Federal legislation introduced to legalize Web wagering

A New York congressman introduced legislation Thursday to legalize all forms of Internet wagering by establishing a federal licensing and regulatory system.

Internet gaming supporters quickly applauded the measure, authored by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., which goes beyond previous attempts to legalize just online poker.

Others expressed caution and wanted to take a closer look at the 134-page bill.

“Our team and the board will need some time to fully review this legislation before taking an official position,” American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said in a statement.

Last year an online poker bill backed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and now-retired U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., was leaked in Washington, D.C., but never introduced.

Partisan politics and opposition from Indian gaming tribes and state lotteries sank the legislation. Several online gaming and online poker-only bills have surfaced in Congress over the past few sessions.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told Internet gaming proponents he will introduce online poker legislation later this year. Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said the Democratic leader and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., “continue to work together in this issue.”

Former Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., now a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said the King bill most likely will take on a different form as it comes up for debate and additional online gaming bills surface.

Porter said the casino industry, Indian tribes and state lotteries need to quickly “get on the same page and not send mixed messages” concerning online gaming legislation.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who said she would reach out to King on the legislation, agreed that “a set of strong consumer protection safeguards with sound regulatory oversight to protect against illegal online gambling operations” needed to be established by Congress.

“Nevada companies, with their decades of expertise, are well-equipped to position our state as the national leader on this issue,” Titus said.

King’s legislation would create a federal online gaming regulatory structure that would be overseen by an office of gambling oversight in the Treasury Department.

The regulations would authorize safeguards against underage and compulsive gambling and create a multi-state online wagering structure.

States that have already established Internet gaming regulations, such as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, would have their laws grandfathered into the new federal regulatory structure.

Individual states that oppose Internet gaming would have the right to opt out of the system.

King said the bill, titled the “Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013,” attempted to address the “regulatory uncertainty surrounding online gambling” following the U.S. Department of Justice’s reinterpretation of the Federal Wire Act in December 2011.

The ruling made all types of online gaming, other than sports wagering, legal.

In a statement, King said the current state-by-state regulatory situation is not in the best interest of the American people.

“A common federal standard will ensure strong protections for consumers, protect against problem and underage gambling, and make it easier for businesses, players, lawmakers and regulators to navigate and freely participate,” King said.

Internet gaming proponents said they were glad a bill had been introduced.

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., chairman of the poker advocacy group Poker Players Alliance, said federal legislation is needed “to avoid a patchwork of state laws that limit player pools and provides consumer protections only to Americans in those states.”

Michael Waxman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said he would be shocked if Congress did not move quickly on the legislation.

“Rather than cede the regulation of Internet gambling to state lawmakers, Congress should ensure there is consistent oversight of this industry and move to generate significant new revenues without having to raise taxes or cut programs,” Waxman said.

Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling, whose Nevada-based company operates Ultimate Poker, currently the only legal pay-to-play online gambling website in the United States, said he is looking forward to reviewing the King bill.

Breitling and executives of Station, which is the majority owner of Ultimate Gaming, have long advocated for a federal online gaming bill.

“We believe that federal legislation makes sense for poker only, in order to protect all Americans,” Breitling said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal
.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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