Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, and John Kyl, the senate minority whip from Arizona, have an online poker ace up their sleeves.
It’s been reported that the two are close to agreement on a new Senate bill geared towards legalizing online poker in the U.S. That is big news as two other bills, one by Representative Joe Barton (Texas) and the other by Representative John Campbell (California), are languishing in House committees. The fact that the most powerful Democrat and Republican in the Senate have created the bill may help move it forward. The big question right now is “what are the details?”
The latest news suggests that the new bill will legalize online poker while tightening restrictions on other types of gambling. Proponents of Internet poker, such as the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), have long differentiated the card game from other forms of gambling such as casino games, noting that poker is a skill-based game. This is one aspect that this bill may embrace, as it seems to be geared towards tightly controlling games of pure chance such as roulette, craps, keno and slots.
Kyl’s commitment to the bill is immensely significant since he was a primary force behind the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIEGA ) that stopped banks, credit card companies and other such service providers from funding offshore accounts connected to Internet gambling. With Kyl on-board, Reid is hopeful that he can garner support from other Republicans, which will be essential in finally getting a law passed that will allow those in the U.S. to play online poker for money.
Confusion has been rampant in the U.S. when it comes to online gambling and poker. As an example, last year the Justice Department commented that the 1961 federal Wire Act only pertained to sports betting. That was a new take, as many had cited the Wire Act when discussing the illegal nature of online casinos and poker rooms.
In fact, it is a misrepresentation of the law to say that online poker itself is illegal in the U.S. People can play online poker as long as cash is not being bet and with the reinterpretation of the Wire Act even the playing of poker itself for money online is not illegal. It is the funding of offshore accounts for that purpose that is not legal due to the UIEGA. Additionally, citizens are not breaking the law when they do transfer funds; those service providers who actually transfer the money electronically are the one’s who are considered to be culpable.
Despite restrictions there are many players in the U.S. who presently play poker online at offshore sites for cash. If anything, poker legislation once passed by Congress will increase the number of people playing while keeping money and tax revenues in this country. It’s said that Reid and Kyl are very close to being in agreement on the bill and then actively soliciting support from Republican lawmakers.