Barton US Online Poker Bill Faces AGA Rival
by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD
U.S. Internet poker legislation protects states’ rights and excludes foreign operators
Yet another bill that would bless internet poker but not casino games has appeared in the U.S. The latest is a federal bill that would create an interstate licensing system in which states and Indian tribes continue to exercise power over gambling within their territories.
Introduced on 24 June 2011, H.R. 2366 marks the third time legislation to legalize internet poker has been introduced into a U.S. Congress. The bill is a considerable improvement upon its predecessors, due largely to efforts of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a grassroots political organization that has been working “to protect the right to play poker” since 2005. Last year the PPA spent US$1.8 million lobbying Congress.
This time around, the PPA’ chief sponsor is Rep. Joe Barton, an experienced and influential Republican from the State of Texas. His emergence as a leader on the issue comes as a surprise, considering he has served as a Representative since 1984 but until now has contributed little to the discussion.
H.R. 2366 enumerates several requirements that state agencies would have to meet in order to obtain federal certification:
States would be free to decline participating in the program if they prefer that Internet poker remain prohibited in their territories, and the same rules would apply to the sovereign Indian tribes located in America.
But at any rate, foreign operators should not be amused. For the first two years after enactment of H.R. 2366, licences to operate Internet poker would be restricted to companies of a certain size that have been operating regulated gambling services in the U.S. for at least five years already. Then at the end of two years, all other operators would become able to apply for a licence – but only if the Office of Internet Poker Oversight first makes a finding that there would be no risk to the public in opening the market to more providers.
Furthermore, the American Gaming Association (AGA) now says it will introduce an Internet poker bill of its own after Congress’ summer break. GBGC has heard AGA CEO Frank Fahrenkopf outline some of the draft details at both the IGaming Super Show in May and the Gaming Executive Summit in July:
And so lawmakers will face the challenge of having to grasp the implication of two competing proposals to correct a situation which they have utterly failed to understand over the last 16 years. An optimist would hope they will take time to consider both proposals and enact a solution that combines the best elements from each. But it’ more likely that the one with heavier political clout will gain favor, and probably even more likely that neither one makes it out of its committees and onto the floor of the House or Senate.
Because after all, even with Rep. Barton leading the way, any federal legislation is going to have a tough time today. A battle over the national debt ceiling consumes much of the calendars in both houses at the moment, and numerous other matters weigh heavier on the minds of most lawmakers than Internet gambling.