Congress returns to session today for what figures to be an important few months in determining the future of online poker.
The most interesting bill to watch will be Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, which figures to undergo intense discussion after lying dormant since being assigned to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in June.
"It's time to build some momentum with the Barney bill," Poker Players Alliance president John Pappas said. "He pledged to mark it up this year."
Although the congressional year is scheduled to end Oct. 30, it is expected to extend into December because it is a nonelection year with important economic legislation up for review. Other key poker-related bills to keep an eye on include Frank's second bill, HR 2266, the Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act, and the Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act introduced in the Senate last month by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Pappas expects HR 2267 to come up for committee debate in September or October. The bill currently has 54 co-sponsors, a number that shows support but, looked at more closely, also shows that the legislation will not pass without significant changes. A bill this controversial isn't going to make it all the way with only four Republican supporters.
"It's all going to be subject to compromise," Pappas said. "That's the purpose of Barney holding hearings, to see where the opposition is coming from and see what is needed to improve the bill."
It would be encouraging to get out of this year with HR 2267 amended to the point that it would have a realistic shot at getting through the House next session.
Frank's other bill will need more immediate action. The Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act is designed to delay enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by one year to give Congress the opportunity to review these bills to legalize and regulate online poker. The UIGEA, which would penalize banks for sending money to poker sites, is scheduled to be fully implemented Dec. 1. HR 2266 currently has 35 co-sponsors. It figures to help in accelerating the bill that it was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is chaired by Frank.
Menendez's legislation doesn't figure to advance far this year due to its late date of introduction. However, the wording and ideas in his act could play a large role in the amendments Frank's regulation bill undergoes in committee.
While Congress battles it out in the house, why not battle it out on the felt by signing up for an online poker account.