In the aftermath of Black Friday , millions of poker players in the USA are anxiously awaiting some good news that will give them hope that someday they can get back to the online poker tables. That ray of hope may just be in the form of Representative Joe Barton, who announced last week that his bill to legalize online poker may be ready to hit Capitol Hill as soon as this week.
According to The Hill, a Barton spokesman confirmed that a draft of the bill is in its final stages and not only calls for legalizing online poker, but also creating a new federal regulatory body that would govern and oversee the online poker rooms.
Although the bill, if passed, would open the door for poker sites to be registered in states where gambling is already allowed, each state would be able to opt-out of the law and ban online poker. That means that states such as Washington, that have already outlawed online poker, would still have the power to make it illegal if they so choose.
Unlike the bill that Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced, Barton’s bill may have a chance because it will be routed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This committee appears more likely to legalize online poker than the House Financial Services Committee, headed by Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) where the Frank/Campbell bill landed. If the new bill passes, online poker sites would have to be registered in a state where gambling is already allowed and be registered with the gaming commissions in those states. The state gaming commissions would monitor the poker sites and make sure the customers are getting a fair deal and not cheated. Then on the federal level, a new regulatory body would be created to oversee the games to further ensure fairness and compliance.
A spokesman said that Barton is hoping to get support from the estimated 10 million Americans that used the online poker sites up until Black Friday. He is also working to gain bipartisan support for legislation this session to get the bill passed. Barton appears to be a friend of poker since he is a poker player himself, although he hasn’t played online, he has previously argued in favor of the game, saying that "poker is a game of skill."
After Black Friday, Barton and his staff started hearing from angry poker players who were upset by the online poker ban and wanted something done about it. This led him to start working on the bill with the Poker Players Alliance, which will hopefully lead to finally getting regulation in place that would allow players to get back to the virtual tables in a safe and legal environment.