Online poker where real money is at stake is in a legal gray zone in the U.S. It was banned in 2006, but the Justice Department allowed states to determine their own online gambling laws in 2011. Now one lawmaker wants to make it legal across the country.
Rep. Joe Barton has introduced the Internet Poker Freedom Act into the House. As the bill's name implies, it only applies to online poker. Other online real money gaming, like real money virtual slots, will still be illegal.
To prevent abuse, Barton's bill would require all online poker services to implement a number of safeguards. For one, every Web site would have to be licensed under the federal government. Secondly, the sites would have to implement technology that would bar underage players from participating, and thirdly, it would require these sites to implement systems that discourage compulsive gambling.
Barton says his legislation is required to protect Americans that could be put at risk due to conflicting state regulations:
"Poker is an all-American game. It’s a game that I learned as a teen and continue to play today. Just like millions of other players I enjoy the strategy and skill involved. I continue to be supportive of the Americans who play poker online. They deserve to have a legal, on-shore system that makes sure everyone is playing in an honest, fair structure. The complex web of state and local regulations now being devised could leave players at risk."
Despite his saying that, Barton's bill would still allow states to implement their own online gaming regulations. States like Nevada have already implemented their own rules, but a federal lift of the online poker ban would allow these Web sites to greatly expand their business.
Even if it's not Barton's bill, an online real money gaming bill has to pass at some point in the future. There are too many companies, including Zynga, that are now looking at online real money gaming as the future of their business. These companies are already taking their business overseas and it will only get worse unless lawmakers come to a compromise on letting these companies operate online real money gaming services in the U.S.[h/t: The Hill]