[MA] Written Testimony for Oct 29 Hearing - PPA (10/29/09)

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Testimony of Randy Castonguay, State Director, Poker Players Alliance Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Hearing on Expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth October 29, 2009 www.theppa.org Chairman Dempsey, Chairman Spilka and distinguished members of the Committee … My name is Randy Castonguay and I represent more than 25,000 Massachusetts members of the Poker Players Alliance, or the PPA. The PPA is the largest grassroots advocacy organization in the United States
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  www.theppa.org Testimony of Randy Castonguay, State Director, Poker Players Alliance Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging TechnologiesHearing on Expanded Gaming in the CommonwealthOctober 29, 2009  www.theppa.org Chairman Dempsey, Chairman Spilka and distinguished members of the Committee …My name is Randy Castonguay and I represent more than 25,000 Massachusetts members of the PokerPlayers Alliance, or the PPA. The PPA is the largest grassroots advocacy organization in the UnitedStates protecting the rights of more than 1 million poker enthusiasts nationwide.I speak to you today as a proud resident of the Commonwealth and a proud poker player. I was born,raised, work and continue to live in Central Massachusetts. Poker has always played an important rolein my life. Unlike simple games of chance, poker is a strategic game of skill. It teaches you patience,decision making, math, money management and psychology. Like so many others, I learned the gamefrom my father during family poker nights with all of us gathered around the table for an evening of funand fellowship.Today millions of Americans, and an estimated quarter million Bay Staters, play poker on the Internet.In fact, at this very moment thousands of Massachusetts residents are playing poker on the Internet.The game has simply evolved into the 21 st Century and moved from the kitchen table to the computertable.Sadly, while the game has evolved, the way politicians think about it has not. It is hard to believe thatwhen gaming expansion legislation was introduced two years ago and again this year, the bills includedprovisions that make poker on the Internet a crime punishable by 2 years in prison and a $25,000.00fine! Never mind the blatant hypocrisy of criminalizing poker in the very same bills that would establishcasinos in the state and slot machines at race tracks, but the idea of sending someone to prison forplaying penny-ante poker is an outrage. Thankfully the authors of these bills recognized their errorwhen their offices were flooded with phone calls and emails from angry constituents and have agreed topull the criminalization language. As legislation continues to move, my 25,000 fellow PPA members andI will be watching closely to ensure that our game and the people who play it are not criminalized.As the volunteer PPA State Director for Massachusetts I have both the obligation of not only protectingplayers’ rights, but also advancing them. As this Committee discusses the pros and cons of regulatingexpanded gaming in our Commonwealth, it would also be appropriate for it to consider the existingInternet poker play that is occurring today without any state oversight or control. Regulation of Internetpoker is not expansion of gambling, it is simply the responsible government response to an industry thatexists today. The knee-jerk reaction of an Internet gaming prohibition will be doomed to failure. Thefederal efforts to do so have proven this time and again. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle,and like it or not, Internet poker is here to stay. The only question is how to regulate it.It bears mentioning that one of this state’s prominent Congressional leaders, Chairman Barney Frank, isspearheading the effort in the U.S. House to regulate and tax poker and other games over the Internet.We wholeheartedly support Chairman Frank’s effort, but also recognize that our own state can lead theway and serve as a model for effective regulation nationwide.Regulation of Internet poker is first and foremost an issue of consumer protection. We want theassurance that we are playing on fair and honest Web sites and these sites are held accountable.  www.theppa.org Secondly, a regulated marketplace can ensure that underage access is strictly prohibited utilizingsophisticated age-verification technologies and that programs are in place to identify and preventproblem gaming. Remarkably, in these two respects, the online game can be regulated to a greaterdegree than the brick and mortar casino. Finally, regulation will provide significant tax revenue for ourstate coffers. It is conservatively estimated that the current Internet poker market would generate aminimum of $40 million each year for the state. And this is not a tax increase on residents; it is simplythe collection of taxes that are moving from our borders to overseas where Internet poker is alreadyregulated and taxed. This $40 million dollars could be used to help fund such things as education, lawenforcement, critical infrastructure, health care and even humanitarian issues such as homelessness.With the support of the national office of the Poker Players Alliance, I offered a petition for a ballotinitiative to regulate Internet poker here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I respectfully submita copy of this petition for the record. Unfortunately, our petition was not certified by the AttorneyGeneral’s office due to a disagreement with our language. Fortunately however, this Committee andour State legislature can regulate Internet poker through the formal lawmaking process.There are legitimate concerns being raised today about building casinos in our communities. Everythingfrom traffic, to crime and environmental impact must be carefully considered. However, when it comesto regulating Internet poker the Committee needs not worry itself with these concerns. Yes, opponentsmay say that by doing so, we are opening casinos in every home, but even this criticism is not true, it is just rhetoric. We are advocating regulation of Internet poker, not Internet craps or roulette. And asevery member of this Committee knows, unlike craps and roulette, poker is a game of skill that has beenplayed in the home since the dawn of the game. Regulating, rather than prohibiting, poker on theInternet is simply recognition of the game’s 21 st Century place in American culture.I thank the Committee for providing me the opportunity to speak today. I look forward to working withyou to protect and advance the rights of the hundreds of thousands of poker players in Massachusetts.
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