Perhaps Congress is really serious about trying to regulate online poker in the United States. On Tuesday, a panel of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on regulating interstate online poker. The hearing was chaired by Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), a proponent of regulating the industry.
The hearing saw testimony from a number of witnesses related to the industry, including Poker Players Alliance Chairman Alfonse D’Amato, a former New York senator. D’Amato and others testified that there is currently nothing preventing Americans from playing poker online at overseas online poker rooms. By not regulating it, the United States is simply losing out on the tax revenue and the ability to ensure that the websites are safe. It is estimated that Americans wager $16 billion on online poker per year.
Echoing the fact that the attempted prohibition isn’t working, Mack said that “to stand in the way of the Internet can create consequences that are impossible to recover from.” Fellow Republican Joe Barton (Texas) said that poker is an “All-American game” that is enjoyed by many, including President Obama.
The most outspoken opponents of regulation are those representing tribal gambling. Ernest Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, testified that “tribes are concerned that legalized Internet gaming will threaten their gains.” The tribal casino industry brings in $26 billion each year. The tribes are worried that increased access to online gambling will cause many of their customers to simply play from home instead of visiting the casinos.
Barton is the lead sponsor of HR 2366, which would regulate the online poker industry by creating an Office of Internet Poker Oversight. His bi-partisan bill is co-sponsored by Republican Ron Paul (Texas) and Democrat Barney Frank (Massachusetts).