Last week Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton introduced House Resolution 2888, a legislative measure captioned as the Internet Poker Freedom Act. The bill seeks to legalize and regulate online poker on a federal level, but not without giving individual states the right to decide for themselves whether or not, to legalize online poker in their respective jurisdiction.
Actually, HR 2888 is Representative Barton’s third attempt to see Internet-based poker become legal in the U.S. The bill’s introduction followed closely the Restore America’s Wire Act bill introduced a day earlier by presidential hopeful Senator Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina). Sen. Graham’s bill though, is seen largely as his way of pleasing major Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson, who publicly vowed to ban online gambling at all costs.
Congressman Barton asserts he has no stake whatsoever in proposing the passing of HR 2888, contending that the measures proposed are called for now, more than ever. Its aim is to protect American consumers and financial interests of poker players, from disreputable and predatory offshore gambling operators, while also protecting the integrity of the game.
According to the Republican Congressman from Texas, U.S. poker players deserve to have a legal system within their domestic shores to ensure that they will be playing in a trustworthy and fair online environment. He added that the complexity of current state and local regulations will likely place poker players at harm’s way.
HR 2888 or the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2015 contains rigid provisions and penalties imposed against those found guilty of offering online poker games without the required U.S. license. Its regulatory framework includes putting in place effective safeguards for screening and blocking minors and those with adverse gambling behaviors.
Congressman Barton, along with co-sponsors Cong. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Cong. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) believe that HR2888 embodies a regulatory framework that would make it safer for poker players to play online. The regulatory measures and licensing conditions put forward by Rep. Barton’s bill, address the concerns raised by those opposed to legalizing and regulating online poker, which mainly include contentions that a legal online poker industry will provide criminals with money laundering tools, give minors access to gambling facilities, and worsen gambling addiction among problem gamblers.
Unlike the online poker legislation in the state of Nevada and that of the online poker bill being worked out in the state of California, Rep. Barton’s Internet Poker Freedom Act does not include a “bad actor clause.” The latter pertains to licensing restriction as the clause automatically disqualifies online poker operators, who in previous years, continued to defy the federal ban imposed by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006 (UIGEA).
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), one of the most active poker advocacy groups lobbying for the legalization of online poker lauds Representative Barton’s introduction of the bill. The PPA brands HR 2888 as a “common sense public policy,” seeing that it will enable gambling states to combine their players to create larger prize pools. Doing so will drive greater player satisfaction and subsequently lead to a more robust market, as well as eventually bring substantial and additional gambling tax revenues that will benefit the state.