US senior senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) are reportedly working on a deal to legalize online poker at the federal level, paving the way for other potential changes to online gaming laws. Surprisingly, senator Kyl was one of the authors of 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which barred financial institutions from processing payments from US citizens gambling online. “It’s an opportunity to go back and revise the Wire Act, make sure that everybody knows that it applies to Internet gambling,” Kyl told the press, explaining his turnaround. Changes to current legislation, he said, would help clarify the muddy US iGaming laws. Much of the new-found confusion stems from the Justice Department’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act last year, which found that the bill was only applicable to sports betting.
Since then, Nevada and Delaware have enacted online gambling legislation, with the former planning to roll out a number of online poker sites in 2013. A full 16 other states are also considering similar legislation, which has many worried about the effects of a regulatory patchwork on a coherent, national, legal framework. Further development of a state-by-state situation may also encourage players to play at unregulated sites. Time, in other words, is of the essence. “It is critical that something happens this year,” senator Dean Heller (R-NV) told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “If we get beyond this year, I think that states will have gone too far in their efforts to basically legalize everything,” he said.
“If we get beyond this year, I think that states will have gone too far in their efforts to basically legalize everything”
Heller is said to be working closely with Reid and Kyl, who are now trying to persuade Republicans. “Senator Kyl and I’ve worked very hard,” Reid told Tech Daily Dose. “What we need to do is get some Republican support. That hasn’t been forthcoming yet.” It’s worth noting that senator Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced a bill last year that have would also legalized online betting on poker. Support for Barton’s online gambling bill, however, stalled before it could gain any traction. To avoid a similar fate, it’s believed that strategists are trying to ensure passage of the Reid-Kyl effort by attaching it to “safe legislation”. The changes may therefore end up being discussed as part of the CyberSecurity Act, which seeks to create basic guidelines for the protection of US cyber infrastructure.
Like Barton’s bill, it may prove to be a hard sell. We’ll just have to wait and see if senators Reid and Kyl have better luck.