There are currently two similar proposed bills for legalization of online poker. In March, John Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced HR 1174 the “Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act.” In June, Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced HR 2366, known as the “Internet Gambling Prohibition Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011.” Despite the negative connotation associated with UIEGA among online poker players, Barton’s bill is aimed at amending the UIGEA to allow a clear exception for online poker and other games of skill.
Currently both bills are still undergoing searches for support, ongoing amendments and other changes. To further complicate the picture, the American Gaming Association has plans to submit their own bill for the legalization of online gaming, scheduled for sometime this fall. The AGA bill is rumored to give the Treasury Department oversight of online gaming operations, including authority to regulate and grant licenses. In addition, the AGA has stated they will attempt to lobby for a “penalty box” for those companies who failed to comply with the UIGEA. The extent of the penalty they may face is yet to be seen.
There are still many uncertainties regarding legalized online poker, but the big dogs are still going forward in anticipation of it becoming a reality. Earlier this year, Caesars Interactive signed an agreement with major the online gaming provider 888 Holdings. More recently, a partnership between Bwin.Party, MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming was also finalized; allowing these companies to also start preparing to offer their own online games, should legislation end up passing.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has given approval to the Caesars-888 Holdings partnership, stating that it would be “suitable” under Nevada’s Foreign Gaming Act. The Party-MGM-Boyd Gaming partnership will soon enter into a preliminary suitability review by the board. They are expected to be given their blessing as well.
Gary Loveman, chairman of Caesars Entertainment, estimates that it will take his company “12-14 months” to get a legal US poker room up and running, assuming that legislation gets passed in the near future. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.