Federal US Online Poker Bill Gains Momentum

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by Todd Wilkins

Joe BartonTuesday’s Senate subcommittee hearing on “The State of Online Gaming” has allowed Rep. Joe Barton’s US online poker bill to gain a bit of traction.

While the Internet Poker Freedom Act is still considered a longshot at finding approval among lawmakers, the hearing at which Barton’s HR 2666 was a central point of discussion allowed it to achieve a bit more recognition, and perhaps, respect. At the hearing’s conclusion, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) solidified that point.

The Nebraska lawmaker stated that when Barton’s poker-only bill was first introduced in July, Terry and several of his colleagues thought that the proposal was out there with regards to some of its provisions. The bill may actually infringe on the rights of states with regard to online gambling and further analysis of its constitutionality will likely be required.

But Terry admitted that after listening to some of the testimony presented, he did have more of a grasp on the bill’s intent to allow online poker, with each state having the right to opt out at their discretion. Terry jokingly commented that Barton has always been on the cutting edge of issues and that HR 2666 ties right in with that.

While many of the particulars of HR 2666 were not actually discussed at the hearing, poker players can find encouragement with the fact that the proposal will get a more pointed look by other lawmakers. So the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade was positive overall with regard to building momentum toward legalizing online poker at the federal level.

Part of that positivity came at the expense of the Sheldon Adelson group that has vowed to fight all forms of regulated online poker and gambling. Andrew Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands executive who had the task of voicing Adelson’s anti-online gambling concerns to subcommittee members, did not provide convincing testimony.

Many believed before the hearing that the debate itself would end up being a showcase for Adelson’s beliefs and could possibly do further damage to the cause of regulating online poker in America. But that turned out to not be the case, as the pro-online poker group represented by Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association and John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance made a fine showing in stating the need for regulation.

Moving forward, Barton’s bill will likely be picked apart by lawmakers who are both for and against online poker. But that’s OK, as Barton himself admitted that his proposal is far from perfect. Just the fact that the bill has gained more recognition and may now be taken more seriously is a positive step for U.S. online poker players.

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