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Deval Backs Off Criminalizing Online Poker: Throws the Ball to Coakley

my audioblog of the casino hearing

here’s audio of an exchange with deval just before he testified at the statehouse hearing in which he identifies the attorney general as the immediate force behind the criminalization of online poker in his bill — and says he does not stand behind it and would welcome an amendment taking that provision out!

here’s audio leading up to the exchange with deval

Hi. i’m Charlie Nesson, law professor at Harvard. founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. We are a leading center of thought on the highest and best uses of internet technology. i am also founder and president of the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society,

Buried in Governor Patrick’s resort casino bill is a provision making criminals of those who play poker online, threatening two years in prison and $25,000 fine. To some it may seem trivial in light of the jobs and money issues at stake here to be concerned about making thousands of Massachusetts residents criminals.

i ask you to take just a few minutes here to focus on it. A larger issue of good government is at stake. i have been trying unsuccessfully for months to determine who put this criminalization provision into the bill. As of this morning i now finally have it from the Governor himself that this criminalization provision was inserted in the bill at the behest of the Attorney General, Martha Coakley, and – this is news! — the Governor will not now stand behind it.

Is Martha Coakley behind this criminalization provision? Will she come forward and discuss the wanton damage her provision would impose?

i believe education will prove to be the internet’s highest and best use. i speak for the potential use in online education of learning and teaching through mastery of strategic games, from tic tac toe through checkers and chess to poker with lessons along the way about logic and life. Instead of criminalizing online poker, i ask the legislature to recognize poker as among the most sophisticated of strategic games, and to acknowledge its potential power as a teaching tool, and to open to the possibility of embracing online poker with facilitating regulation. This could bring to Massachusetts a multi-billion dollar industry and significant revenue for the state.

The Governor’s bill as it stands is fatally defective, any way you look at it, whether from the standpoint of poker players, or from a good government perspective, or from the viewpoint of those of us who would like to see Massachusetts become a leader in online education and a home for internet communities.


Forwarded conversation
Subject: criminalizing poker

From: Charles Nesson
Date: Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 2:10 PM

dear martha coakley

i understand from governor patrick that the provision criminalizing online wagering that was in the governor’s casino bill was put in the bill at your behest. if this is the case, may i come and speak with you about this. i see this same provision now included in the track bill recently submitted.

criminalizing online wagering is a bad idea for many reasons, but my personal and primary objection to this blunderbuss criminalization approach is that it sweeps in online poker. This makes the online education program and environment i am developing as the major objective of my work criminal and impossible.

I am the founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. open access open education is its mission. I lead a research initiative i call cyberone to find means and method for using the internet for education in a manner that is open, free, rigorous, scalable, and fun. I am founder and president of the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society, its mission is to find a positive business plan to support open education in an open net. I am excited, as are significant others, about the prospect of developing and offering an open online curriculum grounded in the teaching of strategic games, starting with tic tac toe. games progress from simple to complex. tic tac toe, lines-and-dots, connect 4, checkers, chess, poker.

The blunderbuss approach of criminalizing online wagering fails to distinguish between wagering on lotteries (games of chance played against the house at pre-set losing odds) and wagering on games of skill (like poker, played against other players and requiring assessment of risk and strategic management of resources).

I have been concerned about this from the time the governor first introduced his resort casino bill with the criminalization provision buried in it, and have been attempting ever since to track down its backer so that I might make my case and get it changed. My efforts included inquiries to the govenor’s staff (stan mcgee), Las Vegas Sands (Sheldon Adelson), Harrah’s (Gary Loveman), a lobbyist for Suffolk Downs, all of whom denied knowledge of how it got in there and who was backing it. Only when I spoke with the governor himself at the recent hearing did I learn that the impetus for “clarifying the law” with this provision had come from you.

Would you be willing to meet and talk with me about this.


charles nesson

when appropriate (in my judgment) to an open project and not sensitive (in my judgment) in terms of privacy, i may post email to my blog. all privacy requests respected. ———-

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