Alfonse Marcello D’Amato, better known as Al D’Amato, was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 1, 1937. D’Amato grew up in an Italian family in Island Park, Long Island. He graduated from Chaminade High School before attending Syracuse University, where he was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity. After graduating with a B.S from Syracuse University School of Business Administration in 1959, D’Amato obtained his J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law in 1961.
D’Amato has four children with his first wife, Penelope, and two children with his second wife, Katuria. You might catch D’Amato on television as a commentator on FoxNews, on Bloomberg Radio, or even on the big screen during his brief cameo in the movie The Devil’s Advocate.
In 1965, D’Amato began his career in public service as Public Administrator of Nassau County where he managed the assets of residents who had died without wills. He went on to become Receiver of Taxes in Hempstead, N.Y. in 1969, and then Town Supervisor of Hempstead in 1971. In 1977, D’Amato was elected Presiding Supervisor of Hempstead and Vice Chairman of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors, positions he held until 1980.
In 1980, D’Amato defeated incumbent Sen. Jacob Javits and was elected to the United States Senate, a position he held until 1999. During his three terms in the Senate, D’Amato served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Finance Committee, and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
In the Senate D’Amato was known as a man who liked to get things done, and often worked with citizens on their individual cases. He even got the nickname “Senator Pothole” for his delivery of constituent services.
He was also known for his filibusters, for which he holds the record for the second and seventh longest ever recorded in the Senate. His filibusters often proved to be rather comical, and have included his reading of a D.C. phone book as well as D’Amato singing songs.
Although recognized as a conservative Republican, D’Amato has sided with Democrats on certain issues, including labor issues and anti-discrimination laws. In 1995, the Senator published his one and only book Power, Pasta & Politics: The World According to Senator Al D’Amato.
D’Amato’s 18-year Senate career came to an end in 1999 when he lost his seat to Democrat Check Schumer. Later that year D’Amato went on to open lobbying and corporate strategy firm Park Strategies. New York has not had another Republican Senator since D’Amato left office.
D’Amato has been a long-time poker aficionado. D’Amato says that he enjoys the friendly competition of the game, the banter, and the sense of community it fosters, “Throughout my life, one of the few constants, as well as one of the great joys, has been playing poker.” During his time on Capitol Hill, D’Amato hosted weekly poker games with other lawmakers in his office. After leaving the Senate D’Amato took his poker game to Long Island where he plays in a weekly higher-stakes game, where it isn’t rare to lose $5000 on a bad night. Luckily, according to his poker-buddies, D’Amato rarely leaves the game a loser.
In 2007, D’Amato signed a lobbying deal with the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a non-profit organization which serves to protect and promote the rights of the millions of American who play poker. The PPA opened up an office in Washington D.C. to encourage poker-friendly policy on Capitol Hill. The organization maintains that poker is a game of skill, as opposed to a game of chance like other casino games. The PPA serves to educate the public, the media, and lawmakers on the nature of the game. As D’Amato said, “any poker player knows, your skill at the game determines whether you win, not necessarily the cards.”
As a result of a federal ban on online gambling, poker players who wish to play online are forced to go “underground” and play in unregulated offshore poker sites, which have proven to be dangerous for players. It is not uncommon for such sites to close down and take player’s money with them. With no one overseeing the sites, there is nothing to stop the sites from ripping off their players.
Currently, the PPA is busy working to ensure that the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA), a bill funded by billionaire Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson’s does not pass in Congress. The bill aims to overturn the 2011 Department of Justice legal ruling that the 1961 Wire Act does not apply to online poker or other casino games. If Adelson has his way and RAWA is signed into law online poker would be prohibited across the US, even in the 3 states in which it has been successfully legalized and regulated. Adelson, who owns 4 brick-and-mortar casinos, has a lot to gain from shutting down his casino’s online competition and has promised to spend “whatever it takes” to get RAWA passed.
Fortunately, poker enthusiasts have D’Amato fighting in their corner. D’Amato, along with the PPA, is dedicated to fighting for the interests and the rights of poker players. They are pushing for legislation to legalize and regulate online poker across the country.
“True to form, American poker players like me are not settling for the hand we have been dealt with by the actions of the Justice Department or the inaction of Congress,” said D’Amato. “We are fighting to protect our freedom to play online poker. We are fighting for Internet freedom writ large. We are fighting for our winning hand. And, this time, we’re not bluffing.”