U.S. Online Gaming Legislation Hearings Pushed to September

Blame it on the economy…or the banking crisis. Rep. Barney Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act of 2009 will not come before the Financial Services Committee for a hearing until September, and the change in the plans is due to President Obama’s financial regulatory reform and its current precedence in the committee.

It was a decision that came as a bit of a surprise to online gaming legislation supporters, as the Frank bill seemed to be gaining momentum, adding co-sponsors, and gearing up for a full-blown lobbying effort during the week of July 19-25, recently dubbed National Poker Week. What is not surprising is that the companion internet gaming taxation bill introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott has been put on hold until September as well.

The postponement of any hearings regarding the aforementioned legislation can be attributed solely to the push from the Obama administration to make significant and imperative changes to the nation’s financial regulatory structure. In order to change the system and prevent another banking crisis like the one that currently plagues the United States, Obama has pushed through reform proposals that will require the complete focus of the Financial Services Committee. And to aide in that process, according to PPA Executive Director John Pappas, only legislation pertaining to said reform is being discuss in that committee. If time permits any other business to be heard, it will be only non-controversial items, and “Barney’s I-gaming bill would not fall under the category of non-controversial.”

Nevertheless, the focus of all attention paid to the legislation will not change. National Poker Week will proceed as planned, with the Poker Petition being delivered to Obama and members of the Poker Players Alliance lobbying Congress. The more co-sponsors attached to and sponsors willing to support the bill when it eventually comes up for committee consideration, the more likely the legislation will move forward.

The Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act calls for the regulation and licensing of internet gambling operators within the United States, with the Department of the Treasury to maintain authority over the proposed process. While it is predicted that there may be adjustments made to the legislation, such as a carve-out for sports betting, there could also be a similar Senate bill introduced in the coming weeks by Sen. Robert Menendez to push for regulation and licensing specific to online poker rather than online gaming.

Poker and politics are guaranteed to be intertwined going forward, and while there is a delay in pursuing the goal of indisputable legalization of online poker, there seems to be no doubt that the process is moving ahead.

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