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Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) spoke optimistically about the future of online poker in the United States last week at the Digital Gaming and Lottery Policy Summit. Barton believes that acting swiftly and decisively is the way to go. He was quoted as saying that “the bottom line is we want to get to it as quickly as possible. The poker bill has a chance in this Congress… which means this year or next year.”

In June Barton introduced bill HR 2366, the “Internet Gambling Prohibition Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011.” This bill seeks to amend the UIGEA of 2006 to allow for a distinct exception to the ban for games of skill, including poker. The bill focuses strongly on consumer protection aspects. It lays strict guidelines for liquidity of funds by operators, effective means for preventing underage gambling as well as identifying and providing help for problem gamblers.

“I think we have the votes in the House to get it through. If we get it to a vote on the floor of the House, I think it will pass,” said Barton. “A lot of this is politics and in this case it’s not Republican and Democrat politics. It’s more House and Senate politics.” It appears that we need to get our proverbial ducks in a row before making the final push to approve the bill through the House and then the Senate.

While the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was “rubber stamped” into law after being attached to the SAFE Port Act in 2006, Barton sees little chance that his bill could use a similar tactic to expedite the process. Barton’s current focus is to help bill HR 2366 along the regular route through the House of Representatives and then through the Senate.

Despite the hard road ahead, Barton remains confident in the eventual passing of a bill allowing legalization/regulation of online poker in the U.S., even if it isn’t his own HR 2366. Barton believes that a federal internet poker bill will get through the House and Senate, and find its way to the President’s desk before the end of 2012.