Senate bill that would regulate online poker introduced

1 October 2008

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation this week that would legally define poker as a skill game and create a regulatory environment for the game to be offered over the Internet in the United States. The bill is the first piece of legislation concerning online gambling that has been introduced to the Senate since the passage of the UIGEA. Similar legislation and attempts to either repeal or better-define the UIGEA have already been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Menendez's "Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act" calls on the U.S. Treasury Department to set up a licensing framework for games that use "simulated cards, dice, or tiles in which success is predominantly determined by the sill of the players." The measure lists "poker, bridge and mahjong" as examples of those types of games. The bill also defines permitted bets as wagers "made with respect to the outcome of an Internet skill game that is a non-housed bank game."

"The PPA has long advocated for thoughtful and effective licensing and regulation of online poker as a means to protect vulnerable communities, such as children and compulsive gamblers, and provide appropriate controls to thwart consumer fraud and abuse," said Poker Players Alliance chairman Alfonse D'Amato. "Senator Menendez's legislation is the right vehicle to achieve those goals."

"This action by Senator Menendez is yet another example that prohibitions on Internet gambling, and specifically poker, will not work to protect consumers," the former Senator from New York added.

Operators under this legislation would be licensed for one year and have to pay a licensing fee as well as renew their licenses on an annual basis. And individual states and Native American Tribes have the right to "opt out" of the legislation and prohibit Internet gambling within their borders.

The bill also calls for "reasonable" measures to be taken to ensure:

  • People under the age of 18 are not allowed to gamble.
  • Operators only accepts bets from jurisdictions in which it's legal.
  • Operators pay taxes.
  • Money laundering laws are obeyed.
  • Privacy laws are followed.
  • Programs for "social problems" are in place.

The bill also specifically makes it legal to invest in licensed operators and it prohibits operators from offering sports bets.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Banking Committee and if it is not taken up by the time the current session adjourns it will have to be reintroduced next year.

Vin Narayanan

Articles by Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for, USA WEEKEND and CNN.