Several lawmakers are pushing bills to legalize and regulate online poker and now so are some U.S. interests like U.S. Digital Gaming, a multimillion-dollar company founded in 2009 by former Las Vegas casino executive Richard "Skip" Bronson.
It is estimated that the online poker industry generated $6 billion per year before the federal government’s Department of Justice seized three of the biggest online poker rooms; FullTilt Poker, Poker Stars, and Absolute Poker/ UB Poker on April 15, 2011. Those billions of dollars have potential tax revenue of $250 Million for the USA and some lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, know it.
Barton and co-sponsor Shelley Berkley, D-Nevada, are the latest politicians to step up and push legalized online gaming. Unlike its predecessors, Barton’s bill would have the U.S. Department of Commerce issue regulations. Individual states would have the power to either allow their residents to play online poker or "opt out" which would block that states residents from playing.
Bronson says that, "The future is online gaming, everybody knows that. The problem is what is the proper play when it comes to regulating the industry."
To address those who oppose online poker such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who has stated, “Internet gambling has become too easily accessible to minors, subject to fraud and criminal misuse, and too easily used as a tool to evade state gambling laws," Bronson’s company offers the whole package, from software and legal services to licensing, marketing, and advertising operations. That includes licensed software to operate online poker games with the latest technology to verify a player's age and location, to prevent online gaming being accessible to minors.
Bronson and his partner, Richard Baskin, have invested $3 million in U.S. Digital Gaming and they have raised another $3 million in outside funding for their project. When online poker is finally legalized, they want to make sure they are ready to serve the surging market. "I don't see it happening this year," Bronson said of legalization. "It will be 2012 before any state law is passed legalizing online gambling, especially online poker." In the meantime, U.S. Digital Gaming’s 15-member company is lobbying state governments to legalize online poker.
The states that have debated or passed measures that would legalize online poker for their residents are California, New Jersey, Florida and Iowa. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill in March that would have allowed residents to place bets through websites operated by casino companies in Atlantic City. In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval recently signed into law Assembly Bill 258. That bill orders the Nevada Gaming Commission to allow online gambling in the state and directs the Nevada Gaming Commission to employ regulations governing online gambling.
Bronson said he expects a "domino effect" to start when the first state legalizes online poker. He believes that legalization on the state level (intrastate gaming) would give commercial casinos like American Indian tribes and state lotteries an advantage over bigger casino companies because of their current dominant position."When New Hampshire created the first lottery in 1964, it didn't take long for other states to form their own lotteries. Today there are 42 state lotteries," he said. "We are very close to having the first state go live with online poker. People have accepted gambling. It's changed from the late 1980s and early 1990s." Barton thinks one reason for society's acceptance is because of the length and depth of the recession, leaving state governments looking at gaming tax revenues to balance their budgets.
It seems that the worse the recession gets, the more likely it is that the states and the federal government will get moving on legislation to rake in all those potential tax dollars. At least that is the hope of thousands of online poker players who now are limited to playing at just a few online poker rooms still open to US players.