Online Poker Likely to be Legalized in US by Year’s End

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jun/10/2011
Online Poker Legalized in US

The same day that Nevada’s Governor signed a bill into law that would allow online poker operators to do business in the state, US federal efforts also appear to be moving forward

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill that would ultimately make Nevada home to various legalized Internet gambling sites in the US with an initial focus on Web poker rooms. 

AB258 gives the Nevada Gaming Commission until January to adopt regulations to implement Internet gambling in the state.

In a sign of greater acceptance of legalized online poker, only two Senators objected to the bill, Barbara Cegavske and Elizabeth Halseth.

AB258 Includes, without limitation, Internet poker but does not allow for the operation of a race book or sports pool that uses communications technology approved by the Board pursuant to regulations adopted by the Commission to accept wagers originating within this state for races, or sporting events or other events.

The bill further provides that a license to operate interstate interactive gaming does not become effective until: (1) the passage of federal legislation authorizing interactive gaming; or (2) the United States Department of Justice notifies the Commission or the State Gaming Control Board that interactive gaming is permissible under federal law.  Las Vegas casino operators have been lobbying heavily in recent weeks to get legislation passed on a federal level.  The Government’s signature could be seen as an important stepping stone in meeting such goals. 

Online gambling has been mired in controversy since the U.S. Justice Department indicted executives of 3 top online poker sites April 15, charging them with violating federal law. In its original form, AB258 would have prohibited state regulators from denying a license to existing online poker sites. That provision was deleted.

Assemblyman William Horne of Las Vegas says AB258 will make Nevada a licensing model if and when the federal government legalizes online gambling.

On Friday, two arch foes joined in support of legalized online poker at the federal level.  Nevada state senator Harry Reid and Republican conservative Rep. Joe Barton of Texas will help to push forth a bill that will amend the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by expanding consumer protections, introducing a licensing procedure for Internet gambling providers, and stepping up enforcement against illegal operators through the Treasury Department.

Barton expects to officially introduce an Internet poker-only bill this summer in his Energy and Commerce Committee.

Legalized Internet poker is being viewed as a means to help prop up a troubled economy with an estimated 15 million playing the game.  Online poker is a multi-billion dollar industry despite countless efforts to stymie it. 

Barton probably feels for those affected by the recent crackdown on websites PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

“I love to play poker,” he told the Sun last week. “When I was in the minority, I told (other lawmakers), ‘you’re in the majority, do something about it.’ But now I’m in the majority and I’m trying to get it going.”

There are at least two companies unlikely to obtain a license in the States:  PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.  The Las Vegas Sun noted that it is unlikely that any state’s statutes would allow licensing of a company that is under indictment or found liable for illegal activity.

Even staunch opponents of legalized online gambling seem to be backing off a bit.  Outgoing Arizona Senator Jon Kyl softened up his tone earlier in the year, suggesting he could live with regulation.  More recent critics like Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus seem to support Barton’s efforts.

“I’m not opposed” to considering Barton’s proposal, Bachus told the Sun last week. “But if there’s gambling, it has to be regulated.”

Barton says he has gotten the go-ahead to move forward.

“This is not a Republican leadership initiative, but they’re aware of it,” Barton told the Sun. “It’s a sensitive issue, but an issue where there’s a majority consensus in the House and Senate to make this change.”

He’s also got the support of his chief competitors, Republican Representative John Campbell of California and Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

“I’m co-sponsoring his (bill), I believe he’s going to co-sponsor mine. If his moves first, I’ll support him,” Campbell said. “The resistance is still there, but I think there are some minds that are more open now than they were last year.”

Frank said: “I’ll go for the broadest bill possible. We have an extraordinary restriction on people’s freedom right now, so I would support the broadest bill possible ... but I would take something over nothing.”

- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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