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Texas Congressman To Renew Online Poker Push

Rep. Joe Barton Plans New Legislation: Report

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Rep. Joe BartonWhile some of his colleagues on Capitol Hill debate banning online poker nationwide, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has indicated that he will introduce another one of his pro-online poker bills in the next month or so, according to reporting from the Star-Telegram.

Barton has for years tried to pass legislation that would establish a federal regime for regulated online poker in the United States, but his proposals have never panned out, partly thanks to a dysfunctional Congress.

Both Barton’s bill and the anti-online poker bill (backed by Sheldon Adelson) being pushed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) face long odds of passing.

“Historical voting data shows that RAWA—or any other federal Internet gambling bill introduced in this congressional session, whether it be prohibitory or not—is facing very long odds indeed," GamblingCompliance’s Chris Krafcik told Card Player. "According to our research and to figures from GovTrack.us, the enactment rate for Internet gambling bills introduced between 1995 and 2014 was approximately 2 percent, which is well below the approximate 3.7 percent enactment rate for all bills introduced during that 20-year period.”

This week, financial services firm Morgan Stanley revised its estimates for the U.S. online gambling industry, nearly cutting in half its previous estimate for 2020.

Morgan Stanley agrees that a federal poker bill is still not likely.

Rep. Chaffetz“We believe a federal ban of online gaming is unlikely given legislators’ split views,” the firm wrote. “However, a recent [Mar. 25] hearing in a House Judiciary subcommittee on Jason Chaffetz’s proposal for a ban suggests it could be gaining momentum. While the bill may advance out of committee, we believe it faces long odds of passing, especially without carve-outs for online lotteries and existing online gaming states.”

However, Congressman Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who could later this year introduce his own version of a web poker ban, did recently indicate that he would be willing to give state lotteries a RAWA carve-out.

Could a carve-out for Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware (the only states currently with regulated online casino gaming) also be in the works?

Adelson reportedly is backing a plan to limit Nevada’s ability to enter into online gaming liquidity sharing compacts with other states to just the game of poker. Nevada and Delaware last month began sharing player pools for peer-to-peer online poker.

Adelson’s ideal is a more robust ban of online gambling, but he might have to make major concessions in order to get some form of RAWA on the books. The legislation already has carve-outs for online fantasy sports, horse race betting, charitable gambling and closed-circuit online gambling, like the mobile sports betting his company already does in Nevada.

However, it remains to be seen if even a watered-down RAWA has any legitimate chances. Barton’s new bill, although unlikely to become law, could help the poker community defeat RAWA.

After the first few months of 2015, it’s still most likely that regulated online poker in the U.S. will continue to proliferate and grow, albeit much more slowly than originally predicated by online poker proponents. Morgan Stanley predicts that California, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois will have online poker within the next several years.

A web poker ban is still a threat, but it’s probably like worrying about your opponent making quads when you are on the better end of a set-over-set situation.

That’s how it stands now, but things could change. Stay tuned.