Despite repeated failed attempts over the past several Congressional sessions, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) believe that now is the time to regulate Internet poker at the federal level.
Like he did in the last Congress, Barton has introduced the Internet Poker Freedom Act, which would create a regulatory framework for the online game. States would have the ability to opt out of the federal regulatory scheme if they did not wish to participate.
The legislation is being introduced just two and a half months after Ultimate Poker became the first U.S.-regulated online poker room to accept real-money play. Ultimate Poker, operated Station Casinos, is only open for players located within Nevada's borders. Delaware and New Jersey have also passed online gambling regulations, and several states are considering legislation that would regulate online gambling.
"I don't think this policy of 'just say no' is going to last much longer," said Barton as part of a conference call with the PPA. "As soon as neutral Congressmen and Senators who may not have an affinity or an aversion for poker one way or another see that it's happening intrastate, I think my bill will get a lot of support and has a good chance to pass and to become law."
Barton says he crafted his bill to be a poker-only bill because it is a skill game as opposed to casino games, but his bill will not bar states from regulating intrastate casino games or lottery sales on their own.
Another major hurdle that Barton claims to have cleared is opposition by Indian tribes, who claim their sovereignty has been threatened by previous bills aimed at regulating the industry.
"We really worked closely with the various tribes, and I'm proud to say that while we don't have universal support, a lot of the issues in the last several years that the Indian tribes were concerned about we think have been resolved with extensive meetings and outreach to those that represent the Indian tribes."
Barton has not yet released a list of cosponsors, but says he expects to have about two dozen representatives, with a mix of both Democrats and Republicans, supporting the bill. He also says he doesn't have a commitment from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to hold any hearings on the matter at this time.
The Senate's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 17 titled, "The Expansion of Internet Gambling: Assessing Consumer Protection Concerns."
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.