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New Federal Online Poker Bill Being Considered

A new federal proposal that would legalize online poker but would disallow Internet casino games may be introduced within a month or so, according to U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

The Nevada senator is concerned that the state-by-state proliferation of online gambling legislation that may include games such as blackjack and roulette would seriously hurt the revenue streams of land-based casinos, particularly those in his home state. Heller stated that some of the issues brought up by billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in his crusade to prevent online gambling legislation from taking hold throughout the country should be adhered to.

“I think Adelson brings up some reasonable concerns,” Heller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And to have the wild wild West as an empire of gambling for the country would have some serious social implications.”

Adelson formed the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) and has vowed to use his deep pockets to fund the organization. One of the goals of CSIG is to overturn the 2011 DoJ ruling that re-clarified the 1961 Wire Act, permitting individual states to move forward with online poker and gambling legislation. Adelson is behind the draft of an Internet Gambling Control Act that would outlaw Internet wagering.

Heller, in tandem with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), also want to rewrite the Wire Act, but seek to carve out a niche for online poker while banning other casino games. Reid was previously behind the much-maligned Reid-Kyl bill in late 2012 that was never formally introduced to his legislative colleagues. That proposal was also poker-only and drew heavy criticism for being weighted toward favoring Nevada.

That mistake is being addressed this go-round, as Heller stated that he and Reid are “trying to keep it from being just a Nevada issue.” The senators from opposing political parties “are trying to look for help from members in each of our conferences to come forward with legislation” that would provide a long-term solution on the online gambling issue.

While Adelson continues in his anti-online gambling efforts, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection (C4COP) is fighting back. With backing from MGM, the American Gaming Association, and the Poker Players Alliance, C4COP is taking on CSIG heads-up. It appears that the battle by opposing coalition forces finally has prompted some federal lawmakers like Heller to begin taking the online poker and gambling issue a bit more seriously.

Whether a poker-only bill such as the one that Heller intends to get moving on has a decent chance of being approved is up for speculation. New Jersey has already invested considerable funds in its online gambling scheme and a number of other states have reportedly been looking seriously at following suit. Don’t forget that tribal concerns will also have a say in the matter.


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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.