While a short summary of the federal online poker bill proposed by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl has been public knowledge for over a month, a full 73-page draft of the proposal has now been released.
The bill is lacking one specific detail that was touched upon in the summary, that of player penalties for patronizing sites that are not regulated in the U.S. The original summary sought to deter American players from logging on and playing at unauthorized sites by stating that “property involved in or traceable to a gambling transaction in violation of the new act (including winnings) is subject to forfeiture.” The recently released 73-page proposed bill has omitted such penalties to players.
“It’s very clear and explicit that there are no criminal penalties for players,” Rich Muny, Poker Players Alliance Vice President of Player Relations told pokerfuse. “They knew we would likely oppose a bill with player penalties and were willing to answer us on that.” U.S. players may not be penalized for patronizing unregulated sites, but they will not have any legal recourse in which to seek restitution from the U.S. Department of Justice if the DoJ should seize funds from an online poker site that lacks a proper license.
A main point of the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act is the five-year ban on poker rooms who serviced the U.S. market following passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. This pertains directly to PokerStars and the soon-to-be relaunched Full Tilt Poker. Both of those sites were able to reach the top levels of market share in online poker by virtually ignoring the UIGEA.
The Reid/Kyl proposal recognizes that “winning at poker involves some measure of skill” and seeks to prohibit “internet gambling involving house-banked games or sports betting.” While many feel that allowing for the legalization of online poker opens the door for a proliferation of online gambling, the opposite is true because–except for poker, lottery sales and off-track horse-racing–the proposal aims to strengthen and outlaw other forms of Internet gambling such as casino games and sports betting.
As with the summary proposal unveiled last month, the bill calls for an Office of Online Poker Oversight to be the regulatory body in charge of enforcing regulations. Proper safeguards will be in place to curtail underage gambling and to disallow players residing in a state that has not opted in to the federal scheme to log on and play. Segregated funds will also be a requirement of licensed online poker sites, as nobody wants to go through another Full Tilt fiasco.
International player pools will not be allowed, much to the dismay of poker players everywhere. Hopefully, after the framework of Internet poker has been established, Congress will see the error of not permitting other countries to join the U.S. format. The enhanced liquidity that players from around the world would provide certainly needs to be reconsidered.