Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) recently called for business leaders to let him know how Washington could help taxpayers and entrepreneurs secure the right to succeed and grow in the United States.
That's all that poker players, the iGaming industry, and U.S. casinos have been asking for when it comes to Internet poker in the United States — the right to succeed and grow.
Michael Waxman of the industry trade association Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative took the opportunity to submit this letter to Issa.
The letter gives the usual argument that Internet gambling continues in the U.S. despite the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. So if the government regulated the activity, it would provide consumer protections, create jobs in the U.S. and provide tax revenue. Safe and Secure is in favor of legalization for all forms of Internet gambling, including sports betting.
"We need to continuously stay in front of Congress and make sure they are hearing from us and from supporters of online gambling regulation so that they don't lose sight of the opportunity to get this done," Waxman said.
Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. With staunch Internet gambling opponent Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) taking over the Financial Services Committee, which used to be the point committee for legislation to regulate gambling when Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was the chair, lobbyists need a new committee to start legislation in Congress. Waxman doesn't think Issa's committee can be that place.
"He's in a great position to be a champion for the cause and we need to build interest," Waxman said, "Not just in the key committees but throughout Congress as we look for the critical mass needed for Internet gambling regulation to become a reality. I think his committee could certainly hold hearings and look into the issue to better understand why the UIGEA is so burdensome, but they aren't a committee in which the legislation will come out of. It's out of their jurisdiction."
Although it looks likely that there will be more movement on the state level than federal this year, Waxman said his trade association will not get involved on the state level and continue to focus on the federal plan. However, he does support work being done at the state level.
"Movement on the state level is a very positive sign, showing legislators in other stats and at the federal level that Internet gambling should be and can be effectively regulated," Waxman said. "Each state that opens up their market, that is more freedoms for online gamblers, more jobs that are going to be created and more economic development, which is definitely needed."
Waxman points out that the possibility of online poker spreading state by state like the lottery once did and then having states combine their players similar to the Powerball lottery — a vision of the future laid out last week by Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association chairman Joe Brennan Jr. — could face problems under The Wire Act. States may need to challenge the issue in court or Congress, which could ultimately end up being the day in court that many in the poker community want.
Despite the difficulties presented on the federal level by the Republican gains in Congress, Waxman doesn't think the possibility of federal iGaming legislation over the next two years should be ruled out when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expressed great interest in getting it done.
"All I will say is you should never count us out and never count out the ability of this issue to get on the agenda and get approved," Waxman said. "We continue to remain optimistic that we are on the radar and in play as Congress moves forward."
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