Texas Congressman Joe Barton Introduces Federal Online Poker Bill
Already this year we have seen an online poker bill sputter out at the federal level – that bill of course being the Reid/Kyl Bill, a draft of which was circulated late last year and was much talked about, yet died out without ever being introduced amid the so-called “fiscal cliff” crisis that dominated the media as 2012 turned into 2013.
Despite what many see as a lack of GOP interest in widening the scope of gambling both online and off in the United States, a Republican Congressional Representative from the state of Texas, Joe Barton, this week introduced legislation that, if passed, will allow regulated online poker in the US.
Bill bears resemblance to previous Barton legislation
The new piece of legislation is not dissimilar from previous online poker legislation put forward by Representative Barton. Much like prior bills that Barton has backed, the new legislation would green light only the game of online poker, meaning that other forms of online betting like sports-betting and online versions of typical casino games such as blackjack would continue to be prohibited at the federal level.
While online poker can be a somewhat nebulous issue at the national level, three states have already passed laws that regulate some form of betting over the Internet. Delaware and New Jersey have enacted legislation that will allow residents to access various forms of real-money online betting sites, including online poker rooms, so long as they are physically present with the respective state’s borders and are over the age of 21 when logging on.
By contrast, a 2011 law passed in the state of Nevada paved the way only for online poker but does not allow comprehensive Internet betting. History was made in late April with the launch of Ultimate Poker, Nevada’s very first online poker room. Much like in Delaware and New Jersey, players must be within the Silver State’s borders when they access real-money online poker sites and are required to be above the legal age of 21. Nevada’s Governor, Brian Sandoval, is permitted to negotiate interstate online poker deals with other states that have also regulated the game under the terms of Nevada law.
New bill has the support of the PPA, online poker players
Upon the introduction of the new Barton legislation, poker rights lobbying group the PPA issued a statement supporting the bill.
“Internet poker is here to stay in America, and we are all better served through licensing and regulation that implements high standards to protect consumers, thwart fraud and abuse, and guarantee the proper safeguards against underage and addictive gambling,” said PPA chairman Alphonse D’Amato, a former Senator.
The PPA has worked hard to bring the issue of regulated online poker to the forefront, arguing that in the absence of regulation at the federal level, players are left with not only a varied patchwork of state regulation, but also are bereft of the protections and security that would be present in a tightly-monitored online poker market.
“The complex web of state and local regulations now being devised could leave players at risk,” Barton was quoted as saying, echoing the sentiments felt by gambling industry experts and players alike.
Despite strong industry support, some see bill as not having much of a chance
And while Barton’s efforts have been lauded by those who wish to see the game of online poker legalized at the national level, there are many who don’t believe the time is right and that the bill, like so many previous online poker bills, is doomed to failure.
For his part, Nevada Senator Harry Reid told reporters earlier this year that he didn’t expect to see any progress on the issue in the coming year, despite his strong efforts last year to drum up support for such a measure. Citing the current partisan divide in Washington DC, Reid pointed out that there is virtually no Republican support for online gambling expansion, something he doesn’t expect to change in the near future.
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