Congressman Joe Barton is scheduled to live the dream of many poker enthusiasts Saturday by announcing "shuffle up and deal!" to kick off the day's events at the World Series of Poker.
The call would take place at noon in the main Rio tournament area. A few members of Congress have made the announcement in the past, including Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) in recent years. But the Texas Republican, who has said he is an avid poker player, figures to genuinely appreciate the experience as a poker enthusiast himself.
While he is in Vegas, Barton may be able to announce introduction of his highly anticipated licensing and regulation bill for Internet poker. He mentioned that the bill was in the works last month at a Poker Players Alliance rally in front of the Capitol.
"I know he's trying to get it introduced this week, and then at the World Series it would be great if he could say he dropped the bill and here is the bill number," said PPA executive director John Pappas. "If he can't do that, he can at least say that he will drop the bill."
Pappas said that he has seen early drafts of the legislation and the PPA provided suggestions on what the bill should look like.
"No bill will impress everybody, but I think it's a good bill and something poker players should rally behind," Pappas said. "It's going to give adult Americans the right to play poker on licensed and regulated sites, and that's the bottom line. That's what's important."
There have already been two Internet gambling bills introduced in Congress this year. With the House of Representatives controlled by the Republicans, John Campbell (R-Calif.) took over sponsorship of the bill Frank passed through the House Financial Services Committee last year. Just last week, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) reintroduced his companion legislation that outlines a tax structure for if the Campbell/Frank bill passed.
Those bills aren't seen as likely to go anywhere because they are in unfavorable committees and encompass Internet gambling in general rather than focusing solely on Internet poker, as the Barton bill will. Pappas sees the Barton legislation as a draft of what could ultimately become law.
"As much as we love the Campbell bill and appreciate his enthusiasm in bringing the bill forward, the Senate has made it clear that a poker-only bill is something they are more interested in tackling," Pappas said. "And when I say the Senate, I mean Sen. Harry Reid. I think we can all agree that this is going to go through Reid in the end. The Barton bill will be an important step in earning support of Republican leadership for a bill we believe the Senate is more likely going to support."
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Pappas said that the PPA is taking seriously the calls for the organization to assist U.S. players in receiving payouts from Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. The sites left the U.S. market after their owners were indicted on Black Friday. PokerStars made its payouts by the end of April, but players on the other sites have been left without their money for more than two months and counting.
"I had a two-hour conference call with attorneys on this," Pappas said. "We're looking at every option, including where the PPA can try to get money directly from the federal government. I will say that option does not look promising. Hopefully this will be resolved and the sites will be able to refund the money on their own. Our options are very limited in terms of what we can do. We hope to have some more to report on this very soon, some guidelines on what players can do."
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