Senator Joe Barton yesterday introduced a new Act into the US Congress which aims to make it easier for individual States to pass their own poker legislation.
Barton´s Act (HR2666 – The Internet Poker Freedom Act 2013) comes almost two years after his previous attempt to “legalize” internet poker at a Federal level failed; but, with the 2012 case United States -v- DiCristina establishing poker as a game of skill, the Texan Senator has high hopes that his proposed legislation will be more warmly greeted.
Indeed, within the 102 pages of the Internet Poker Freedom Act, Barton has removed any reference to the online casino games of chance that appeared in his proposed Online Poker Act of 2011, and has focused on the benefits that
legalizing online poker would have for the economy – at Federal level, at State level and for Tribal communities.
Revenues, Jobs and an Option to Opt-Out
The Internet Poker Freedom Act 2013 argues strongly that, while the rest of the world is capitalizing on a multi-billion dollar industry, the USA has failed (so far) to take the opportunity to introduce legislation which would generate revenue through licenses and taxation, and which would create thousands of jobs throughout the country.
Barton´s Act provides an opt-out for States that do not want to be included in his
Federal System and suggests that operators would have to enable geo-blocking of players from these States as part of their licensing terms, unless players were participating in online poker from lands belonging to federally recognized tribes.
Federal Control under any Other Name
Although Barton proposes that individual licensing authorities issue licenses to providers of online poker who have
owned or controlled a casino with at least 500 slot machines or a qualified card room for a period of five years prior to submitting their application and sort out their own fees and taxes, he advocates Federal control via an Office of Internet Poker Oversight.
This Office would be established by the Secretary of Commerce and the National Indian Gaming Commission, and would have the job of qualifying the licensing authorities and their ability to issue licenses and monitor the activities of prospective operators. Barton also includes a nationwide
bad actor clause to prohibit anyone who has ever been convicted of accepting online poker bets
in felony violation of Federal or State law from holding a license for five years.
Big Penalties for Not Playing the Game
In addition to physically preventing online poker in States which opt out of the proposed legislation, the Internet Poker Freedom Act 2013 calls for measures to prevent minors from playing poker on the Internet, to make it illegal for Internet Cafes to allow access to online poker and to disable the option to pay deposits into an online poker account using a credit card.
The Act also calls for individuals and companies who break the rules to be subject to substantial penalties including five-year prison terms and fines of as much as $1 million per day for anyone who operates an online poker business without a US-issued license. The use of “bots” under any circumstances would also be considered illegal.