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Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

D’Amato To Get $5 Million If He Does His Job

Written by 2Scoops in Poker News

BY TOM SOMACH

Poker lobbyist Al D’Amato will be paid a whopping $5 million bonus if he succeeds in getting online poker exempted from legislation that cracks down on online gambling, www.PokerHelper.com has learned exclusively.

D’Amato, 70, the former New York senator, was recently hired as the chairman of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a San Francisco-based lobbying group that seeks to legalize online poker.

The PPA wants online poker to have an exemption or so-called “carve-out” from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which targets online gambling and was passed by the U.S. Congress last year.

Online betting on horse racing already has such a carve-out. The PPA feels online poker should get one, too, because poker, unlike most other types of gambling, is based on skill, not luck.

“D’Amato is being paid about $100,000 a year to serve as chairman of the PPA,” a source close to the situation told www.PokerHelper.com. “But that’s a drop in the bucket to what he’ll earn if he gets the carve-out for online poker.

“If he succeeds in getting it, he will be rewarded with an extra $5 million bonus,” the source said. “The bonus will be paid by the online poker rooms that financially support the PPA and already pay D’Amato’s yearly salary.”

Among the online poker rooms that are financing the PPA and would pay out D’Amato’s bonus are Poker Stars (www.pokerstars.com) and Full Tilt Poker (www.fulltiltpoker), the source said.

At first glance, $5 million may seem like a rather huge payoff to D’Amato, if he does manage to get the U.S. Congress to either refine UIGEA or outright reverse it.

But in actuality, the $5 million would be little more than an afterthought to the online poker rooms that would happily pay it, if it meant the U.S. crackdown on online poker ceased.

The founders of Party Poker (www.partypoker.com), for example, all became billionaires, largely due to online poker players in the U.S., who accounted for the majority of Party Poker’s business.

After UIGEA passed, however, Party Poker banned U.S. players and subsequently lost most of its overall business.

Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker have not yet banned U.S. players, but the sites have still suffered a significant drop-off in business from the U.S. market, because UIGEA has made it harder for gamblers to transfer funds to the sites.

Other online poker rooms report similar circumstances: those that have banned Americans have lost most of their business, while those that haven’t still have lost a lot of business.

With online poker in the U.S. once a $1 billion dollar-a-year business, it’s easy to see why online poker rooms wouldn’t hesitate to pay $5 million to get that $1 billion back.

D’Amato, whose hiring as a poker lobbyist was first reported by www.PokerHelper.com last month, about a month before the PPA officially announced it, has meanwhile been traveling the world, educating himself on how other countries legally regulate online gambling.

Among other stops, D’Amato recently visited the Poker Stars offices on the Isle of Man, an island off the coast of England, and met with Poker Stars marketing executive Dan Goldman and other Poker Stars officials.

Since the visit, Goldman has left the company.

(E-mail Tom Somach at [email protected])

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