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Horse Racing PED Bill Considered As Vehicle For Internet Poker Legislation

Rep. Joe Barton 'Looking At' Online Poker Provisions In House Bill


A longtime online poker advocate on Capitol Hill apparently has new enthusiasm for legislation thanks not only to the Supreme Court’s sports betting ruling in mid-May, but also due to a separate piece of legislation designed to establish greater oversight on the horse racing industry.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who last pushed an online poker bill three years ago, reportedly sees an opportunity to include both internet poker and sports betting provisions in a bipartisan-supported bill that would combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the American horse racing industry under a federal authority, according to a report from Roll Call.

Part of the support behind the horse racing PED bill at this moment in time is thanks to gambling, per the report. The logic there is that the races should be free of cheating. Game integrity has been a concern echoed by the major sports leagues in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling.

The SCOTUS ruling pertained specifically to gambling on professional and college sports in America, but the high court’s decision also gave another green light to full-fledged wagering over the internet. In a way, it bolstered a 2011 Department of Justice opinion on the 1961 Wire Act, a re-interpretation that gave states the ability to regulate online betting within their respective borders, with the exception of sports betting. The SCOTUS ruling invalidated that roadblock, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Nevada sports books have long allowed bets over mobile devices, and the Silver State’s growing sports betting market was used to drive home the argument for bringing the industry out of the shadows nationwide. Prior to the SCOTUS ruling and subsequent launches of sports betting industries in New Jersey and Delaware, Americans were said to bet $150 billion annually on sports, with only about $5 billion coming legally through Nevada.

This is all to say that there’s now at least some additional leverage for online poker legislation on the state and federal levels. From the Roll Call report:

Given the close ties between horse racing and gambling, GOP Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas said he viewed the Barr [horse racing] bill as a potential vehicle for amendments dealing with other types of sports betting, including his draft proposal aimed at encouraging expansion of internet poker. “I am looking at it,” Barton said, referring to his efforts to find a vehicle like the Barr bill for his proposal.

Barton, who has stopped by the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas on at least one occasion while in office, sees internet poker regulation as crucial for one of America’s favorite pastimes.

“Poker is an all-American game," Barton said in 2015. “It’s a game that I learned as a teen and continue to play today. Just like millions of other players, I enjoy the strategy and skill involved. I continue to be supportive of the Americans who play poker online.”

Barton called his online poker bill the “Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2015.”

For years, a stand-alone internet poker bill has seemed less likely than provisions in an omnibus piece of legislation. With the federal government indicating a strong interest in oversight on sports betting, backed by the National Football League, there could be multiple vehicles for online poker if the horse racing avenue doesn’t pan out.

Currently, just three states—Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware—have regulated web poker. Federal intervention would likely seek to legalize it nationwide in one fell swoop.

(h/t to OnlinePokerReport)