Poker fans irate at McCain’s double-dealing on online gambling

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Sen. John McCain, who was caught by a Washington Post photographer playing online poker during the Syria debate, once sought to ban online gambling — and gambling proponents are accusing the Arizona Republican of dealing from the bottom of the deck.

“John McCain not only opposed online gambling, he might have been the strongest critic of gambling in Congress,” Wayne Allyn Root, a successful Las Vegas odds maker, 2008 Libertarian vice presidential candidate, and prominent Mitt Romney supporter during the 2012 presidential campaign, told The Daily Caller.

“Obama and McCain are masters of that politicians’ art form — ‘Do as I say, not as I do,'” Root added. “That’s a nice way of saying they are liars, cheats, frauds and hypocrites.”

McCain was photographed by the Washington Post’s Melina Mara playing the popular iPhone poker game VIP Poker, which doesn’t use real money. But Root pointed out that he could hardly have done otherwise. “It doesn’t matter that it is free play, because it would have had to be free play or he would have to go to jail,” Root told TheDC.

Although McCain made light of playing the game on his iPhone on the Senate floor, he voted in favor of the 1998 Internet Gambling Amendment.

Had it passed, the bill would have criminalized placing, receiving, or otherwise making a bet or wager on the Internet. The penalties for knowingly gambling over the Internet were fines of up to $500, 3 months imprisonment, or both. Those who set up Internet gambling businesses faced fines up to $20,000, or four months imprisonment.

“McCain supported prison terms for making a bet on your own computer, with your own money, in your own home. He also supported banning betting on college games in Las Vegas, even though it has been legal and popular in Nevada for half a century,” says Root.

Backed by Indian casinos worried that Internet gambling would cut into their bottom line, the bill exempted Indian gaming, which was a major contributor to McCain’s political campaigns.

Nor was this McCain’s only attempt to quash gambling. “Sen. John McCain has added boxing reform to campaign finance reform and Internet gambling on his list of problems to be solved,” wrote the Washington Times in 2000.

McCain also voted for the SAFE Port Act of 2006, which, in the words of The Economist, had a provision in it “hastily tacked onto the end of unrelated legislation,” that “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”

McCain’s positions so disgusted Doyle Brunson, a professional poker player and lifelong Republican, that he refused to back McCain for president in 2008.

“Poker players have to support Obama,” Brunson said. “God help the internet gambling business if McCain does happen to win.”

Brunson ultimately reversed himself and voted for McCain, but not because of any perceived change in McCain’s internet gambling career.  “And if I go to hell, it won’t be because I voted McCain,”  Brunson wrote on his now-defunct blog.

McCain’s office did not return a request for comment.