Gaming's Top Lobbying Group to Continue Battle for Federal Internet Poker Solution
The American Gaming Association Releases Plans for 2012
In the wake of an action-packed couple of weeks for the commercial casino industry, the American Gaming Association announced that it will continue to stay in the trenches for a federal online poker bill.
On Tuesday, the AGA’s President and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf wrote an op-ed for Global Gaming Business, detailing the 2012 plans for the industry’s top lobbying group.
The Washington, D.C.-based coalition, whose members include some of Nevada’s richest and most powerful brick-and-mortar casino companies, will continue to look after the industry on issues such as online poker, while also shielding commercial operators from “unfair” regulation and taxation, according to Fahrenkopf.
Late last month the state of Nevada adopted a handful of regulations for an upcoming intrastate poker industry. Local regulators said they were trying to make the rules clear for businesses, but not overbearing.
Nevada is looking to be the first state to license and oversee an online poker operator, as seven applications have already been submitted and reviewing the paperwork is underway. The vice president of Internet gaming at South Point Casino recently told Card Player that the company is gunning to be the first offering real-money play.
While the AGA favors a federal online poker bill instead of a state-by-state patchwork, it is in full support of a measure giving the states power to license and regulate card playing — and also opt-out from participating.
A federal online poker bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) remains at a standstill Congress. The measure was awarded a hearing in November, but no further action was taken. Fahrenkopf, who doesn’t endorse the legislation, testified at the hearing that turned into a lengthy discussion on the issue of problem gambling.
Tribal casinos were also given a hearing on Capitol Hill in November. Barton’s bill was blasted during the meeting, setting the stage for more fiery debates should any federal proposal move forward.
While most of the gaming world had a favorable interpretation of the Department of Justice clarification of the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 (dated Sept. 20, but publicly released on Dec. 23), Fahrenkopf appeared in a Reuters video interview last week, saying that the new legal position “throws in question what the federal government can do to close down the illegal [offshore] operators.”
When asked if the DOJ ruling will convince Congress to take action, Fahrenkopf told Reuters he “hopes so” and that it could create “urgency.” Las Vegas-based gaming attorney Anthony Cabot recently told Card Player that he sees the opinion on the Wire Act increasing the pressure to get a federal bill done.
“Now the federal government will have to act relatively quickly if they want a federal regime to regulate online poker,” Cabot said.
Cabot added that there could be a push on both sides of the political aisle for Internet poker, since staunch opponents to gaming in cyberspace could now get behind poker in order to ban games where chance is predominant.
On the eve of what could be a huge year for brick-and-mortar gaming expansion in the United States, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and a potential influx of states looking to engage in legislative battles for Internet betting (New Jersey is trying to fast-track a bill next week), Fahrenkopf wrote extensively in his op-ed on how the AGA will try to publicize the “corporate social responsibility activities” of the industry.
The group will try to show how casinos work on “making the communities where they operate better places to live, work and play.”
Since the DOJ clarification opened the door for intrastate online gaming other than sports betting, there has been some strong backlash swirling around the country, most notably in Utah, where a state lawmaker is looking to pass a bill that would ban the activity.
Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus
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