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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Is Legalized Online Poker Drawing Near?

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This is great news for poker players in the USA! HR 2366, the Online Poker Act of 2011 was introduced on Friday, June 24th to the U.S. House of Representatives by the bill’s sponsor, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX). The bill will begin in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and if it passes successfully through the channels, it will allow players in the US to get back to the virtual tables and play poker online.

The bill has 11 original co-sponsors from both parties and across the US and calls for allowing licensed companies to offer Internet poker with real-money play to U.S. residents. While there is still work ahead to ensure that players’ funds on Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UB Poker are returned, the bill is the ray of hope online poker players have been looking for since the events of April 15th.

"Poker is an all-American game, and it's a game that requires strategy and skill," Barton commented. "Millions of Americans play poker online. ... We want to have an iron-clad system to make sure that those who play for money are playing in an honest, fair system where they can reap the benefits of their winnings. To put it simply, this bill is about having the personal freedom to play a skill-based game you enjoy without fear of breaking the law."

John Campbell (R-Calif.), along with Barney Frank (D-Mass.), have introduced their own online gambling bill, gave his approval to Barton's bill in a press release by stating, "I don't happen to gamble myself, but freedom is not about legislating what I like to do and making illegal what I don't. Freedom is about allowing responsible Americans to do what they happen to enjoy."

If passed, the bill would set up an Office of Internet Poker Oversight in the Commerce Department which would oversee the state agencies that would issue online poker licenses. To guarantee a safe and secure playing environment, the bill includes several strict guidelines including specific rules for states wishing to opt-out, licensing to big established casinos only for the first two years, no deposits using credit cards, minimum age requirement of 21 and criminal penalties including prison time for cheating.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is behind the bill all the way and is doing everything in their power to see it pass. "The bill reverses years of unclear policy and restores the freedoms of adults to enjoy the great game of poker from the comfort of their own home, with their own money over their own Internet connection," said former Senator Al D'Amato, chairman of the Poker Players Alliance.

"Congressman Barton is recognized as one of the most skilled poker players in Congress. He is passionate about the game and he is passionate about freedom. We are confident his poker skills will translate well to the political game needed to push his legislation this year. There is a satisfying section of the bill for all poker players that declares: "Poker is distinct from the class of games of chance traditionally defined as gambling in that, players compete against each other, and not the person or entity hosting the game (sometimes called 'the house'), and that over any significant interval, the outcome of a poker game is predominantly determined by the skill of the participants."

PPA executive director John Pappas is excited about the bill’s prospects and thinks more so than any other poker-related bill ever introduced, the Barton bill could become law. "We will certainly do all we can to get co-sponsors, a (committee) hearing and a markup, and we want to do it this summer," Pappas said.

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