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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Menendez Introduces Internet Poker Bill to Senate

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Since the introduction of Rep. Barney Frank’s online gaming bill was introduced to the House of Representatives in May, lobbying groups like the Poker Players Alliance have been busy lobbying Congress to support the legislation. But at the same time, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was working on his own bill, one that could be introduced to the Senate and focus solely on internet poker and other games of skill. And on August 6, he did just that with the Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009.

There were multiple reasons for Menendez to introduce his own legislation, one being the staunch opposition to the Frank bill - Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act of 2009 - by the major American sports leagues like the National Football League and Major League Baseball. The issue was with the broad nature of Frank’s bill, as it gave no carve-out to sports betting, and the associated organizations were prepared to spend millions of dollars to defeat the bill. Though Frank is in the process of amending the legislation to provide that carve-out, it seemed like a quicker and more efficient solution to introduce a Senate bill that specifically focused on poker and games of skill.

Another reason for the Senate bill was that the Frank bill has been gaining ground on the House side, recently reaching 54 cosponsors and finding a growing list of House members considering signing on to it as well. The Senate, on the other hand, would require fewer cosponsors and seemed likely to find more support in the immediate future.

Lastly, Menendez introduced a similar bill last year that garnered some support but got lost in the 2008 Congressional and Presidential elections. With some revisions, the 2008 bill was supplemented with a great deal of consumer protection caveats, as well as an important focus on poker, its classification as a game of skill, and its link to other skill games like chess, backgammon, mah-jong, and bridge. His current bill, S.1597, did just that.

The Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009 focuses on several issues in addition to the skill games aspect. Consumer protection is one of its key components, and the bill includes the mandatory implementation of technologies to protect against underage gambling and find players who seem to have excessive gaming habits, as well as fund the development of prevention and treatment programs for problem gamblers. The licensing and regulation aspects are also significant, as the bill would require the creation of a registry to track unlicensed online gaming operators and monitor licensed ones. There would also be a taxation process established to collect the billions of dollars in tax revenue from the industry, as well as a clarification of the 1961 Wire Act to officially exempt games of skill from any potential prosecution under that law.

The PPA released a statement by PPA Chairman and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato regarding the bill’s introduction on August 6: “Through our efforts on Capitol Hill during National Poker Week, the tides are turning and support for licensing and regulating Internet poker versus infringing on Internet freedom is growing. The PPA is pleased that Senator Menendez chose to introduce his bill to license and regulate Internet poker and include additional consumer protections. his continued support for protecting the Internet freedoms of poker players specifically, and Americans generally, is greatly appreciated. Today’s action by Senator Menendez is yet another powerful step towards protecting Internet freedom, protecting consumers and protecting online poker. On behalf of the members of the PPA and online poker players nationwide, I thank Senator Menendez for his leadership on this important issue.”

Members of the poker community are encouraged to contact their representatives in the Senate to encourage support of the bill, and the process can be completed in only minutes on the Poker Players Alliance website at Congress needs to know the massive support for the Menendez bill among their constituents, and e-mails and phone calls will send that message.

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