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Barton Introduces Online Poker Bill to Congress

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress introduced a bill today that would legalize and license online poker, two months after the Department of Justice shut down multiple poker sites used by an estimated 10 million Americans.

Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who authored the bill, said poker is “an all-American game, and it’s a game that requires strategy and skill. Millions of Americans play poker online.”

If passed, the bill would create a licensing standard for online poker sites, and the Commerce Department would come up with specific standards under which state and tribal gaming comissions could license poker sites.

Only race tracks, card rooms, and some casinos would be granted licenses in the first two years of the program, giving an advantage to already-established players in the poker industry. Sites would also have to prove that they are fair, can prevent minors from playing, can ensure tax collection and prevent money laundering to be able to get licenses.

“We want to have an iron-clad system to make sure that those who play for money are playing in an honest, fair system where they can reap the benefits of their winnings,” Barton added. “To put it simply, this bill is about having the personal freedom to play a skill-based game you enjoy without fear of breaking the law.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Pete King (R-N.Y.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and will likely head to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Barton’s bill was drafted in consultation with the Poker Players Alliance, which represents a million online poker players, including 50,000 who claim to depend on the game for their livelihood.

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Will Horowitz