Three years ago who would have predicted that academics from one of the most prestigious universities on earth would organize a rally defending online poker players from criminal discrimination in the most educated city in the United States? This week the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS), a group formed at Harvard Law school to promote poker as an educational tool, will co-sponsor a rally at the Statehouse in Boston alongside the Massachusetts chapter of the Poker Players Alliance to protest the proposed criminalization of online poker introduced by Governor Deval Patrick’s most recent gaming bill.

The groups are demanding that Governor Patrick explain who wrote the provision of the casino bill outlawing poker – a move which Professor Nesson has described as “crazy and nonsensical.”

"I don't think filling our expensive jail cells with poker players is what Massachusetts voters had in mind when they elected Deval Patrick," said Charles Nesson, the Harvard professor who founded the GPSTS. According to Nesson, the governor “owes the people of Massachusetts an explanation.”

He went on to say that “We intend to keep pushing this until we get answers from the governor.”

A public hearing on the controversial legislation is scheduled for Tuesday after the 9:15 a.m. rally. The bill seeks to ban online gambling while at the same time pave the way for the construction and operation of three massive brick and mortar casinos.

Professor Nesson is planning on speaking at the rally. He has been fighting this piece of legislation because he believes that it is fundamentally and morally wrong. If passed, the legislation would call for the arrest of Massachusetts residents who play online poker – they would face up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000. This would make Massachusetts the only state in the entire country to explicitly make the act of playing online poker a crime. The law goes so far that it would even apply to players who engage in online poker where money is not at stake.

“There is another downside to the anti-poker legislation. Outlawing online poker also advertises to the world that Massachusetts is a state that discriminates against the Internet and new technologies, which is exactly the opposite of what the state needs for its economic development,” commented Nesson.

John Pappas, the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said that Massachusetts has now become a focal point in terms of state’s policy toward online gaming. “People around the world are watching to see how the Massachusetts legislature deals with this issue because its significance goes far beyond gaming,” said Pappas, whose organization has over 900 000 members.

 "We believe taking the extreme step of criminalizing online poker would be a strike against personal freedom, would tarnish the reputation of Massachusetts as a progressive state, and be opposed by millions of poker players around the country and world," he added.

Nesson has taken it upon himself to engage in both a series of harshly written and verbal exchanges with casino owners and government officials in the hopes of determining who the author of the anti-poker bill is. Nesson recently reported that a spokesman for Governor Patrick informed him that the governor was unaware of the provision – while inquiries to the Governor’s press secretary continue to go unanswered.

Nesson has voiced his concerns, “On top of the issue of creating bad law there is a good government question concerning how legislation actually gets written in this state. It should be a matter of concern to all Massachusetts citizens, regardless of their views about online games, how this narrow industry-backed provision found its way into the Governor's casino bill.”

Tight Poker Staff

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Tight Poker Staff

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For nearly two decades, we’ve provided the best in class for poker site reviews, top online poker bonuses, strategy tips, poker news, and exclusive free poker content.  Consisting of a team of poker and gambling experts, we deliver the best online poker brand experience for players of all levels, from the fish to the sharks.