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    Tuesday, July 25th, 2006 by Mike

Ken Bell, a former dot-com entrepreneur, lost his business two years ago and fell deep into debt. This 45-year-old’s search for a way to repay his massivebills took him to online poker tables and online poker games. And that gamble has paid off. Over the past year and a half, Bell, playing eight hours a day, has won enough to dig himself out from his failed business. Internet poker “has basically allowed me to have a working income,” Bell said. “If it didn’t come through, they would have put me and my company into bankruptcy. Things would have gotten really bleak.”

But the future is uncertain for Bell’s new poker career and the online gambling industry as a whole, poker included. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make Internet gambling a federal offense.

Supporters of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act say it’s long overdue.

If the Senate joins the House in passing a bill to ban Internet gambling and President Bush signs it, Colorado’s and other statesprofessional online gamblers will be particularly at-risk. While many other states have land-based casinos with high-limit poker games, Colorado’s $5 bet limit makes it nearly impossible to make a living at the state’s casinos. Poker Games such as Texas Holdem, rely on rake collection from the players to make money.

So, the Internet is the only option for professional gamblers who want to stay in Colorado and make a living at poker.

The act, already passed by the House, would modify the Wire Act of 1961, which courts have ruled covers only sports betting, to cover all types of gambling and communication facilities. It would also prohibit the use of credit cards, checks from U.S. banks and money-transfer services that Americans use to send and receive money from offshore gambling sites.

The Government has tried numerous bills just like this, and they have all failed. If, however,the U.S. government were to legalize and regulate the Internet poker industry, a study commissioned by the Poker Players Alliance estimated, it could bring in $3.3 billion a year in taxes. But that also seems unlikely.

A ban, however, would forceAmerica’s professional poker players to find another line of work or move out of thecountry.

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