Heartland Institute Reacts to Bipartisan Internet Poker Bill

Jim Lakely

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) today introduced a bill that would legalize playing poker online for money. The proposed legislation would create an interstate licensing program for Internet poker sites and would allow states to opt out.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). Barton’s bill comes exactly 10 weeks after what the online gaming industry calls “Black Friday.” On April 15, the FBI shut down the three most popular online poker sites in America and charged their executives with bank fraud.

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“This bill is indeed good news, but for now, if you’ll pardon the pun, I’m keeping a ‘poker face’ on at least one part of it.

“Legalizing online poker is an outstanding idea. Having tried to play it more than a few times, I’m firmly in the camp believing the game to be one of skill and thus not subject to federal regulation even under existing law.

“But establishing still another federal agency to regulate it is where I’m going to hold, for two reasons. First, many online poker platforms are based in foreign countries, and thus are beyond the regulatory powers of the United States. Second, if these platforms cheat customers, that’s fraud. It’s already illegal in the U.S. and such laws are enforced by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Enough is enough.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
920/ 295-6032
“Whatever one thinks of gambling, it’s clear poker is a game of skill that shouldn’t be subject to burdensome and restrictive laws. Rep. Barton and his cosponsors deserve a lot of credit for standing up on behalf of personal freedom. Their bill deserves speedy consideration and passage.”

Eli Lehrer
Director, Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
Vice President, DC Operations
The Heartland Institute
“The big-government dynamic of ‘legalize but regulate’ is a split-the-baby approach, which continues to assert bureaucratic meddling is necessary for adults perceived as inherently too irresponsible to manage their own behavior when it comes to ‘vice.’ Why not legalize online gaming altogether with enforcement of current laws, and let the chips fall where they may?”

Bruce Edward Walker
Managing Editor, InfoTech & Telecom News
The Heartland Institute
“What’s worrisome to me is that creating a bureaucracy to regulate online gaming is considered progress. It’s time that small-government lawmakers go all-in with a concerted push for legalization and deregulation. Federal oversight in these cases quickly turns into more and more juice for the house – in this case, the White House.”

Marc Oestreich
Legislative Specialist, InfoTech & Telecommunications
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; Austin, Texas, Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.