The Fight: Updates From the Legislative Front

Your mind may still be reeling after the story broke that the Department of Justice and Group Bernard Tapie allegedly brokered an $80 million sale of Full Tilt Poker, but that was not the only big political news on the horizon this week.  Earlier Thursday afternoon, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs met to discuss the tribes’ role in possible regulated online gambling.  This week also brought news on the next House Subcommittee hearing on online poker and the potential for intrastate online poker in Nevada come 2012.  We’ve got the scoop on all of those in this edition of The Fight:

Senate Hearing on Tribal Gaming Features D’Amato, Pappas

Thursday the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs met to discuss what role Native American tribes would play in regulated and legalized online poker in the United States.  The hearing featured three panels comprised of nine different witnesses, including Poker Players Alliance Chairman and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, PPA Executive Director John Pappas, and representatives from tribes such as the Tulalip and the Mohegan.

In addition to having two representatives on the panel, the PPA also live Tweeted the hearing via @PPAPoker. Included in the their Tweets is a link to a written copy of D’Amato’s testimony. As he did in last month’s House hearing, D’Amato again pointed out that Americans can still play on offshore sites, stating, “Even today an American with a checking account and ahigh-speed Internet connection can deposit money on an offshore account and play poker,gamble on casino games, bet on sports and wager on horse races. What Americans cannot do is play Internet poker on a site that is licensed and regulated in the US, that creates jobs forAmerican workers, or that provides revenue for federal, state and of course tribal governments.  It is well-past time for Congress to change that, and there are efforts underway, particularly inthe U. S. House of Representatives, to do so.”

In terms of tribal participation, D’Amato and the PPA strongly endorsed that native tribes play a major part in any regulated online gambling market.  Should a tribe not want to participate in such an endeavor, D’Amato proposes the ability for tribes and other states to opt out of the endeavor.  While D’Amato and the PPA did not offer an explicit plan for how to go about taxing tribes fairly, he did express optimism that a fair compromise could be reached.  By contrast, the National Indian Gaming Association, which was represented Chairman Ernie Stevens and Senior Advisor Mark Van Norman on the panel, believe that tribal profits on online gaming should not be subject to taxation, according to their 201 Resolution on Internet Gaming.

The Associated Press offers a recap of the major points of Thursday’s meeting.

Hearings Continue in the House on Friday

Online poker’s time in Congress continues on Friday with a second meeting of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade regarding regulated online gambling.  The list of participants includes US Representatives John Campbell (R-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA),  and John Wolff (R-VA).  Campbell and Frank will be speaking in support of HR 1174, a piece of legislation they co-authored also known as the Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act. Wolf, an ardent supporter of 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) will be speaking ot against regulated online poker.

Others scheduled to appear include Frank Fahrenkoph of the American Gaming Association, Mark Lipparelli of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and Charles McIntyre of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.  The Committee’s website includes a list of witnesses along with written copies of their expected testimony, as well as a rundown of the major issues that will be discussed during the hearing.

The last Subcommittee meeting focused on Rep Joe Barton’s (R-TX) online poker bill, HR2366, bu it appears Frank and Campbell’s bill will get some time n the spotlight on Friday.  The NY Post is reporting there is potentially another online gaming bill in the works too, but the sponsor might surprise you.  According to the publication, the once ardently anti-online gambling Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) is rumored to be co-sponsoring a bill legalizing online gambling that is set to be introduced before the year ends.  Kyl’s office declined to comment on the story.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 9am ET on Friday.

Nevada Gaming Will Begin Application Process for Online Poker Licenses in February

Part of the reason the House continues to meet regarding the potential regulation of online poker is because many state governments, such as Nevada, are taking the issue of online gambling into their own hands via intrastate online gambling initiatives.  Just this week, VegasInc reported that Nevada Gaming Control Board’s own Lipparelli told attendees at the US Online Gaming Law conference that the group would start accepting applications from companies seeking an online poker license starting in February.  These licensees would be able to offer online poker to resident’s within Nevada’s borders only.

Within his testimony for Friday’s hearing though, Lipparelli does concede there will be some legal questions that will likely need to be answered before these intrastate sites begin operations.  Within that testimony, Lipparelli also endorses a federal framework as opposed to state-by-state regulation.

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