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Congressman Joe Barton’s Internet Poker Bill Introduced Today

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Joe Barton’s Internet Poker Bill

Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton has introduced his bill to legalize Internet poker in the US.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), joined by original co-sponsors Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), introduced a bill Friday that will regulate internet poker. The root of the bill is based in consumer protection. It will create an interstate licensing program for internet poker sites, but at the same time allow states to opt out if they don’t want to participate. At this moment, millions of law-abiding citizens are still playing poker in jurisdictions all over the world, many in places with weak or less than desirable regulatory environments that provide no certainty of legitimacy or safety. This bill will protect them.

The lawmakers believe this is an issue of personal freedom and that the government shouldn’t stop people from playing a game of skill.

“Poker is an all-American game, and it’s a game that requires strategy and skill. Millions of Americans play poker online. Although it’s legal to play for money, it’s illegal to process the transactions that allow players to collect their earnings,” said Rep. Barton. “We want to have an iron-clad system to make sure that those who play for money are playing in an honest, fair system where they can reap the benefits of their winnings. To put it simply, this bill is about having the personal freedom to play a skill-based game you enjoy without fear of breaking the law. ”

Congressman Barton has received bipartisan support for his effort to protect consumers who play poker online.

“This legislation simply says that Americans should be able to play poker legally over the Internet from the privacy of their own homes,” said Congresswoman Berkley.  “As we have shown in Nevada, well regulated gaming protects players, operators and the integrity of the game, while also ensuring those who cannot legally bet are denied the ability to participate.”      

Rep. Campbell of California stated, “The discussion surrounding the legalization of online gaming in this country needs to move forward. At this moment, we have otherwise law-abiding American citizens committing a crime simply by playing poker online. I don’t happen to gamble myself, but freedom is not about legislating what I like to do and making illegal what I don’t. Freedom is about allowing responsible Americans do what they happen to enjoy. Clearly, Americans want to gamble on the internet, and policymakers need to provide both the freedom to do so and ensure appropriate consumer protections are in place. Regulating online gaming and making certain that these sites are operating legally in America will also create economic growth through generated tax revenue and the possibility of attracting foreign players to U.S. sites.”

“Online poker has been growing for years without the appropriate security measures necessary to protect consumers,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Poker players should have the comfort of knowing they are playing poker on legal gaming sites that are fair, safe and credible.  Our bill would create a licensing regime so online poker players are assured they are placing bets with reputable gaming groups that are legal and won’t take advantage of them.”

The Poker Players Alliance applauded the measure.

“On behalf of the PPA membership and millions of poker players across the country, I thank Congressman Barton for his commitment to protecting Americans’ freedom to play poker on the Internet,” said Former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, chairman of the PPA. “As recent events have shown, the lack of clarity surrounding online poker has wreaked havoc on Americans who choose to play this great game both for fun and in some cases as their profession. Congressman Barton’s bill aims to bring clarity to the law, while implementing tough consumer protections and providing a mechanism for the Federal and state governments to collect billions of dollars in revenue. ” 

The legislation addresses many of the concerns raised in previous Congressional hearings, specifically narrowing the focus to only Internet poker, mandating technologies to protect consumers from fraud and limiting underage access, preserving state’s rights, and ensuring Indian Tribes have the same rights to apply for a license as other entities. Additionally, the bill would:

▪   Expressly prohibit accepting Internet bets – poker or otherwise – without a U.S. license, and ensures that licensees can only accept Internet bets on poker.

▪   Creates specific standards for licenses, modeled after existing land-based gambling licensing procedures.

▪   Requires qualified bodies to develop a Compulsive Gaming, Responsible Gaming and Self-Exclusion program to help mitigate problem gambling. 

▪   Disallows licensees from accepting deposits via credit card to discourage players from playing on borrowed money.

▪   Establishes a new U.S. industry creating thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in much needed federal and state revenue.

“This bill reverses years of unclear policy and restores the freedoms of adults to enjoy the great game of poker from the comfort of their own home, with their own money over their own Internet connection.  Congressman Barton is recognized as one of the most skilled poker players in the Congress.  He is passionate about the game and he is passionate about freedom.  We are confident his poker skills will translate well to the political game needed to push his legislation this year.  The PPA looks forward to working with Congressman Barton, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, Congressman John Campbell, Congressman Steve Cohen, and the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee as this bill moves forward in the House of Representatives,” continued D’Amato.