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Online Poker Legislation: The State Race

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the federal hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee have grabbed headlines of late, but it's significant movement at the state level that could make a bigger impact by the end of the year.

Last Thursday, a New Jersey State Senate committee became the first legislative body to advance a bill to license and regulate Internet gambling.

"We made it further than any other Internet gambling item in the U.S.," said Joe Brennan Jr., chairman of the Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association, which has focused on New Jersey as the best bet for Internet gambling at the legislative level this year.

The New Jersey Senate's Wagering and Tourism Committee voted 3 to 1 to approve the bill, sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak. The bill now advances for consideration by the full New Jersey Senate. The first step, however, is for a companion version of the bill to go through the committee process in the State Assembly.

The bill would allow Atlantic City casinos to host servers for Internet poker, as well as casino games, for New Jersey residents to play on.

Brennan believes, as Lesniak previously told PokerNews, that these bills will pass this year to make New Jersey the first state to offer licensed and regulated online poker to its residents.

New Jersey clearly has a large lead over the other states looking to get in on online poker.

California also recently had movement in its efforts to offer licensed and regulated Internet gambling. The state held a hearing in February to discuss the merits of intrastate Internet poker but never actually had official legislation with a sponsor until Rod Wright, leader of the Senate committee that oversees gambling, introduced SB 1485 late last month.

In Florida, Rep. Joseph Abruzzo showed that he was serious about his bill to license and regulate poker in Florida, called the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act, by flying all the way to Prague to discuss his legislation with industry representatives last month at the i-Gaming Super Show.

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The Poker Players Alliance challenged the constitutionality of Washington State's law that makes it a felony to play poker on the Internet in front of the state's Supreme Court on May 27. Lee Rousso, the PPA state director and a Washington resident made the challenge. Many other PPA members residing in the state rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court building.

"I thought our oral arguments were very good," PPA executive director John Pappas said. "The lawyers on our side did a really good job and I thought the lawyers on the other side kind of bumbled through."

It's going to be a long wait to see if the law gets overturned, probably six to nine months according to Pappas.

"We might see some momentum building for the legislature to come back and repeal the law because public opinion of it is real low," Pappas said. "It's not an enforceable law as far as we can tell and there's really no reason for it to be on the books."

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Another issue that is going to be a long wait is the domain seizures case in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court. The good news is that the court completely ignored desperate motions by the Commonwealth to run discovery on the issue of iMEGA's standing and receive an extension. The next movement in the case should be the long-awaited decision on the merits of the seizure. iMEGA chairman Brennan doesn't expect a decision in the case until at least September.

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