- (Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/CSPAN)
During a Congressional hearing earlier this week concerning the new Internet Poker Freedom Act, Texas Rep. Joe Barton, a staunch supporter of online poker, argued that God enabled him to travel to the congressional hearing in Washington D.C., and therefore the Almighty must be in support of online poker and the passing of the online gaming bill.
Barton, speaking during the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Tuesday in D.C., said that "God must be for this bill because I got up this morning at four o'clock in Texas, outside Dallas, and braved icy roads and 20 degree temperatures to get to DFW airport where my good friends at American Airlines left exactly on time. God put a 200 mile tail wind behind our plane, and I got here an hour early. So that tells me that God is for this bill," Barton, a Republican, said jokingly, garnering laughter from those attending the subcommittee hearing.
The Internet Poker Freedom Act, also known as House Bill 2666, would allow more people to play internet poker by setting certain regulations to the online game, including establishing a program for states and federally recognized Indian tribes to license the game. The legality of online poker in the U.S. folded in 2011 after the Department of Justice ended many online gaming operations, and earlier in 2006 Congress passed a law banning the use of credit cards for illegal internet gaming.
Barton, who is backing the Internet Poker Freedom Act , went on to argue at Tuesday's congressional hearing that he believes fans of poker should be able to play online, saying the game is superior to other games such as slots or roulette, because it requires skill and not just luck. "Now we have the Internet and iPhones and iPads and apps and all these things," he said. "Just about the only thing you can't do [online] anymore is play poker. And that is changing."
"I think the time has come to recognize that, in the Internet age, we need to regulate and set a level playing field for those of us who would like to play poker online."
Later in the Congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) poked fun at Barton's previous comments regarding God's interest in online poker, jokingly saying: "Mr. Barton, who we all dearly love, got off on a little bit of a tangent during his opening statement this morning when he said he thinks God is in favor of his online poker bill because his flight got in early […] but he only need to look at the number of his bill, 2666, to remember that the devil is in the details."
Barton later clarified that he does not actually believe God has any interest in his online poker bill, but he does know that God believes in free will, which in reality is what the Internet Poker Freedom Act is all about. "I was being somewhat flippant when I talked about God being for this bill. Obviously God doesn't care a fig one way or the other about our bill, but I will say, as a practicing Christian, God does give men and women free will, and I think we ought to have a law that reflects free will on this issue."
Barton introduced the bill to Congress shortly after New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada passed individual laws to legalize online gaming in their states. The bill was also introduced around the same time one company, Ultimate Gaming, offered the first legal and secure online poker opportunity with its UltimatePoker product after it was approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.