Sen. Menendez Introduces Internet Poker & Skill Games Regulation Bill

The notion of the Senate bill had been discussed as far back as the beginning of the 2009 World Series of Poker, when PPA Executive Director John Pappas mentioned that Menendez was considering a reintroduction of his 2008 legislative proposal. Talks turned to promises during National Poker Week, it all came to fruition in the form of new legislation on August 6 when Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009, otherwise known as S.1597.

According to insiders, Menendez took a great deal of time to restructure his bill to compliment the current pending legislation in the House – H.R. 2267 introduced by Rep. Barney Frank in May – and to specify internet poker as being in a category with other skill games like chess, bridge, mah-jong, and backgammon. Menendez’ 2008 legislation, S.3616 entitled the Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act, has been updated to indicate the importance of poker as a game of skill, and the new bill includes more protections for consumers.

The 91-page S.8309 is detailed in its wording, but the premise is to establish a licensing and regulatory framework for internet poker and other games of skill, as well as to oversee the industry that will be created as a result of the passage of the legislation. Specifically, the bill calls for the creation of a registry of unlicensed gambling operators to strengthen enforcement efforts, implementation of technology to prevent underage gambling and fraud and identify internet players with potential gambling problems, and funding for treatment programs for problem gamblers. Most importantly, however, the bill will clarify the 1961 Wire Act to distinguish poker and other games of skill from gambling activities that have and can be prosecuted under the 48-year old law.

The Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009 will also put into place a system to collect the billions of dollars in tax revenue that will be collected from the industry. In part, this would be done via a ten percent tax on all deposits made by players to gambling sites, and the proceeds would then be distributed evenly between the federal and state governments.

Poker Players Alliance Chairman and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato praised the efforts of Menendez in a press release: “Through our efforts on Capitol Hill during National Poker Week, the tides are turning and support for licensing and regulating Internet poker versus infringing on Internet freedom is growing. The PPA is pleased that Senator Menendez chose to introduce his bill to license and regulate Internet poker and include additional consumer protections. His continued support for protecting the Internet freedoms of poker players specifically, and Americans generally, is greatly appreciated. …I thank Senator Menendez for his leadership on this important issue.”

National Poker Week and the aforementioned growing support for pro-poker legislation have garnered Frank’s bill more than 50 cosponsors, with more being added to H.R.2267 weekly. The PPA plans to continue the momentum and stay in contact with Senators and Representatives during the August recess, and the organization encourages the public to contact their members of Congress as well with messages of support for the House and Senate bills.

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