In 2006, North Dakota State Rep. Jim Kasper proposed bills that would legalize online poker provided that the online casinos offering the product would be based in North Dakota.
While having their software, Internet servers and employees centralized in his home state, Kaspar also wrote the legislation specifying that the casinos would be required to use a North Dakota state-owned bank to protect players’ money and to insure against money laundering. In addition, Kaspar introduced age-verification procedures and safeguards intended to monitor players exhibiting gambling addiction tendencies.
Kaspar’s idea was for the casinos or online poker operators to “do business worldwide except where it is expressly prohibited.” Kaspar, at the time, insisted that online gambling was a state issue and that the federal government would be wise to “keep its nose out of it. Congress shouldn’t be regulating it.”
Does any of this sound familiar? With Nevada charting a course to do some of the exact things that Kaspar proposed about six years ago, the North Dakota lawmaker was way ahead of the times. His proposal made it through the House, but failed miserably in a vote before the North Dakota Senate. Kaspar was forced to muck his proposed online poker bill when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) interfered in the legislative process of the Rough Rider State.
“The DoJ wrote what I call a ‘poison pill’ letter [to North Dakota’s attorney general],” Kaspar said. “It had misinformation about the Wire Act, implying it applies to all Internet gambling.” The letter ruined any chances of the bill’s success. In 2011, the DOJ ruled that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, which Kaspar knew all along.
“The Wire Act was specifically written to prohibit sports wagering over the telephone,” Kaspar said in 2006.
Imagine what online poker might have been like had the DOJ not interfered and Kaspar was able to persuade North Dakota lawmakers to see the wisdom of his ways. After North Dakota legally established an online poker site, other states would probably have jumped on the bandwagon (as is being done in 2012) and followed suit to obtain much-needed revenue for state coffers. It’s also possible that American players would have flocked to U.S.-based casinos and poker sites instead of Full Tilt and other offshore locales, feeling more comfortable in a regulated environment and depositing money on home soil. Perhaps the whole Black Friday mess could have been avoided, at least the part where players have not been paid. The DOJ may still have challenged the individual states’ authority to operate gambling sites. But in light of the December 2011 Wire Act ruling, that argument would be moot.
“Obviously we can’t go back,” Kaspar recently told WDAY News, still lamenting the fact that North Dakota’s budgetary issues would have been tremendously boosted by “the tax on the internet poker companies because they would have come to our state.”
Perhaps Kaspar should be consulted by individual states that are now attempting to pass online gambling legislation. He seemingly knew six years ago what others are trying to do today.