A New Bill for Internet Poker    October 05, 2008


Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, has introduced a new bill in the Senate that could have far reaching consequences for Internet poker. The bill, S 3616, is named the Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act. The purpose of the bill is two fold. One is remove Internet poker from the purview of the UIGEA by defining poker as a game of skill and not a gambling game.

The second is to establish a licensing and regulatory framework for Internet games of skill that would address the allegations made against online poker. These allegations include the incidence of underage participants and compulsive gamers on Internet sites, cheating and fraud committed against the players, money laundering and tax avoidance. This bill seeks to differentiate between poker as a game of skill and sports betting as a purely gambling activity. Sports betting is to be specifically excluded from the bill. The bill includes "other games of skill". Whether these refer to Internet casino games is not clear.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), which is a body representing the interest of poker players is backing the bill. In fact it is believed that the PPA has played a major role in drafting the bill. Ever since the UIGEA came into existence the PPA has been advocating regulation of online poker rather than prohibiting it. PPA Chairman and Former Senator, Alfonse D'Amato has gone on record stating, "…prohibitions on Internet gambling, and specifically poker, will not work to protect consumers".

Senator Menendez' bill was the first legislative initiative in online poker in the Senate. So far there have been a spate of bills introduced by Democratic Congressmen in the House of Representatives. The most recent was H.R. 6870 that was passed in the House Financial Services Committee. H.R. 6870 seeks clarification on the definition of the term "unlawful Internet gambling" as contained in the UIGEA. S 3616 would perhaps provide some answers.

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