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The momentum that has been building behind the anti-UIGEA movement in Washington generated even more steam yesterday with the introduction of the ‘Internet Skill Games Licensing and Control Act of 2008’ by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. The new bill seeks to officially declare poker, and other games of skill, legal in the online arena. It also sets out detailed provisions for the legislation and regulation of online gambling, two issues which are key to any new laws being passed.

What marks out S.B. 3616 from the similar bills that have preceded it is, not only its depth, but that it is the first of its kind to be introduced in the Senate. Previous bills having always come from the House of Representatives. This new precedent seems to indicate that the tide is slowly but surely shifting in favor of the return of online poker in America.

Stoking the fire of this new dawn have been the PPA. Always quick to advise, commend and pressure those politicians who surround the bills. True to form they were quick to heap praise upon Menedez and S.B. 3616. PPA Chairman Alfonse D’Amato commented that the bill was ” a means to protect vulnerable communities, such as children and compulsive gamblers, and provide appropriate controls to thwart consumer fraud and abuse.”

Those Americans who had been robbed of their favorite pastime will be most heartened by the bills attempts to officially define online games of skill. The bill declares an “Internet skill game” as “an Internet-based game that uses simulated cards, dice, or tiles in which success is predominantly determined by the skill of the players, including poker, bridge, and mahjong.” This sort of clear and precise language will allow the financial institutions to once again begin dealings with the online poker sites, after 2 years of confusion.

Less thrilling, but just as important, are the details the bill provides on how best to regulate and legislate the murky world of online gambling. In order to operate within the U.S. companies would first have to have an application approved by the Secretary of the Treasury. A stringent vetting procedure would involve assessing the current owners of the company for a sold business reputation and checks to ensure that the company had, in the past, obeyed online gambling laws in other countries.

After passing the legislation process companies would officially approved by the U.S. government, but would still have to ensure that they followed the agreed regulations. These include laws to prevent money laundering and tax avoidance as well as the mandatory implementation of software to detect underage gamblers and those whose habits have developed into addiction. The sites would then be periodically monitored by the Treasury to ensure that they continued to comply with the letter of the law. The bill would also give individual states the right to ban its residents access to these organizations, if they see fit.

Both the House and the Senate will have to agree to the legislation before it can become law, with the deadline for a vote set at January 3rd 2009. Senator Menedez may have to overcome the bad feeling he has cultivated by his blocking the renewal of U.S. immigration laws. But with the PPA’s backing, and perhaps a pinch of common sense, we will see online poker officially returning to American shores with the full backing of the new U.S. government.