A new online poker bill on the federal level that will allow for all states to participate except those who opt out will likely be introduced early next month.
John Pappas, the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, recently stated on an online poker forum that lawmakers are working on a new federal proposal that should be ready to be introduced in Congress in early June. The 2 + 2 posting informed the poker community that legislators are taking time to draft the bill using language that appeals to the broadest number of lawmakers and stakeholders in order to gather enough support.
Past federal online poker and gambling bills have fallen considerably short in garnering support. The most recent of those was the Reid-Kyl bill that was drafted late last year. Though the proposal was released to the public, it was never introduced in Congress in the lame duck session that expired just prior to 2013.
The Reid-Kyl measure had the backing of both the the American Gaming Association and Fraternal Order of Police, among others, but was opposed strongly by several state lotteries and the National Governors Association, to name a few. Much of the bill’s fault lied in the favoritism shown to Nevada casinos. Harry Reid is a Nevada Senator and was criticized for drafting a bill that leaned heavily toward his home state.
The new federal online poker bill is on hold until next month partly due to a Congressional holiday recess. The U.S. is currently enjoying a three-day holiday weekend commemorating Memorial Day on Monday, May 27 that pays homage to military personnel who have died protecting the nation’s freedoms. That freedom did not include online poker after the U.S. Department of Justice targeted the world’s top three poker rooms on Black Friday in 2011.
But the tide has slowly turned in favor of legalized online gambling following a DoJ ruling later in 2011 that found the 1961 Wire Act pertained only to sports betting. That allowed individual states the freedom to enact their own online poker and gambling legislation in the absence of a federal framework. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have done just that, becoming the first states to regulate online gambling in various forms. Nevada’s statute is currently restricted to Internet poker only.
Lawmakers in other states such as Pennsylvania, Illinois and California are also considering online gambling proposals. The progress made by individual states since 2011 has been encouraging, but the vast majority of the population seems to agree that federal legislation would be much more beneficial and advantageous than a hodgepodge of state laws that lack uniformity.
A federal bill would alleviate many of the problems likely to be encountered on a state-by-state basis. The legislatures of each state would have to decide only on whether or not to opt-in to the federal plan instead of drafting and passing their own legislation. This would permit states to jump on board much sooner and allow for greater liquidity with players competing nationwide provided that their home state has opted in.
Pappas also indicated that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is working on another federal online poker bill. Barton’s proposal will likely be presented later this summer. The Lone Star State lawmaker has attempted to advance online poker measures in past years without success. Perhaps 2013 will be different. Congressmen realize that the states will continue pushing Internet gambling legislation and must hurry to act before more states launch their online offerings.
Nevada rolled out the first legal online poker site in the U.S. on April 30 when Ultimate Poker opened its virtual doors. Offerings from Caesars Entertainment and Treasure Island are expected to follow shortly. Delaware and New Jersey are aiming to launch prior to the end of the year. Let’s hope that federal online poker legislation takes hold prior to that and a slew of states begin preparing to also join in and allow Americans the freedom to legally place wagers online from the comfort of their homes.