Recently in Massachusetts, a gambling bill was rejected that would have allowed the construction of three more casinos, but provided fines of up to $25000 and two years jail time for playing poker online. While the construction of casinos should provide an inherent acceptance of the poker community, this bill would have been a u-turn. But, yesterday a Seminole tribe casino bill for the expansion of poker and greyhound racetracks in Florida was passed by the state legislature. Interestingly, this bill involved no jail time for online poker players.
According to the Miami Herald, Florida’s bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, would allow for gaming 18 hours a day on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends. Currently no cardrooms can operate for more than 12 hours a day. It also paves the way for high-stakes poker tournaments around the state. “You have tournaments that are spread across the world, in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but currently those tournaments are illegal in Florida,” said Geller. The bill would allow two tournaments a year in which up to 1000 players could pay a buy-in of up to $10,000. Charity poker tournaments are also included in the bill. These events could be held six times in the year.
The bill is a step in the right direction but neither the battle for it or poker acceptance is over. The bill has to be heard by two more committees before a full senate vote, but it’s 8-2 margin in the first vote is very positive. The rejection of the bill in Massachusetts coupled with this bill display a trend in the direction of making poker legal and maybe eventually, with luck in the short term and skill in the long term, a celebrated part of our culture.