The campaign to finally introduce a bill to make it legal for Americans to play online poker is gathering pace following the ‘Black Friday’ clampdown in April that saw the US Department of Justice (DoJ) shut several major poker sites.
Texas Republican House of Representatives member Joe Barton – a senior House Energy and Commerce Committee member who also enjoys poker – is not the only politician aiming to push through legislation that would legalise online poker as well as create a federal regulatory agency to supervise the sites.
The 61-year-old has been joined by Washington Democratic Representative Jim McDermott, who is poised to reintroduce legislation that would tax licensed online gaming in the USA.
The 74-year-old from Chicago has produced a complimentary bill to Massachusetts Democratic Representative Barney Frank’s legislation that would regulate and legalise Internet gambling.
McDermott believes that “legalising, regulating and taxing Internet gambling just makes sense” – particularly as, “right now, the US loses billions of dollars to off-shore gambling and illegal gambling rings because of an unrealistic and virtually unenforceable policy”.
Additionally, a spokesperson for Barton reckons his bill will take slightly longer than expected, having announced that it is still being drafted right now and will hopefully be completed by next week – and not this week, as was originally announced.
Communications director Sean Brown said that Barton – who has met with furious poker-playing voters that are disappointed by the DoJ’s crackdown on Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker – is “very serious about getting something done”.
Government officials claim those websites – and more besides – broke a 2006 law that banned payments for Internet gambling and that required payment processors to stop payments relating to online wagers.
It is important to note that online poker is not actually against the law in the USA, but processing payments most certainly is.
So, while Barton’s plan – which he believes will provide a “consumer protection bill” – would reaffirm the legalisation of online poker, other types of online gambling would continue to be prohibited.
Barton’s legislation would result in online poker sites being registered in states where gambling is already permitted – such as Nevada, where the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is being played right now in Las Vegas. His bill would see the Nevada Gaming Commission take charge of making sure websites function within state rules.
The bill would also result in a new regulatory body being created to supervise online poker at the federal level.
McDermott – who originally presented his legislation two years ago – reckons the “current prohibition of online gambling has failed and made countless American vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and money laundering”.
His revised bill will, however, include incentives for states and Native American tribes to sign up. These inducements will take the form of a 6% tax on gambling deposits, as well as two revenue set-asides that will designate 25% of funds for foster children, and a 0.5% levy that will be reserved for the preservation of historic sites and the promotion of the arts.
McDermott believes that the modified legislation will “help states collect much-needed revenue” as these tax incentives should help persuade illegal websites to work within the law.