U.S. Online Poker Legislation Update

Just days after the first draft of Harry Reid’s proposed online gambling legislation was leaked, the possibility of online poker finally and completely becoming legal in the United States has permeated beyond the poker industry to become world news. Furthermore, two states – South Carolina and California – also released new information on pending gambling legislation today.

South Carolina’s many complications concerning the state’s unclear stance on “friendly” gambling may finally be coming to an end. A 2007 raid of a home poker game resulted in the arrest of 22 citizens, and it’s all been downhill from there. The PPA is still working to have those players’ charges dropped, but the raids have continued, even culminating in a shoot-out just last month.

Various members of South Carolina’s legislature have introduced bills designed to modernize the state’s gambling laws, which have remained unchanged for more than 200 years, but thus far all of those bills have failed to pass a majority vote. Today, South Carolina Senate President Glenn McConnell announced that he will soon be introducing a new bill designed to protect casual non-cash poker players as well as poker events held for state recognized charities.

On the other side of the country, California’s Indian tribes are still pushing for online operating rights in hopes of securing their piece of the market before other states or even the federal government legalizes online gambling on a wider scale. Senator Louis Correa led the charge with the introduction of Bill 40 today.

Bill 40 would give approved California tribes the right to host online poker sites, provided they comply with the state’s mandates and pay an annual tax and licensing fee. A similar bill died on the floor last year after some California tribes argued that online gambling could undermine existing live gambling operations in the state.

Finally, the biggest news on the American front is still Harry Reid’s upcoming online poker proposal. An early draft of Reid’s bill has provoked love/hate responses from both sides of the issue. While his bill aims to legalize online gambling, it also stipulates that states cannot begin licensing sites until 15 months after the legislation passes. The bill also requires any sites hoping to gain an American operating license to start refusing U.S. players no later than 30 days after the bill is passed. In other words, while the bill would eventually lead to the legalization of online poker, it would end all American access to the game for more than a year.

Even worse, if the bill is passed and popular sites like UB or PokerStars refuse to cut off access to their large base of American members until they can receive a license in 15 months, Reid’s bill promises to apply civil penalties of up to $1,000,000 a day. The PPA made a statement expressing approval of Reid’s so-called Internet Poker Act of 2010, but as news circulates that the bill may be passed as early as next week, many active online players are now worried that they’ll find themselves cut off. Online gambling legislation has been a long time coming, but now that it’s nearly arrived we have to wonder, “At what cost?”

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