Representative Joe Barton stated that “God wants us to have the right to play poker online” at a hearing on online poker held by the Subcommittee for Energy and Commerce on Tuesday. Barton opened the hearing by promoting the Internet Poker Freedom Act, which he had proposed in July.
He also said that God must favor his bill because he could safely travel to Washington D.C. from Texas in spite of two ice storms. He also spoke of the power of the Internet and of how it can be used to do almost anything one wants. He said: “Just about the only thing you can’t do anymore on the Internet is play poker. I think the time has come that in the Internet age, we need to regulate and set a level playing field for those of us who would like to play poker online.”
The panel of people who had arrived to testify before the Congressmen was definitely split. Cracking a joke on Barton’s statements about God wanting Americans to play poker, Representative Marsha Blackburn said: “Mr. Barton, who we all know and love, got off on a little bit of a tangent during his opening remarks when he said ‘God is in favor of my online poker bill’… but he only need to look at the number of his bill—2666—to remember that the devil’s in the details.”
Later, Barton made an attempt to alter his opening statement by saying that he was “somewhat flippant” when he said that God was in favor of his bill, adding that God obviously doesn’t care for the bill. But he said: “God does care about free will, and I think we should have a law that reflects that.”
The subcommittee also discussed issues such as technology used to verify players’ age, the problem of poker bots, the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) interpretation of the federal Wire Act of 1961, whether states should be given freedom to license and regulate intrastate online gaming, and so on.
Barton, who is very much in favor of legalizing online poker at the federal level, argued that playing poker is not gambling as it is a “game of skill” and that there are a number of players who make a living out of playing poker. He also said that if some of the people present began playing poker, there would be “a high probability of telling which one comes away the victor.”