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Poker Notes

Handicapping the push for online poker legislation

There has been plenty of buzz in recent years around the prospects of legalizing and regulating online poker, both at the state and federal level, but despite all the promise, all we have gotten in that time is a further tightening of the noose around the online poker industry’s neck courtesy of the US Department of Justice.

The good news for the online poker community is that there are several new players on the scene fighting for online poker legislation at the federal level, swelling the ranks of pro-online poker advocates such as Barney Frank (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) who have been pushing for, or throw their weight behind, legalized online poker for a number of years.

The new players on the scene are mainly Republicans, with Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Campbell (R-CA) being front and center amongst the crowd -Barton has introduced the most recent online poker bill in the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee — a necessary move now that the usual committee where previous online poker bills were introduced, the House Financial Services Committee, where Frank and Campbell are prominent members, is chaired by the anti-poker Spencer Bacchus (R-AL).

And since a bill must pass committee before it even has the possibility to reach the House floor for a vote, the chances of any pro-online gaming legislation even being brought up in the House Financial Services Committee were slim to none.

However, new advocates do not mean that we have a better shot of legalized online poker in the near future. With the economy in absolute disarray, and Congress at odds over whether the sun is hot and the sky is blue, the chances of a polarizing issue like online poker being brought to the House or Senate floor for a vote are still rather slim.

Since most of the general population still views online poker as gambling, and doesn’t have the time or the energy to take a deep look into the subject, the anti-poker talking points will likely still be winning the day — no matter how cherry-picked, taken out of context, or flat out made-up these talking points might be.

Other good signs are the new advocacy groups that have been popping up. Along with the Poker Players Alliance, and iMEGA, we also have FairPlayUSA and US Digital Gaming joining the fight to legalize online poker.

I’m still of the opinion that the only way online poker will ever be legalized in the United States is when prominent states start to legalize intra-state online poker, forcing other states to follow suit, and finally the federal government will come around, or simply stay out of the states’ way, once they realize how much revenue online poker is bringing in.

Basically I look at it as a Domino Effect, similar to state lotteries: In 1964 New Hampshire was the first state to offer a lottery, and now 43 states have some sort of state-run lottery. And by 1985 we saw the first joint lotteries, where states teamed up to offer larger and larger jackpots -a move that smaller states that legalize online poker should copy.

Hopefully the legalization of online poker at the State level doesn’t drag on for 20+ years, but this is the only realistic route for legalization that I see at this point.

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  • Posted in: Poker, Poker News
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