More States, Politicians Jump on the Internet Gambling Bandwagon

The oncoming legalization of online poker charges ahead this week with more lawmakers “seeing the light” or at least the potential revenue dollars that online gambling could add to state coffers. News broke Friday that Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill that would pave the way for licensing and regulation of online gambling in the state. The bill gives the Nevada Gaming Commission (the agency that regulates all gambling in the state) until this January to develop rules that would govern online gambling activities. However, those rules would not be implemented until the federal government passes some kind of legislation that officially legalizes online gambling. A graph of the odds of that happening would probably look something like a rollercoaster track. Yet, the events of the last three months make it appear as though legalization in some form or another is more likely than ever.

This past March long-time Internet gaming advocate Democrat Rep. Barney Frank teamed up with the newly minted Republican Rep. John Campbell of California and Republican Rep. Peter King of New York to introduce a new bill to legalize, regulate, and tax online gambling. Then on April 15, the Department of Justice shut down the most popular online poker sites serving Americans. Black Friday, as that day became known, was quickly followed by “Blue Monday” with federal prosecutors in Baltimore shutting down still more sites. The DOJ smack-down was preceded by several states taking independent action to legalize intrastate online gambling within their borders (including the District of Columbia, which did pass a budget measure legalizing the activity in the District).

In June news got out that Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas had drafted legislation that would classify poker as a game of skill — paving the way for its official exemption from the “gambling” laws that have allowed federal agents to prosecute online poker as illegal gambling. Barton, the former head of the Energy and Commerce Congressional Subcommittee, has asked the current head to introduce the legislation in the committee, which would vastly increase its chance of passing.

Even Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, one of the most long-standing and vocal opponents of legalizing online gambling, has softened his stance in recent weeks. In an interview with The Las Vegas Sun, Rep. Bachus said that he was “not opposed” to considering Barton’s proposal… “But if there’s gambling, it has to be regulated.”

With states taking action to legalize the activity intra-state, conservatives changing their tune, and the PR disaster that federal prosecution of online gamblers has turned into, it’s a good bet that some type of federal legislation legalizing and taxing online poker will make it through Congress this year.