Expert commends ‘comprehensive’ poker senate bill

Online gambling

A leading commentator on the US online gambling industry has backed plans for changes to the rules governing the game across the pond.

Governors and senate representatives met this month to discuss changes to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Among the changes proposed, were calls from Representative Joe Barton for the introduction of a new regulatory framework for playing online poker in the United States.

And while changes remain some way off becoming a reality, leading US-based industry expert Maurice Verstandig believes that the meeting yielded plenty of positives for gaming.

In particular, Mr Verstandig was in favour of the changes that would seen the online poker industry governed and viewed as something independent of the wider gaming community.

The legislation provides for a well-mandated Office of Internet Poker Oversight to work with various collateral federal, state and Native American authorities to license – and oversee – a new cache of card rooms with servers based in the United States”, he said.

Despite the potential for progress, he was quick to warn that, with much still debate, plenty of obstacles still remained, with poker’s main issue coming in the distinction of the game from standard casino gaming.

He said: “The bill hinges on the collateral theories that poker pits players against one another, in lieu of a hedge-bearing house, and that skill predominates over any sample size of sufficient breadth”.

Mr Verstandig noted that it was crucial that draft legislation was used for “rhetorical persuasion” to help lawmakers recognise the way poker has changed since the dawn of the internet.

Despite this, the US poker expert welcomed the proposed punishments that would be levied against anyone operating online gaming platforms without a license.

These changes include potential prison terms of up to five years and a variety of either penal fines or monetary forfeitures.

There was less support for the “boilerplate social welfare language” of the new legislation though, with Barton viewed as guilty of pointing to concerns over underage payers and problem gamblers, as chief problem – something Mr Verstandig was uneasy with.

And while he remains positive about the overall assessments, the poker industry expert questioned just whether progress would be made on these particular issues in the near future.

The comments come a day after the American Gaming Association called on the US government to loosen the rules surrounding online poker, rather than gaming as a whole.