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The Right to Say ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ in Online Poker—the Difference Between Barton and the AGA

7 July 2011 by admin

Most would think that the American Gaming Association would be on board with Representative Joe Barton’s bill to legalize and regulate online poker in the United States. And while the AGA supports efforts to regulate online casinos in the US, they are not entirely in favor of the some of the measures in Barton’s bill.

Up to know the AGA has not signed on with any particular legislation for online gambling, including Barton’s bill, saying they have “not endorsed any specific legislation on this issue, we are pleased that Representative Barton wants to protect American consumers and understand the need for regulating online poker in our country.” But to date Barton’s bill is the closest that anyone has come to gaining the AGA’s endorsement, however Barton’s bill has two snags in it from the point of view of the AGA: the states’ say in whether they offer online poker or not, and how revenue for the states is handled. In an effort to back legislation that they feel fully supports online gambling without stepping on the states’ toes, the AGA is working on drafting its own online poker bill, which they will reveal in the next couple of months.

In Barton’s bill all states would offer online poker. All fifty states would automatically offer online poker to their residents without each state making their own voice. What Barton’s bill does not take into account is if state officials want online poker for their state. The bill that the AGA is working on would allow each individual state to opt into offering federally regulated online poker. Frank Fahrenkopf sums up the AGA’s idea of each state’s say in offering or not offering as such: “You have to make sure each state has the right to say yay or nay.” It is the hope of Fahrenkopf to align the AGA’s bill more with the Constitution, meaning to have a federal umbrella while giving each state more liberty in their online gambling offerings.

Another point that the AGA is marking a difference with in their own legislation is how revenue is handled. In Barton’s bill revenue is aimed at the federal government through collecting taxes, fees and user fees. While it is true that one of the ideas behind regulating online poker in the US is to earn some revenue for the federal coffers, the AGA feels that some money should be going to the states. After all, the revenue from online poker is going to be coming from the states’ residents. To go along with each state’s ability to choose whether or not they offer their residents online poker, the AGA bill would aim revenue to the states with the federal government collecting their revenue from taxing winnings, similar to how the federal government collects taxes on winnings in land casinos. The AGA’s approach is more along the lines of what US citizens already expect from land casinos and the gambling landscape; why change it by putting extra fees in place? Make it similar and there is more likely to be a positive response with a larger number of people playing online poker.

We will watch in the coming months to see the AGA unveil their online poker bill, and see just how far it goes on Capitol Hill.

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