Are the wheels in motion for a federal overhaul of the online poker business?
According to a release from the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, some members of the house are looking to regulate the game.
Today, "influential member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce" Joe Barton introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011 on the House floor. Besides being quite the mouthful, the bill would, among other things, assign regulatory powers to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Barton is a Republican Congressman from Texas, but the bill has bi-partisan support. It is being co-sponsored by Shelly Berkley (D-NV), John Campbell (R-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN).
Here's how it would work: The U.S. Commerce Dept. would become the overall regulators of this brand new industry. The bill would leave some power to the states, as their individual commissions would have the job of issuing the licenses to qualified applicants. To be a qualified applicant, operators would have to agree to certain regulations that would help protect against things like gambling abuse and such.
And of course the taxes collected from America's love for online poker would hopefully "stimulate U.S. economic expansion." You want new jobs and more revenue, people? Online poker is the way to do it says Barton.
According to market research, regulation of all forms of internet gambling would generate $67 billion over five years and create over 25,000 new jobs. Sounds pretty good to me.
Now, before you run along and get too giddy about this bill, it has one serious flaw in the eyes of some - the prohibition of credit card use to fund internet gambling. Here's what Michael Waxman of Safe and Secure has to say about that:
“It simply doesn’t make sense to limit the use of credit cards for those seeking to gamble online. Consumer protections for users of credit cards are much greater than those involving most other forms of payment. If someone is interested in using funds from their credit card to gamble online, they are not going to be stopped from doing so. They’ll find less transparent mechanisms to move funds from cards to other payment mechanisms. The solution is to have broad consumer protections in place overall, and the law needs to require that in any case.”
Is there a real chance that this bill could gain enough support to survive? It's tough to tell at this point. It's important to note as well that this isn't the only internet gambling bill on the table right now. H.R. 2230, introduced by three members of both parties, would charge a 2% tax at the federal level on internet gambling and would give the states the option of imposing an additional 6%.
As we are all well aware, people are going to find a way to play poker online. I guess the question becomes, does the government want to make money on it? Let us know what you think about the regulation of online poker.