Proposed Federal Legislation Will Legalize Online Poker But Bingo Will Remain Illegal
The presidential elections in the United States could have a profound effect on the online gambling industry. Many gaming experts believe that senate majority leader Harry Reid will introduce his online poker bill during the lame duck session of congress. Reid's bill will make online poker legal but other forms of online gaming will remain illegal. The bill is facing fierce opposition from state lotteries. The lotteries are worries that Reid's bill will prevent them from legalizing online gambling at the state level.
States are also worried that online poker could take away lottery revenues which typically fund education and other good causes. James Ward, a committee director at the National Conference of State Legislatures said that members of his organization are frustrated by Reid's proposed legislation. Ward stated "It's frustrating because they are overseeing a successful stewardship of the gaming industry," Ward told The Hill. "It's not clear why any federal intervention is necessary. ... It's a sensitive topic for the states any time you talk about preemption."
Many gaming experts say that states will go on the offensive if Reid pushes his bill. Many states see Reid's legislation as a threat to their own plans to offer intrastate online gambling. Most states plan to offer online bingo in addition to the usual casino games. Nevada and Delaware have already legalizes some forms of online gambling. Nevada is also issuing online gaming licenses and several large casino corporations have expressed their interest in online gaming.
In December 2011 the justice department ruled that under the wire act of 1961 only sports betting is illegal online. The ruling prompted several states to consider the legalization of online gambling. Supporters of Reid's bill say that individual states could opt out of the federal poker program. Nevada representative Jon Porter told reporters "I think this provides sovereignty to them. You need to provide some consistency and a threshold, but this does allow states to opt out. ... You need to make sure that every state -- large states and small states -- has this opportunity."
Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said that Reid is open to input from state lottery officials and lawmakers. Orthman stated "We have consulted extensively with a variety of stakeholders about the bill --including many states. We have indicated to all that our door is open to continuing conversations." Critics of Reid's bill say that the ban on other forms of gambling including online bingo is designed to protect large casino interests.
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