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U.S. Internet Poker Bill Stalled By Infighting; Delaware Okays Online Casinos

Posted On: 9/21/2012

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TAGS: online poker, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), gambling bill, Internet Gambling Prohibition Poker Consumer Protection and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2012, Online Poker Oversight, Reid-Kyl bill

WASHINGTON -- An online poker bill introduced last year by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Harry Reid (D-NV) has stalled in Congress. Reid had hoped to get the bill passed this summer or fall, before the election.

Political handicappers now say passage of the bill is highly unlikely. In recent weeks Reid has publicly blamed a fellow Nevadan, Sen. Dean Heller (R), for failing to round up enough Republican support to overcome a possible filibuster. Reid sent Heller a letter accusing Heller of abdicating his responsibility as a U.S. Senator on the matter.

"The Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2012" was introduced in June 2011, but details of its contents were not made public until this month.

The act would permit legal online poker and off-track horseracing on an opt-in basis, state by state. For the first two years of implementation, owners of brick and mortar casinos would be the only authorized operators of online poker sites. Poker sites would pay 16% tax rates, of which 14% would go to states and Indian tribes and 2% would go to the U.S. Separately, state governments would be authorized to launch online lottery sales at their discretion.

The act would also create the Office of Online Poker Oversight within the U.S. Commerce Department to handle licensing and enforcement.

Although 30 senators have signed on to sponsor the bill, it has remained locked up in a congressional subcommittee.

Several state governments have considered legalizing online poker within their own jurisdictions since December 2011, when the U.S. Justice Department announced a new interpretation to the 1961 Wire Act, saying it prohibited only online sports bets. | SEE STORY

The Reid-Kyl bill would tighten up these new loopholes in the Wire Act by outlawing all forms of additional online gambling other than poker.

Meanwhile, Delaware won the race to be the first state to legalize online poker, blackjack, slots and other casino games on June 27 when Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012 into law.