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Massachusetts House Passes Online Poker Amendment

By: Fabian Rictor, Thursday September 22nd 2011
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An amendment was made by Republican Representative Daniel Winslow to a bill that seeks to expand land based gambling in the state of Massachusetts. The bill passed in the House with 123 votes for to 32 votes against. However, online gambling experts have been quick to point out that this is nothing to cheer about. It is only the first step in an immensely long journey.

The next step is the vote in the Massachusetts Senate, which will take up debate on the legislation on September 26. The online poker amendment is so insignificant in the overall scheme of things that if it is dropped by the Senate, it probably will not be included in conference, which seeks to iron out any discrepancies between the versions of the bills passed in the House and in the Senate. Thereafter Governor Deval Patrick will have to sign it into law.

The law would require the Massachusetts gaming commission to establish a committee to analyze and develop recommendations and model legislation for the issuance of online poker licenses, taking into account existing applicable federal and state laws. The report of the committee would be due by the end of July 2012.

If the committee comes up with a negative recommendation then the matter ends. If the committee recommends that the state of Massachusetts should license and regulate online poker, then the proposal will again require approval from the legislature and the governor. If everything goes as per plan then the earliest that state licensed online poker rooms would go live is late in 2013. Online casino gambling could then be thought about.

Meanwhile calls for federal regulation of online poker have been renewed. This follows the statement made by US Attorney Preet Bharara that Full Tilt Poker's owners were running a global Ponzi scheme to the tune of $300 million. Full Tilt Poker was one of the online poker rooms that were targeted on Black Friday and despite permission from the Federal authorities have been unable to return the deposits to their players. Bharara filed an amendment to the Black Friday civil suit alleging that more than 20 of the owners and shareholders paid themselves up to $443 million while leaving the players high and dry.

This brought about a strong reaction from The American Gaming Association (AGA) president Frank Fahrenkopf, who said, "I have two simple questions: 'How much and for how long?' How much money that we don't know about is being swindled from US consumers and how long will it take before we change laws to protect those consumers?" The AGA has issued its online poker Code of Conduct outlining six principles online gambling operators should fulfill in order to be licensed at federal level.

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