web site (www.eog.com), was knocked out by Jorge Gonzalez in last year’s contest.

The “Money Talks” contest, the biggest event of its kind in Nevada, includes 16 entrants competing in a bracket-style, single-elimination tournament for a winner-take-all prize of $80,000. Picks, results and the full bracket are updated online at www.leroys.com.

Jeff Haney can be reached at 259-4041 or at [email protected]

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