Texas Representative Joe Barton Pushes for Federal Online Poker Bill

Posted By: Date: 08/28/2013 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Just last month, a bill was introduced that would legalize online gambling on a federal level in the United States. While that bill is still floating around congress, Representative Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, has decided to propose his own federal bill that would legalize only online poker. Considering how fast Nevada was able to get the ball rolling with a similar plan, Barton’s bill may be able to hold a lot more water among US legislators. 

Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican, introduced the year’s first federal bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013, in June. Congressman King’s bill promotes the regulation of multiple forms of online gambling, including online casino and poker games. Rep. Barton’s bill supports only the regulation of online poker. Barton’s bill could prove more effective, at least for the time being, since it has been ruled in federal courts in past years that poker is a “game of skill”; one of the key arguments in the government’s aversion to online gambling in the UIGEA of 2006, as well as the Department of Justice’s seizure of major online poker brands in 2011.

Joe Barton has titled his bill the Poker Freedom Act; a heading that will surely result in approval from American online poker enthusiasts, and could raise some questions among congress as to the constitutional rights of US citizens in conjunction with the fact that poker is entirely legal in its land-based format. According to Barton, a bill of this nature is crucial to protect poker players, as well as the integrity of poker, from suspect offshore operators and the unsystematic framework that state-by-state regulation would certainly produce. If regulated on a federal level, states would be given the option to opt in or out of legalization within their borders, while being required to follow a strict, universal guideline if opting in.

“Poker is an all-American game,” said Barton in a public statement. “It’s a game that I learned as a teen and continue to play today. Just like millions of other players, I enjoy the strategy and skill involved. I continue to be supportive of the Americans who play poker online. They deserve to have a legal, on-shore system that makes sure everyone is playing in an honest, fair structure.”

In 2012, a federal online gambling bill was circulated around the table, but partisan disparity and quarrels within the industry led to its ultimate demise. It was the failure of this bill that prompted several US states to begin instituting their own individual laws. Delaware and eventually New Jersey chose to legalize online gambling in multiple formats, including casino and poker games, while Nevada elected to legalize only online poker games. As such, Nevada is the only state that already has internet gaming sites up and running, whereas New Jersey expects to launch its first online gambling sites in November. Although Delaware was the first to legalize intrastate online gambling, a definitive framework has yet to be decided upon, thus they are far behind in the ensuing launch phase.

Without federal legislation, online gambling is considered a grey-zone in the United States. Financial advisory company Morgan Stanley has projected that online gambling will produce $9.3 billion in revenue across the US by 2020, comparable to the amount Las Vegas and Atlantic City currently produce. However, the report emphasizes the need for more states to cooperate in order to instigate a fluid market with more interstate activity, thereby creating a higher source of taxation.

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