Poker Bans

New Bipartisan Bill Would Legalize Online Poker

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On Friday Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced a bill that would explicitly legalize online poker at the federal level while allowing states to ban the game within their borders. The godawfully named Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011 (or IGPPCPSUIGEAA?), is narrower than a bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that applies to all online gambling except for sports betting, and it arbitrarily bars players from using credit cards to fund their accounts (in an effort to deter problem gambling). Michael Waxman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (an industry group), objects to that provision:

It simply doesn't make sense to limit the use of credit cards for those seeking to gamble online. Consumer protections for users of credit cards are much greater than those involving most other forms of payment. If someone is interested in using funds from their credit card to gamble online, they are not going to be stopped from doing so. They'll find less transparent mechanisms to move funds from cards to other payment mechanisms. The solution is to have broad consumer protections in place overall, and the law needs to require that in any case.

Still, the bill represents an improvement on current policy because it acknowledges that online poker is permitted by federal law as long as it does not violate state law. That is pretty clearly the case even under current law, but it's a reality the Justice Department refuses to recognize. Former Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, says "Congressman Barton's bill aims to bring clarity to the law, while implementing tough consumer protections and providing a mechanism for the federal and state governments to collect billions of dollars in revenue."

The bill's co-sponsors include Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.). Cohen, Conyers, Frank, and Paul also back the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, suggesting that a Pot and Poker Party could be more than a good time on a Saturday night.

Barton'd bill is here; Frank's bill, which Campbell re-introduced in March, is here. I criticized the Justice Department's recent online poker indictments in a column last April and discussed the broader Internet gambling crackdown in a 2008 Reason feature story.

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  1. Oh, jeez, I’d really like to support this bill, but can I really risk siding with Joe Barton? I’ll just hold out until a Democrat proposes their own bill.

  2. Why is gambling illegal? I’m being serious. Why is a wager between consenting individuals subject to any law, especially considering that using force to collect a wager debt is already–and should remain–illegal?

    1. For the same reason you have to wear your seatbelt. Now shut up, quit bitching, and go to your room.

      1. Paraphrasing George Carlin on a related topic:

        Screwing is legal. Buying is legal. Why isn’t buying screwing legal?

    2. Because how else will state’s get lottery money if they allow you to go to a more fun/better odds alternative?

      1. Yeah, but gambling was illegal long before the state lotteries. I’m confused on the basic legal theory.

        1. I’m suspicious that the legal theory is: If gambling is legal, then the Mob will get run out of business. Kind of a regulatory capture sort of a deal.

          1. OK. This I can understand.

            1. Women + Voting == No Fun for Crude Men.

        2. Horse racing wasnt. At least in our state. I think they had a good lobby.

        3. Gambling got outlawed by the prohibitionists.

          Generally speaking it’s considered immoral to try to profit from chance instead of “hard work”, and something about chance being the devil’s domain instead of God’s.

    3. Because of dumbasses that get carried away and lose their family’s life savings. This is why we can’t have nice things.

      1. What’s so laughable about this is that if the government is really that worried about people gambling away everything online (which is of course bullcrap, but let’s pretend), they can easily put in limits and controls that would prevent that from happening.

    4. sugarfree – gambling is legal. have all the poker parties u want in ur house. bet all u want. whats illegal in for the house to take a cut. only casinos can do that which begs the question.

      1. Just don’t have too many people over b/c then you’ll get a visit from your friendly, neighborhood SWAT team.

        1. You should see what SWAT does when they see Dogs Playing Poker.

    5. In my personal experience, it’s usually because somebody’s uncle or cousin lacked any self-control whatsoever and blew it all on gambling, wine, women and song, so every other human being must also suffer the same defect.

      These same people against it also tend to play state-run lotteries about 85% of the time, to boot.

    6. In Nevada, casinos regularly use force to collect gambling debts through the state’s bad-cheque law.

      Google “Casino marker collection”.

