New Skill Games Bill to See More Action Next Year

30 September 2008

A new United States bill establishing a regulatory regime for Internet-based games of skill -- including poker -- has been introduced in the Senate, but insiders on The Hill say the legislation will serve merely as a means to generate discussion between now and the next session of Congress.

The Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act, or S 3616, was introduced today by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. The licensing and control act, incidentally, is the first bill friendly to Internet gaming ever to be introduced in the Senate.

"It's a marriage between the Wexler and the Frank bills," a source in Washington, D.C., who is familiar with the legislation, told IGamingNews by telephone. "It's the Frank licensing regime for the games described in Wexler."

The bills proposed by Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, and Robert I. Wexler, Democrat of Florida, have seen limited action since their respective introductions in April and June 2007.

Interest in Mr. Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act has waned since June 2007, when it was debated before the financial services committee, while Mr. Wexler's Skill Games Protection Act has yet to gain meaningful traction with legislators.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Mr. Menendez, who represents one of America's most gambling-friendly states and the casinos adorning the strip of its entertainment mecca, Atlantic City, comes as little surprise.

In July 2006, as a member of the House, he cast one of 93 votes against an earlier version of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act called the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, which was authored by Republican Representatives James A. Leach and Robert W. Goodlatte.

Asked to discuss Mr. Menendez's current motivations, John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance in Washington, told IGN that the senator and his staff have taken a keen interest in protecting American consumers in light of the recent cheating scandals at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.

"I don't think the Senator believes nor do we believe that this is a bill that's going to be rushed through and passed this year, particularly in light of everything that's going on," added Mr. Pappas, alluding to the crisis currently confronting Congress and the American financial services industry.

"This is obviously a marker for next year," the source in Washington echoed. "They're (members of Congress) not going to do anything on this, but they're coming back after the elections."

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.