A new coalition launched Tuesday with the goal of persuading lawmakers to set up a regulatory regime that would allow Americans to legally place bets on online poker games.
The FairPlayUSA coalition has attracted some high-profile advisers including former Homeland Security and ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, R-Pa., to push Congress to fully legalize online poker and to clarify the nation's online gambling laws to more clearly define what is legal and what is not.
Congress enacted legislation in 2006 to crack down on internet gambling by barring U.S. payment processors such as credit card companies and PayPal from handling payments for online bets. However, critics argue that the law has done little to stop Americans from continuing to gamble online and say this denies the U.S. government of potential tax revenues. They also say it exposes U.S. participants to fraud and abuse since most Internet gaming sites are based offshore.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, has introduced an online poker bill that would authorize online betting on poker and direct the Commerce Department to set up a licensing and consumer-protection regime. The bill would authorize online poker only in states that allow it.
"Licensing and regulating online poker is the most effective and responsible way to ensure the safety of America's children and consumers," Internet safety expert Parry Aftab said in a statement. "Given the growing ... popularity of online poker, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to protect America's children and consumers. We must take action now."
Aftab, Ridge and professional poker player Greg Raymer make up the coalition's initial advisers but coalition Executive Director Marisa McNee told Tech Daily Dose that the group hopes to add more. Caesars and MGM, which own several casinos, have provided initial funding for the coalition, she added.
McNee said the group has not taken a position on the Barton bill yet and is not lobbying Congress for any particular piece of legislation. The group only favors legalizing online poker and not other forms of online gaming.
McNee said the group is aiming to educate the public and lawmakers about its 10 principles, which include providing law enforcement with tools to crack down on illegal online gambling and "removing U.S. banks as the enforcers" of the 2006 Internet gambling law and also to establish a "strict" regulatory framework for licensing and enforcement of online poker.
"This is about educating the public and policymakers with a set of principles," McNee said.