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States Look to Ban Online Gambling

After a period of despair and failure following Black Friday, the year 2013 has brought some hope and optimism for the regulation of online poker in the United States. Over the past few months, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey have passed legislation to regulate the operation of online poker. Other states such as Texas and Washington are currently considering the possibility of online poker legislation. Furthermore, United States Congressmen have recently stated that federal legislation remains a possibility in the future.

In spite of this optimistic news, several states have been hesitant or opposed to the idea of online gambling in the United States. The Illinois governor recently stated his unease with the relatively “new” idea of online gambling. Online poker bills in Iowa and California have met strong opposition from moralists and other gambling interests.

Today, two states, Kansas and New Mexico, took a step towards the ban or restriction of online gambling within their respective borders.

In New Mexico, a new proposed gambling compact between the state and the Navajo Nation would ultimately provide disincentives to the legislation of online gambling.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the proposed new compact would allow the Navajo Nation to cease slot machine revenue sharing if the state decided to authorize online gambling within the state or through a multi-state compact. Furthermore, the Navajo Nation has agreed to abstain from any online gambling venture without state or federal authorization. If such legislation is passed, the Navajo Nation would be forced to share all internet gambling related revenue under the Class III statutes with the exception of poker related earnings.

Although the compact leaves some room for the possibility of online gambling and poker, the ultimate goal of the agreement will be to discourage the adoption of any form of online wagering. Furthermore, the new compact may set a precedent for other tribes looking to protect themselves from the supposed business crushing online gambling regulations.

“This provision was intended to discourage the adoption of Internet gaming in the state, while ensuring that, if Internet gaming is adopted, revenue sharing continues in light of any new benefit/detriment to the (Navajo) Nation,” said Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Kansas State Senate took the disincentives to another level by approving modifications to its gambling laws that would make the playing of internet gambling a Class B nonperson misdemeanor. The punishment for engagement in any online gambling would be a possible penalty of a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail. The modifications to the law would essentially punish any operator and player engaging in any type (mobile, computer, machine) of online gambling, including poker. Although it would lead to more brick and mortar casinos, the modifications would be a detrimental setback to the possibility of online poker in the state of Kansas.

The proposed legislation in these two states epitomizes the general sentiment in certain areas around the United States. Although poker and gambling remain popular among citizens, governments are heeding to the whims of the Tribal Nations and the voice of the Moral Right.

Tribal Nations, who control a vast majority of land based casinos in states, have been some of the strongest opponents of online gambling regulation. Given the struggle of some of these Tribal casinos (see Foxwoods Casino & Resort, CT), leaders view internet gambling as a threat to the revenues built upon land based establishments. Given the lack of knowledge and supposed lack of effort to understand the effects of internet gambling, legislators and tribe leaders alike have sought to restrict or ban the introduction of such gambling in light of recent legislation in states like Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

The Moral Right has also been a huge opponent of the online gambling movement and it has been apparent in states that are populated with such constituents. Southern states such as Alabama have already implemented or have considered the ban on online gambling. Furthermore, Congressmen from these states have been the strongest opponents of a Federal Bill.

In addition to the strong opposition from these groups, states such as Illinois and Iowa have failed to form a bill that would satisfy the state and its citizens. Some legislators believe that there is not much understanding of internet gambling and that further investigation needs to be done.

Nevertheless, the United States landscape for online poker and gambling is currently looking bleak despite the supposed victories in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. These three states are the only jurisdictions that have non-Tribal control of the gaming industry and are generally liberal or libertarian in terms of social issues.

United States poker players outside the three states will most likely wait years until viable legislation allows an online form of a “skill” based game. Although the United States has been a pioneer on many fronts, this country has been relegated as the last frontier and has harbored the least educated legislators in terms of the regulation of online poker and gambling.  

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