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Two US Online Gambling Bills Introduced

By: Adam Baker, Tuesday June 30th 2015
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The conflict about online gambling in the United States is apparent from the fact that two contradictory bills are in the news this week. One seeks to ban all online gambling including that sanctioned by the states. The other seeks to legalize online poker at the federal level.

All online gambling was deemed illegal in the United States under the Wire Act till 2011. Then an opinion by the Department of Justice stated that states could allow intrastate online gambling, except sports betting. This led to Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware enacting laws permitting certain forms of online gambling. Now, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill in the Senate that would make all forms of online gambling anywhere in the country illegal. The bill does not contain a grandfather clause that would allow legal online gambling in states where the activity is currently legal. This bill is seen as important because Graham would be running for president. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the lead Democratic co-sponsor. Other co-sponsors include Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Kelly Ayotte, Dan Coats, and Thom Tillis.

The bill has the full support of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands, who has put big money behind a campaign against online gambling. Adelson argues that online gambling is corrosive to society and bad business for the land casino industry. The bill has its opponents as well, including the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, an initiative funded by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. They say that banning online gambling will only drive it underground, which will lead to bigger problems. Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz has introduced a House version of the bill, which has gone to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing and is awaiting committee votes.

Taking the other direction, Republican Representative Joe Barton has introduced a bill titled the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2015. The bill seeks to restore the rights of people to play the “all-American” game by legalizing and regulating online poker, while protecting the players from fraud. The bill also mandates prevention of underage players, provides aid for problem gamblers and preserves state’s rights. Barton said that he learnt how to play poker as a teen and continues to play today. He enjoys the strategy and skill involved. The bill is needed to create one federal standard that protects the integrity of the game and the financial interests of players.

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