Poker for potholes initiative makes run at California ballot

YouTube regular Tuff Fish ‘monumentally tired’ of bad roads

A California YouTube junkie received permission last week from the California Secretary of State to circulate a petition to establish a government run online poker site that would subsidize fixing the state's roads.

Anthony "Tuff Fish" Sandstrom, who regularly chronicles the ups and downs of his online poker life on YouTube, decided that he had had it up to here with the sorry state of American gambling regulation, and resolved to do something about it. Mad as hell, not going to take it anymore.

Behold, the Initiative for Potholes Repair Funded by A California State Owned Online Poker Site.

If Sandstrom can get 430,000 signatures between now and the end of the year, the initiative will make it onto the California ballot. Back at the GIGSE event in Montreal, Professor I. Nelson Rose, the preeminent authority on internet gambling law, remarked that he thought more progress would be made at the local level rather than the federal level. He also speculated that California might be one of the first states to reform its laws covering online poker – we can only assume that he was somehow involved with the drafting of this proposed law.

Sandstrom has wisely hitched his horse to what Californians hold most dear - namely their automobiles. He also notes on his site that in population size California dwarfs entire countries, such as Sweden, that have government run poker sites, and that California could reap commensurately larger rewards from running such a site. In spite of federal attempts to sever the internet gambling industry from the financial system, embodied by the ill-conceived Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), determined players can still find cumbersome ways to play poker online. Tuff Fish aims to keep that money right here in California.

Now playing online poker is troublesome, and funding options are scarce, expensive, and risky.

I personally have no interest in either online casino gambling or sports betting. I am just a guy who wants to play poker at home when I don’t feel like making an hour drive to a cardroom or casino. I am going to make a mighty effort to make safe, legal, and accessible online poker possible. At the same time this effort can be of great benefit to the drivers of the State of California.

Tony Sandstrom

PS: I am monumentally tired of the sorry state of the local streets too!

PPS: Online poker IS coming to the US. The question is when it will happen and who it will benefit. I vote for Californians to benefit.

Of course, the law actually makes quite a bit of sense, and it is exactly the kind grassroots democracy that the initiative process is designed to encourage - namely, to allow citizens to push through laws their representatives don't have the cojones to enact themselves.

The proposed law would set aside 90 per cent of revenues raised by the site to local road repair, leaving 10 per cent for programs devoted to "problem gamblers," who recent studies have concluded make up around 1 per cent of all online gamblers. California would essentially opt out of the UIGEA, under provisions that were designed to allow states such as Nevada to continue regulated gaming within their own borders.

Tuff Fish is probably right in that America will eventually be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century on the internet gambling issue. There is a certain inevitability to technological progress, once the genie is out of the bottle. America's disastrous approach to its WTO dispute with Antigua will likely force a more rational approach to the online gambling industry on the feds, although reason has always been in fairly short supply in the Cheney administration.

Gambling has traditionally been a states' rights issue, and for California to take those rights back would be a healthy first step on the road to reform of an area of law in dire need of serious change. Current federal law in the field dates from a time when the feds were concerned about mafia-run sportsbooks, not about people playing poker online. Regulated online gambling would do more to diminish mob activity than FBI enforcement activity, though that would be too easy: much like the phony drug war, it would force politicians to acknowledge these futile enforcement efforts as the white collar (and largely white) jobs programs they truly are.

San Francisco streets could certainly use the money.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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