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Federal Online Poker Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress

Federal Online Poker Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress 0001

Online poker legislation is back in Congress, as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) introduced a bill Thursday titled the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013.

“A common federal standard will ensure strong protections for consumers, protect against problem and underage gambling, and make it easier for businesses, players, lawmakers and regulators to navigate and freely participate,” King said in a statement.

Before poker players use their “one time!” again, they need to understand that this is not a fresh new bill that will hit the ground running on Capitol Hill.

It is essentially the same amended bill that Barney Frank got out of the House Financial Services Committee in 2010.

Poker Players might be wondering why they should get excited about another federal bill after much-hyped previous efforts have fizzled with little actual progress, while states such as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have succeeded in passing legislation. The answer is they shouldn't; but that doesn't mean it's not beneficial to have a federal bill out there.

“I think it's too early to say what the chances are for federal legislation in this Congress, but I will say it's probably a longer shot than it was in the previous congress,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. “As an organization, we're going to be supportive of the bill but be measured in terms of what resources we use for federal bills when we're also looking at opportunities where state bills can be moved.”

King's legislation would nationally legalize all forms of online gambling except sports betting, making states or tribes that don't want to participate opt out, and give everyone the same opportunity to obtain a license.

It is rumored that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex) will reintroduce his poker-only legislation later this year.

“I think having an attack on all fronts is the way we win this,” Pappas said. “I think just solely hoping that states do the right thing is a flawed strategy.”

While there already is an online poker site up and running in Nevada, and New Jersey and Delaware are expected to follow by the end of the year, the state-by-state plan isn't taking off as hoped.

Online poker efforts never got off the ground this year in New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Iowa and Mississippi. In California, there are multiple proposals but still much bickering and no consensus between Indian tribes. It's looking doubtful that any other state will join the three pioneers in legalizing online poker in 2013.

“We saw some early momentum this year in states, but it's now kind of stalled out,” Pappas said. “Having a federal effort out there will help drive states, and having state efforts will help drive the federal.”

States that already have their own online gambling operations going before enactment of the King bill would be grandfathered in, meaning states have the opportunity to create their own rules before having to abide by federal regulations. At the same time, Congress has the opportunity to uniformly regulate the industry before states make their own decisions.

Unfortunately, the same powerful opponents that derailed previous federal efforts remain in state lotteries and Indian tribes. Having a federal bill out there at least provides an opportunity for those sides to come together and work on compromises that would appease them all.

“We will try to get fair hearings in respective committees and try to get a committee vote,” Pappas said. “To have real substantive debate from both sides coming out and making changes to the bill I think will be a better approach than having nothing and hoping for something.”

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