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06/11/2006 No. 2
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday Nov 6th, 2006

Last week, culture secretary Tessa Jowell hosted a conference to discuss regulation for internet gaming. America, notoriously, has gone for the outright ban - a strangely authoritarian step from a nation happy to bomb dictator-led countries on the grounds of "raising the lamp of liberty". When a guy in Minnesota wants to play a $5 online poker tournament, which doesn't suit domestic casino owners or the religious right, it seems this lamp is hurriedly snuffed out.

Jowell does not support the US policy - "they should have learned from prohibition" - and suggests instead a set of regulations to protect the underage and addicted. While not as hypocritical as the American approach, it is still strange to see such concern for our welfare from the woman presiding over the removal of limits on slot-machine jackpots and the building of supercasinos. In other words: removing protective legislation with one hand, pushing for more with the other. I am sure she means well, but the whole thing is a mess.

As plans roll on for these super-casinos with their massive slot jackpots (slot machines being the most addictive of gambling forms, responsible for the most visitors to Gamblers Anonymous), the courts have spent a year trying to close down a London poker club called Gutshot, where people can play a game of skill, against each other rather than the house, for small stakes. Yet bridge (another game where luck may triumph in the short term, but skill predominates over time) is played for money in clubs all over the country.

The first thing that should be done by any politician concerned with gaming legislation is differentiate poker from games of chance against the house - both live and online. Until they make this distinction, I will continue to believe they are meddling in things they don't understand.


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