Column: Who's the sucker in Internet poker debate?

"It's an old line but true: If you sit down to play poker and don't know who the sucker is, it's you.

On Tuesday, lobbyists, consultants and clients filled almost every one of the 182 seats in Room 4203 of the Capitol. It wasn't readily apparent who was getting taken to the cleaners, at least not to me.

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee convened the hearing to bring into the open the high-stakes concept of turning Internet poker, currently illegal under federal law, into a moneymaker for the state of California.

The room oozed with the promise of money. Money for lobbyists. Money for consultants. Money for politicians' campaign coffers.

And money for the state, maybe.

With a $20 billion deficit, lawmakers are intrigued by the notion. But if the past is any indicator, the state needs to be careful about playing with people who win bets for a living.

"It's not the wave of the future; it's the wave of the present," Lloyd Levine told me, noting that millions of Americans already wager on illegal Internet poker sites."

Get the Story:
Dan Morain: Is Internet poker in the cards for state? (The Sacramento Bee 2/10)