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Online Poker Bill Introduced For 2011, Plans To Regulate Poker Industry

Though Barney Frank had failed to pass his online gambling legislation in 2010, the industry of online poker in the United States has one again been met with a champion, a champion who could ultimately regulate an industry that is as profitable for the player as it could be for the gambling business and the government itself. We have found out a little about this bill, thought he full text is not yet available online and we are going to break it down for you so you can understand a little more what may happen.

Let's start with a little background. The bill, introduced by Joe Barton (R-TX), is H.R. 2366. The title of the bill is the "Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011." If you haven't already guessed, the UIGEA in the title of this bill is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which has complicated the whole affair of online gambling ever since 2006. This bill, according to sources, will actually serve two purposes. The first purpose, the "strengthening of the UIGEA," would finally make all forms of online gambling strictly prohibited - with a few exceptions. Poker is the main subject of the bill, and poker is what Congressman Barton is aiming to regulate and protect.

If the bill is passed, Barton aims to create an interstate licensing program for online poker. This would create the framework for those who want to play online poker. Every state would be allowed to opt out from offering online poker, effectively banning the games in their state if they do not want it to happen. Citing the fact that some jurisdictions have loose regulations of online gambling, as well as the danger that loose regulation proposes, consumers are effectively left at the will of an entity that could not possibly be challenged. Barton's framework of consumer protection is going to establish a body of protection for those who would play online poker.

Barton's bill already has 11 co-sponsors, which will pass the bill through the committees, congress, and hopefully past the president's desk. The legislation was introduced to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which means it will be overseen by Representative Senator Bachus, one of the most staunch opponents to online gambling in the United States. The 11 Co-Sponsors include Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Rep. John Paul (R-TX), and, of course, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). With continued support, this bill could make it all the way to the desk of President Barack Obama, at which time it will become legal for online poker players to sit at the tables and make some money. It's first stop will be in the House Judiciary committee

Provided the committees don't rip the bill to pieces and change too much text, there are a couple caveats to this law. First and foremost, licenses must be received from the government. The gambling companies will apparently have to receive a license from the federal government and at least one state. The licensed operators will have to have effective means to identify and help those who are suspected of being problem gamblers. Loss limits will be an option for the player. Other proposed rules would include the prohibition of using credit cards for depositing, and an age limit of 21 will be strictly enforced by the government. Location and identity verification must both be determined by the gambling company.

"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," stated Representative Barton. "We want 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."

Rep. Barton has bipartisan support going into this legislative action, which could ultimately make this bill's passing even easier. With Nevada and California both currently pushing through bills related to online poker, as well as the past efforts of other states, New Jersey included, this bill could ultimately become a reality. Though states will still have the ability to opt out, early estimates show the possibility of up to $3 billion a year in taxes coming from online poker. Through the framework that Barton is suggesting, tax money could be very well help the government, which is currently swimming in a sea of debt.

It is worth mentioning that this law is in its infancy, and it is subject to change. We will update as often as necessary, providing more information on HR 2366 as time goes on and progress is made. If you want to monitor the bill yourself, GovTrack.US is a great place to start. The Poker Players Alliance is also a solid source of information. If you really want to help, send your representatives an e-mail stating that you want this bill to move forward unabated.

Another interesting subject is the fact that the bill was introduced barely a week after poker's "Black Friday," the day on which the two largest online poker rooms were forced out of the United States.

Introduced - June 24th, 2011
Referred to Committees - House Energy and Commerce, House Financial Services, House Judiciary committees

Current Co-Sponsors
Shelley Berkley [D-NV1]
John Campbell [R-CA48]
Steve Cohen [D-TN9]
John Conyers [D-MI14]
Barney Frank [D-MA4]
Michael Grimm [R-NY13]
Michael Honda [D-CA15]
Peter King [R-NY3]
Ronald Paul [R-TX14]
Ed Perlmutter [D-CO7]