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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

More Online Sites Join Lobbying Efforts in D.C.

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The poker community has become well aware of the importance of politics in the game, as the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 showed the powerful effect that a law can have on nearly every aspect of the poker world. Since then, several members of Congress have made attempts to repeal the UIGEA and implement a piece of legislation to officially legalize and regulate online poker. The 2009 efforts consisted of the House bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank in May - the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009 - and the Senate bill most recently unveiled by Sen. Robert Menendez in August - the Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009.

Though Frank’s bill has made progress through the summer by garnering more than 54 cosponsors in the House, neither piece of proposed legislation has had the opportunity to be presented in a hearing thus far. With other priorities for Congress, such as health care and the U.S. financial crisis, online poker regulation has been put on perpetual hold, it seems. But members of Congress cannot help but be aware of the bills, as lobbying efforts have been in full swing since the House bill was introduced in May. It was reported by Bloomberg the day before that introduction by Frank that Harrah’s Entertainment, home of the World Series of Poker and casino empire, was already mobilizing its lobbying forces to head to Washington, D.C. to seek support of the bill, as was Youbet.com, another company looking to enter the licensed online gaming market should it come to be.

While the Poker Players Alliance and Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative have also been heavily lobbying Congress for months, it was most recently reported that numerous other online poker sites are spending millions to lobby for the same cause. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported that the UC Group, an online payment processor for ten online gaming companies, has already spent $5.23 million in lobbying and plans to continue its efforts. Its chief executive, Kobus Paulsen, was quoted in The Telegraph as saying, “We are certain that our efforts will yield an open market for non-US based gaming operators.”

It was also reported that PartyGaming, SportingBet, and PokerStars hired “high-powered” lobbying firms to represent them in D.C. PartyGaming is perhaps one of the companies with the most to gain from a reentry into the U.S. market, as they were one of the biggest online gaming sites in the world before their exit from America after the 2006 UIGEA, not to mention that their recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for their previous presence in the market allowed them the opportunity to settle the score and start with a clean record. And PokerStars, having never left the U.S. market and thus becoming the largest online poker site in the world, has a vested interest in seeing online poker legalized and regulated.

What was once reported as a several-million-dollar lobbying effort in the halls of Congress has evolved into one that represents, at minimum, tens of millions of dollars being invested in the passage of a pro-online gaming bill. There is no doubt that the presence is felt in D.C., but whether these efforts will make a difference is what remains to be seen.

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