    7. Women made drinking, gambling, and fucking illegal.

    8. Gambling is illegal because… (sob)… I’VE GOT A PROOOBLEMMM!!! (sob)… the problem is that there is no way I am taking action on Ohio State football this year. And the NFL may be cancelled… (sob)… no action there either. I’m glad gambling is illegal ’cause I wasn’t going to gamble this Fall anyways.

  3. Poy, Poker, and NAZIS!

    “They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. And we’ve heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

    –Rep Steve Cohen (D-TN)

    I hear he’s cool with genocide though if the victims are a bunch of dirty Armenians.

    1. “Pot, Poker,..”

  4. The Congressional office in charge of acronyms for acts really fell down on the job on that one.

    1. Couldn’t they make it spell out FLOP, or ONTHERIVER, or something?! WTF Government?

      1. FLOP: Federal Law Okaying Poker

  5. Why can’t they just frigging allow sports gambling online. Ferchrissakes, its the only gambling I know I can make money on (at least NFL gaming)

  6. That Pot and Poker Party comment reminds me of Robin Anton Wilson’s Guns and Dope Party.

    Now, there was a great American.

  7. it will still be a C felony under my state penal code due to the typical leftwing nannystate laws we have to deal with here.

    not ONE person has been prosecuted for it, of course.

  8. I don’t need comments like that just for a name. Writers need to control the commentary.

  9. If it would still allows states to ban the game, what about Reservation land?

    What about today? Like physical casinos, can you pay or collect winnings from there from online gambling sessions if they were hosted on native land? (or going there to physically wage/collect)

  10. I’ll bet you this doesn’t pass.

  11. wait to say what the new can do.

  12. It’s obvious Joe Barton is not afraid to take lobbyists money. The man apologized to BP for them having to answer for their Gulf destruction.

    He’s being bought off by the Mitch Garber’s and the rest of the Nevada crew with this bill.

    It’s a protectionist bill that limits competition from international gaming companies and limits choice for consumers.

  13. “Still, the bill represents an improvement on current policy because it acknowledges that online poker is permitted by federal law as long as it does not violate state law. That is pretty clearly the case even under current law, but it’s a reality the Justice Department refuses to recognize.”

    I’m confused by this statement. The Justice Dep’t position is that online poker is illegal under federal law when and where it violates state law. All federal gaming laws (Wire Act, Travel Act, UIGEA, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, etc.) are predicated on a violation of state law. In other words, federal gaming laws don’t prohibit any conduct legal within a state, or between residents of two states where the conduct is legal. The problem (which many of my fellow poker players refuse to acknowledge) is that online poker is almost certainly illegal under state law in most every state, making it illegal under federal law for most Americans.

    At this point, states could legalize online gaming intrastate, and could allow gaming interstate with residents of other states that also legalize online gaming (the Wire Act, for example, doesn’t apply where the gaming transaction is legal in both states). The Barton bill is a good step for poker, though, because it makes the legalization and regulation process easier to implement and uniform in application, not to mention giving states some political cover for joiing the online gaming bandwagon.

  14. Governments are banning things from their citizens as a means to asert their authority or in order to identify an external enemy that the government is “protecting” the public from. The alcohol prohibition was the latter whilst the online gmabling prohibition is the former. It is a sheer joy to watch the empty reasoning collapse once politicians are interested in the dozens of billions in tax money from online poker and casino wagering.

  15. The government asserts its sovereignty over adult individuals by telling them who’s dangerous for them. It’s been the same with any type of drug, alcohol, and now online gambling. But the alcohol prohibition proved that the citizens can only be pushed so far. People in the US like to gamble online. Making it illegal speaks more about the lawmakers than it does about the lawbreakers. Online gambling will be legal in the US again, and greed for taxes will be the catalyst.

  16. The government asserts its sovereignty over adult individuals by telling them who’s dangerous for them. It’s been the same with any type of drug, alcohol, and now online gambling. But the alcohol prohibition proved that the citizens can only be pushed so far. People in the US like to gamble online. Making it illegal speaks more about the lawmakers than it does about the lawbreakers. Online gambling will be legal in the US again, and greed for taxes will be the catalyst.

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