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Online Poker Legislation Could Be Passed As Early As Next Week

Dec 6, 2010
Author: Susan Arnold
Online Poker Legislation Could Be Passed As Early As Next Week

In what would be a stunning turn of events for poker players in the United States, it is possible that online poker could be licensed and regulated throughout the country as soon as next week. This is due to the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is drafting a bill that would create a regulatory framework for online poker, and is expected to attempt to attach the bill to a larger piece of legislation before the end of the current session of Congress.

Last week, word began to spread that Reid – who narrowly won reelection last month – was beginning to work on an online poker bill that would take steps to legalize the game and repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Now, a final version of that bill is expected to surface this week, and many experts expect Reid to use the same tactics to attempt to pass the legislation as were used to pass UIGEA in the first place.

According to circulated reports on early drafts of the legislation, the bill would generally be kind to American poker players, though there are a few snags that might be less popular.

On the plus side, the opportunity to acquire a license would be given both to land-based casinos in the United States and existing sites, meaning players who have already found a home online may not have to give up their accounts. There would be a 20% tax levied on the sites based on each month’s deposits, which would hopefully generate significant income for the government without forcing the sites to raise their rake rates or push other fees onto the players.

However, there are a few issues which have left players concerned. Most notably, the draft legislation contains a 15-month period before any licenses would be granted to companies that wish to provide poker services in the United States. The goal of this period would be to put US-based companies on equal footing with existing sites, but this would quite possibly result in online poker being largely unavailable during this period in the United States. This is a serious problem for professional players who ply their craft online. While some sites would probably accept Americans for a quick payday (with the tradeoff that they’d likely never gain a license in the US), the larger sites would simply have to wait.

There are other issues as well. State governors would be able to opt-in or opt-out of allowing their citizens to play online poker. In addition, the new US sites would not be allowed to offer services to online players from other countries for three years.

Despite the law’s blemishes, groups like the Poker Players Alliance have pledged support for the bill.

"It's not going to be 100 percent of what players want,” said PPA executive director John Pappas, “though I don't know if any bill would be."

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