Big poker winner to visit state for hearing

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A man who won $5 million playing Texas Hold 'em poker will be among several Internet poker representatives visiting Bismarck next week to promote the industry in North Dakota.

Greg Raymer, the 2004 World Poker Tour Champion, won $5 million in the tournament. Raymer won a chance to become part of the World Poker Tour by playing on the Internet.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said Raymer, along with several other representatives of the Internet poker industry, will be in Bismarck on Monday and Tuesday to promote legislation that would kick-start the industry in North Dakota.

Kasper has arranged a public social event beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Radisson Inn, where legislators and the public can meet with Internet poker representatives, see demonstrations and play Texas Hold 'em.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee has set aside four hours for a hearing on one of the bills being considered. That meeting is scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon in the Brynhild Haugland Room of the Capitol.

Kasper introduced two pieces of legislation that would allow companies to set up Internet poker sites in North Dakota.

Currently, Internet sites are located in other countries because companies fear a 1960s federal law that prohibits gambling over the wire.

Opponents fear the bills would expand gambling.

There also is concern that the federal government would not allow Internet poker sites anywhere in the United States.

The bill that will be heard Tuesday in committee is House Bill 1509, which passed the House by a vote of 49-43 but has yet to be taken up by the Senate. That bill sets guidelines for establishing the industry, including how much taxes would be collected.

House Concurrent Resolution 3035 allows people to vote to change the state's constitution to allow Internet poker sites. HCR3035, which hasn't been voted on by either chamber, has to pass or House Bill 1509 will be useless.

Other people expected to be on hand for the four-hour hearing include Nigel Payne, a London man who owns Paradise Poker, the third largest Internet poker site in the world; and Frank Catania, former assistant attorney general of New Jersey who was head of the state's gaming enforcement division from 1994 to 1999.

Kasper said the industry representatives will prove they are interested in North Dakota.

"If we pass the law, they will come, and they've given their commitment to that," Kasper said.

Kasper said his legislation could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually to the state because the profits would be taxed and each player would pay a $10 annual registration fee.

(Reach reporter Tom Rafferty at 223-8482 or tom.rafferty@bismarcktribune.com.)

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