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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

New Bipartisan Bill in Congress Could Legalize Online Poker

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This was a move that most in the poker industry didn’t see coming. As most continued to focus on the May 2009 bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank as the best hope to repeal the UIGEA and legalize online gaming, another piece of legislation was in the works. And on February 23, it was Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) who jointly introduced the Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2010.

The overall bill is a set of reforms aimed at simplifying the U.S. tax code with proposals for a simpler tax system, removal of tax breaks that are geared toward certain special interests, adjustment of corporate tax rates to encourage the growth of small businesses, and tax cuts in the form of the elimination of the alternative Minimum Tax for the middle class that will enable the creation of jobs and lower tax responsibilities for millions of Americans. But in the midst of the substantial bill is a provision to regulate internet gambling in order that the U.S. government may collect the revenue while eliminating the complications created by the UIGEA.

From a release on Wyden’s website, Senator Wyden was quoted as saying, “Senator Gregg and I are demonstrating that there is room for Democrats and Republicans to agree on tax reform. By simplifying the tax code and scaling back tax breaks for special interests, we can give everyone an opportunity to get ahead.” And Gregg also released a statement that noted, “For far too long, our tax system has been overly complicated, burdensome and unfair to taxpayers and to small businesses that are the economic engines of our nation. This investment-oriented proposal will bring us back to common-sense tax laws that encourage people to create jobs and make our nation more competitive.”

Wyden has long been a supporter of online gaming as a means of developing revenue but also encouraging the legalization of an industry that should have the freedom to operate in the United States. In September of 2009, Wyden introduced an amendment to the health care reform legislation in the Senate to use internet gambling revenue to help pay for said reforms. He pushed for the passage of Frank’s Internet Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267) as a means of doing so and assisting the subsequent passage of America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009, as he realized that gaming could reap the benefits of more than $60 billion in revenue over the coming decade. However, the amendment was quickly shelved when health care reform became inundated with hundreds of proposals and marred the issue.

But this tax reform proposal is not only along the lines of legislation that Wyden has long supported, but it is introduced as a bipartisan bill in the hopes of pushing it through and finding wide-ranging support. The online poker industry’s inclusion in the bill also demonstrates that it is an issue of civil liberties and freedoms, not a partisan issue in any way. Pushing it into the hands of Congress by well-respected Senators like Wyden and Gregg give it an opportunity to pass that Frank’s bill did not have.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative was quick to support the new legislation. Spokesperson Michael Waxman stated, “With so much media focus on the differences between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, this bipartisan initiative highlights the growing support on both ends of Capitol Hill for replacing the failed prohibition on Internet gambling with a system to regulate the industry, protect consumers and generate billions in revenue. We applaud Senators Wyden and Gregg for taking the initiative to address and drive this issue.”

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