WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed into law a ban on televised wagering, impacting 23 million Americans who enjoy watching poker shows on TV, cable, and the Internet.
"Today is a dark day for the televised game of poker," said Bart Hanson of "Live at the Bike," a live cash game broadcast that is seen daily by 110,000 viewers. "Twenty-three million Americans who watch the game on their TVs or computers will effectively be denied the ability to enjoy this popular form of entertainment, even in the privacy of their own homes."
In a move of political gamesmanship, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate hijacked a vital port security bill and added the televised gambling prohibition language. "Live at the Bike" co-host David Tooshman lamented that, "Congress had a real opportunity to create good public policy by licensing, regulating and taxing televised poker. Yet, they chose prohibition. This decision will prove to be detrimental in the long-run and leaves more than $4 billion in annual advertising revenue on the table."
ESPN president George Bodenheimer said, "Poker advertising is one of our biggest revenue streams thanks to 'World Series of Poker' and similar TV shows. Because of the new law, we've been forced to pull those shows from our lineup. We've lost some very lucrative advertising. This was a huge disappointment for our biggest advertiser, PartyPoker.net. They're dismayed that we no longer have a target audience for their ads." Travel Channel CEO Judith McHale echoed Bodenheimer's sentiment. "Advertisers clamor for airtime on our 'World Poker Tour' show. We're going to take a severe hit to the pocketbook because we can't broadcast poker shows."
When asked what might replace televised poker, Bodenheimer said, "We've inked a deal with the International Sport Karate Association to televise their tournaments. We're going to expand our lineup of shows on bowling and billiards and darts. We might even broadcast some National Hockey League games. None of those sports has as many TV viewers as poker does, but this new law is forcing our hand. We need to make up our lost advertising revenue."
PartyPoker.net spokesman John Shepherd expressed sorrow over America's televised gambling law. "A majority of our customers login from the states, so it is vital for us to advertise in American TV markets. We may have to cut the bonuses for our board of directors if we cannot advertise on televised poker shows."
Some non-profit groups may be hurt by the new law, warned Phil Gordon, co-host of the "Celebrity Poker Showdown" TV series. "Our sponsors give away hundreds of thousands of dollars each season to obscure charities no one has ever heard of. Without televised poker, those charities may be doomed."
Living poker legend Doyle Brunson said, "As a lifelong poker player who is always seen on TV, I can't believe the underhanded way this new bill restricting televised poker was passed through Congress. What does a poker show have to do with the Safe Port Bill? We Texans don't like this kind of trickery." The legislation contains specific exemptions for televised broadcasts on horse racing, state lotteries and fantasy sports. Hanson and Tooshman said they hope Congress will evaluate objectively the skill game of poker and afford it similar treatment.