Online Poker Subcommittee HearingBy: Shirley Spicer, Tuesday November 22nd 2011
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There are several attempts being made to legalize online poker only in the United States. Though the success of these will not provide any immediate benefit to the American online casino players, the attempts are being followed by the entire online gambling industry. Online casino players believe that legalization of online poker will mean that they have one foot at the door.
Presently in the news is the federal bill sponsored by Republican Joe Barton from Texas in the House of Representatives. The bill has been sent for discussion to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade for hearing. The first hearing was held some time back. The second hearing was held on November 18.
During the hearing there was pointed interaction between Barton and Republican Frank Wolf from Virginia. Barton's main argument was that poker is a game of skill. He cited his example of having lost plenty of money to more skillful players. Wolf testified that legalizing online poker would lead to a huge increase in problem gambling. He made a distinction between destination gambling and convenience gambling. Wolf said that online gambling was the ultimate in convenience gambling. He equated it to crack cocaine. When Barton pressed Wolf for answers to whether poker was a game of skill and whether poker was a legitimate pastime, Wolf avoided direct answers. He said, "I'm not here to tell you that poker's wrong. What I'm saying is that if you put this on the Internet, college kids will be broke in an instant." As if to counter Wolf's assertion, numerous panelists pointed out that millions of Americans do currently playing poker online on sites that the United States has no jurisdiction over.
Democrat Barney Frank from Massachusetts also spoke at the hearing. He is a long time proponent of online gambling and, along with Republican John Campbell of California, is cosponsoring a separate bill that would license and regulate online poker and casino gaming. He stressed that legalization provides an opportunity to gamble online in a safer environment. Frank would like to see all gambling opportunities regulated and made available to American adults, but is willing to accept whatever is passed.
One of the issues raised was the possibility of an adverse impact on state lotteries and brick-and-mortar casinos if online poker was legalized. These were seen as competing activities for "gambling dollars". Frank Fahrenkopf, CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), said that if a state was concerned about cannibalization, then they could opt out. Fahrenkopf said that the AGA has not taken a position on any of the bills that have been proposed. As a policy the AGA is in favor of legislation that will create a fair market for commercial casinos, Native American casinos and lotteries.
The hearing ended without any information on whether the bill would be marked up at a later date.
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