Do We Need a Federal Online Gambling Bill? A Look at the Pros and Cons

us-state-online-gambling-legislation While Nevada is already up and running with online poker, New Jersey pants a few steps behind, and California is finally getting all its ducks in line for some imminent legislation, it begs the question, do we even need a Federal Internet gambling bill anymore? At least one man, Congressman Peter King (R-NY) thinks so, and he thinks it shouldn’t be all about Nevada or just focused on poker either. Is he right? Are we going about it all wrong? While it could easily be noted that trying to get all 50 American states to agree on anything is tantamount to herding cats, let’s take a look at his position and see if it holds any water.

Why Do We Need  a Federal Online Gambling Bill Anyway?

According to King, any attempts to create a national online gambling directive have been stilted and almost exclusively geared towards poker and Nevada only.  King’s new Internet Gambling Regulation, Enforcement and Consumer Protection Act of 2013 (IGRECPA), besides being a mouthful, aims to “foster a level playing field,” thus equally working among all gambling constituencies such as casinos, Indian tribes, state lotteries and horseracing venues.

Some say that attempt at such far-reaching encompassment will be the very doom of this bill, including as it does a nod to every form of gambling save sports betting per se.  Of course, the only other attempt to get a Federal vote going was Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s 2012 online poker-only bill, and that one died from bloat before anyone could give it CPR. So you have to wonder if any national referendum on Internet gambling is ripe for the picking at this moment in time.

Pros and Cons

As we all know, getting three people to agree on a direction for online gambling is tough, let alone 50 states with as many differing views on gambling in general. In fact, within specific states like California, it’s proved to be an enormous undertaking just to get all parties on even close to the same page, though it now looks like they’re finally getting close there.

The other side of the coin is the independent nature of each state, despite the increasingly inaccurate title of “United” that ties the country altogether. Gambling issues aside, Americans as a whole don’t like the Feds telling them how to run their own bailiwicks, especially on an issue as touchy as gambling, and even more so, gambling online. Ironically, this attitude is exactly what King’s bill aims to address; what he sees as a patchwork quilt direction when it comes to Internet gambling throughout America.

That being said, KIng’s bill does have an opt-out clause for any states, such as Nevada and New Jersey, who are already on their own online gambling paths, to sever ties with the federal purview and do their own thing, but they would have to do it within 120 days of passage.  You know how you feel when you get one of those “opt out” messages; you’re like when did I opt in? And U.S. states are more than likely to have the same reaction.

Indian Tribes Excepted

chips-on-us-flag Even within states that opt out, Indian tribes located within those states could choose to opt in as, basically, sovereign nation status. There are no “bad actor” provisions in this bill, either; the only caveat for immediate elimination is not having paid up your revenue taxes in the past to Uncle Sam or his cousin, Uncle Sal, from whatever state you hail from. And if you’ve, gasp, dabbled in accepting online sports betting wagers, you are evil and cannot be licensed either.

Somewhat oddly, perhaps, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a national online poker lobbying group who’s lost a good bit of steam now that state-by-state legalization is under way, likes this bill; it has, however, been noted that there’s not much in the way of federal online gambling legislation they don’t like.  It’s generally thought this bill will not make it out alive, and we can see why: it has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese.

As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Clearly, state-by-state online gambling regulation is moving ahead; maybe at a snail’s pace, but that’s still faster than no pace at all. We’re saying it’s time to let the national approach go, and let’s move forward with what’s already working. Let each American state do its own thing, and negotiate compacts with each other as they wish.