Online Gambling not Urgent for House Subcommittee

Posted on December 18th, 2013 by Todd Wilkins

Online Gambling not Urgent for House SubcommitteeAny hopes that last week’s U.S. subcommittee online gambling hearing would prompt lawmakers to act quickly on legislation is apparently short-lived.

Rep. Lee Terry, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, told Gaming Today that no further agenda has been planned with regard to holding additional hearings. The Nebraska Republican indicated that subcommittee members are generally of the mind that immediate action is not called for at this time.

Millions of poker players throughout the U.S. would undoubtedly disagree with Terry’s assessment. Federal lawmakers have been sitting on their hands on the online poker and gambling issue for quite some time and the state-by-state regulatory model that is currently taking shape is not the most ideal format for players.

Approving Rep. Joe Barton’s Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 would allow all states to regulate online poker and permit an opt out provision for those states inclined to distance themselves from legislation. Barton’s proposal, his third such introduction of online gambling regulation in recent years, was a focal point of the hearing.

The State of Online Gaming hearing held on December 10 was deemed a success by the pro-Internet gambling faction. Both Geoff Freeman of the AGA and John Pappas of the PPA provided convincing arguments for the need to legislate online poker.

The anti-online gambling testimony of Andrew Abboud, speaking on behalf of Las Vegas Sands CEO Shedon Adelson, did not come across particularly well to most who watched the proceedings. Abboud was labeled a hypocrite by at least two subcommittee members for denouncing gaming via mobile devices even though a Sands-owned casino marketing strategy clearly promotes mobile wagering.

Online poker proponents exited the hearing generally feeling good about the results and had high hopes that federal lawmakers would see the need to act quickly. But Terry’s latest comments indicate that legislators will likely continue to move at a snail’s pace with regard to advancing legislation on the federal level.

In the meantime, individual states will act on their own in regulating online gambling in accordance with the DoJ reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act that was issued two years ago. But that process will take years to unfold, likely leaving a majority of the states out of the loop with regard to regulated online poker and gambling.

That leaves the vast majority of Americans who wish to play poker online with no choice but to patronize unregulated sites based abroad. Some of those poker rooms, such as Americas Cardroom, Bovada, and Black Chip Poker, do have prompt and efficient deposit and withdrawal processing in place.

However, a number of U.S. players continue to distrust unregulated sites, with the Black Friday debacle still fresh in their minds. The online poker industry overall has 13% less players than this time last year. Many believe that the only way to reverse those declining numbers would be blanket legislation throughout the U.S. But without movement by federal lawmakers, that won’t happen.

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