To the untrained eye, the legislative push to get poker legalized in America appears to have stalled. Early 2009 saw a number of positive court cases, with numerous judges agreeing that poker is a game of skill. The most exciting news was emanating from Washington. Barney Frank, long time poker advocate, was introducing his latest attempt at a bill that would see poker legalized and regulated. The bill succeeded in passing a House vote and was scheduled to go before the Senate for debate.
Numerous urgent bills caught the Senate’s attention and, before long, it became evident that Frank’s effort would not get its moment in the spotlight before the Senate’s summer recess. After they reconvened, the debate was tentatively announced for some time in September. Industry groups such as the Poker Player’s Alliance (PPA) began a large and expensive lobbying campaign, as did online giants PokerStars and Full Tilt.
As head of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank holds a vital position in dealing with any economic measures that need to be undertaken by the US government. With the country in dire financial straits, Frank had to siphon more and more time away from his pet poker project. The September window has now slipped by and many poker advocates are wondering when the bill will resurface. Things have become all the more urgent due to the impending implementation of the UIGEA. All major banks are gearing up to fully block any financial transactions to and from online poker sites.
Despite the encroaching December 1st deadline, the PPA are still positive about the chances of avoiding its effects. HR 2266 – The Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act has also been introduced by Frank. If accepted, it would delay the UIGEA coming into effect in order that the law can be properly assessed. With Frank’s original proposal indefinitely delayed, HR 2266 is now the poker community’s most mainstream hope of avoiding the UIGEA.
“We’ve had some discussions with Congressman Frank about things he can do to help encourage the Treasury Department to accept 2266, and hopefully he will,” said PPA Executive Director John Pappas. They are also exploring less conventional avenues to prolong the safety of online poker. “There are other ways to get it done that include bypassing the legislative process,” he added. The PPA are keeping their cards close to their chest at this point, but clearly have a plan prepared and ready to put into action.
Meanwhile, Frank’s original poker bill has not lain completely dormant. In this past week, it has added four new co-sponsors, bringing the total to 58. Representatives Lynn Woolsey of California, William Clay of Missouri, Adam Schiff of California, and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut have all pledged their support. The bill now has strong bi-partizan backing, but is still unlikely to be heard before the December 1st UIGEA deadline. Senator Ron Wyden has also become involved with Frank’s proposal, introducing a bill that would siphon off the money taxed from a regulated online poker industry to fund healthcare reform.