National Online Gambling Bills Introduced to Congress

Posted on: November 21, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: December 4, 2013, 05:40h.

Yet another bill has been introduced to Congress regarding online gaming; but will it pass?

We’ve talked a lot about how America is going to be waiting for a while before they get any federal action on online gambling regulation. That’s still likely true, but it’s not because of a lack of bills that could do the job.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Last week, Representative Jim McDermott (D-Washington) introduced a bill that would once again regulate online gambling at the federal level, splitting tax revenues between the states that players live in and the federal government. That bill joins two more introduced earlier this year by Representatives Peter King (R-New York) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), all of which are variations on the same theme: federal oversight and regulation of at least some forms of online gambling.

McDermott’s bill is actually compatible with King’s effort. The McDermott bill would enforce exactly how the tax distribution from online gambling would work, with 12 cents of every dollar deposited reportedly being collected by governments at various levels. Two-thirds of that money would go to the state or tribe where the gambler is playing, while the other third would go to the federal government.

The bill is more comprehensive than the Barton bill, which would only apply to online poker. States would be able to opt in or out of the federal online poker plan under his bill, but there would be no federal regulation of other online gambling, such as casino games.

Reid Still Trying

If three bills competing for attention in the House of Representatives isn’t enough for you, then there’s yet more action waiting for you in the Senate. It’s well known that the delegation from Nevada is very interested in online gambling, as they’d like their state – and the Las Vegas casinos therein – to be leaders in the industry. With a powerful figure in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), this might be the quickest route to getting some action on an online gambling bill. Reid is currently working with his colleague from Nevada, Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) to craft yet another version of online gambling legislation to be introduced at some point in the future. Interestingly – for now, anyway – Nevada’s gaming commissioners have made it quite clear they aren’t expanding the state’s online presence beyond poker anytime soon, even though legally, they have the option to do so.

But as we’ve said before – and will surely be saying again – all of these bills will have a difficult time navigating the minefield of factions and interests in Washington and nationwide that could stop them from being brought to the floor, let alone being put into law. Online gambling isn’t strictly a partisan issue like so many in Congress, but divisions between Democrats and Republicans can still cause any bill to fall apart if the “wrong” political figures support or oppose the bill.

And even if partisanship doesn’t doom the bill, there are other hurdles. While many Democrats and Republicans alike support online gambling, there’s also strong opposition on both sides of the aisle. Both religious and moral groups on the right and social welfare advocates on the left have issues with gambling expansion, fearing that it could lead to an increase in compulsive gambling and other social ills.

Still, many in the industry are hoping that – finally – the McDermott bill could be a sign that Congress could start taking federal regulation seriously.

“With all the fighting in D.C. over funding issues, you’d hope this opportunity to generate billions in economic activity and new government revenues will get serious consideration,” said Michael Waxman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.