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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Florida Looks to Online Poker to Solve Deficit Problems

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The number of American states now investigating the options of online poker revenue has risen to four. California was the first, having debated the issue for two years and counting, and New Jersey legislators introduced an intrastate online poker bill in January. In the last weeks of February, Iowa decided to research the issue, and now Florida is in the mix as well, with a bill to legalize online poker and create revenue for the cash-strapped state.

It was announced on March 2 by the Palm Beach Post that State Representative Joseph Abruzzo, a Democrat from Wellington, Florida, introduced the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2010 to the legislature. Abruzzo noted that approximately 900,000 residents of Florida use unregulated, offshore poker companies to gamble online, and by legalizing it within the state, more than $200 million in revenue could be collected in the first year alone.

H.B. 1441 is in the mark-up stage, as evidenced by the 42-page bill with additions and deletions already noted in the text. But the precedent remains the same. The proposal looks to allow internet companies to apply for licenses from the state, each of which would cost $500,000, and operations would be handled by already-established card rooms and casinos. The state would regulate the industry under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s pari-mutuel wagering division, which looks to include cash poker games and tournaments under the guidelines - however ambiguous - of the UIGEA. And within the regulations are tax provisions, fee collections, and conditions that would combat underage gambling, problem gambling, and money-laundering and associated crimes.

While there would be limits to how long a player could be logged in and how much a person could wager in a particular time period, those restrictions would still allow a reasonable amount of play with exceptions for tournaments. All in all, even with limits in place that may keep high-stakes players from the sites, the state looks to collect hundreds of millions in revenue each year, as the online poker operators will be required to pay the state 20 percent of its monthly gross receipts.

Abruzzo seeks to move the bill forward expeditiously, as the proposed date of effect is July 1, 2010.

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