As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal (LVRJ) online this week, the details of a proposed national online gaming and gambling bill are now a matter of public record. While the bill has been tweaked and reworked on several occasions to garner more support, this is the first time that bill specifics have been released. LVRJ reporter Steve Tetreault first revealed the release of the bill’s outlines on the 14th, and recently updated the information on Monday, 17 September. Several key senators have attempted to reshape online wagering by legalizing poker over the Internet but outlawing most other forms of Internet gambling. That is the summation of the details that were “leaked” to the World Wide Web in the four-page document that spell out important details of the current bill.
While still not formally introduced passage in 2012 is a virtual uncertainty, and it seems the release of the gambling bill parameters to the general public is a move to develop some support before the bill is sent to committee, possibly in early 2013. Addressing concerns over security and fund allocations with a national online poker and gaming legislation suite, one of the important details of the bill that is addressed in the four-page document is the creation of an Office of Online Poker Oversight, which would basically set and regulate standards to protect minors and problem gamblers, and also guard against cheating. Also included in the specifics were a proposed monthly 16% “online poker activity fee” that would have to be paid by licensed online gaming operators. Most of that activity fee would go to Indian tribes where applicable, and help fill state government coffers. The bill would not require that all states participate, allowing individual states and Indian tribes to opt in or out of the legislation which would allow legal online poker play in the US.
One early proposal in the bill is that the US government would provide for at least three “watchdogs” to regulate the new federal legislation, with the Nevada Gaming Control Board suggested as one of those entities. That is not the only Nevada nod given by the bill, as initial licenses would immediately be granted to regulated land-based casinos “of a certain size and type,” as well as device manufacturers of gaming devices that have already been tested and regulated, obviously favorable to Nevada. However, the bill also provides for a 15 month period before any operator could begin to offer their product, in an attempt to allow multiple companies a level playing field in what is in arguably a multibillion dollar industry. Also, any business created specifically for the congregation of Internet gamers, such as Internet poker cafes, would be prohibited from participating.
This all began way back in December of last year when, only two days before Christmas, the United States Department of Justice delivered an unexpected virtual present to all Internet poker players and online gamblers. At that time they reversed their age-old decision to disallow all forms of online gambling in the United States, allowing each individual state to offer and regulate online poker if they saw fit. The main legislators that began the bill in an effort to tap into the literally billions of dollars that United States citizens are already spending, and that gets sent offshore to non-American municipalities, are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada. While support for some kind of across-the-board online poker and gambling legislation exists on many fronts, integrating all the multiple parties with differing concerns has been difficult. Indian tribes with a nearly absolute lock on current online gambling revenue are demanding certain financial considerations, state governments are worried the feds will step in and snatch the revenue, and this newest version of the bill in many industry experts eyes does a great job of addressing everyone’s concerns.
Joseph Kelly is a gaming consultant and Business Law Professor at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, New York, and he has high praise for the current version of the bill. He said in his eyes it seems to be very far reaching and comprehensive, and attempts to address all the various concerns involved. He pointed out that the four-page summary published on the Internet “confirms the views of both promoters and critics,” and addresses them well. He did admit that eventual passage will probably take a lot of work and a lot more discussion, while also noting that the update and release of the bill’s details will clear up a lot of doubt in everyone’s minds as to its nature and specifics.
As we wait for all of this to play out, check out existing legal online casinos for USA players.