Table Talk: US Poker Legislation May Be Doomed

road in gloomy weather

Please join me in a glass of vino rosso. I’m still on an Italian vacation high and may decide to have red wine fed intravenously into my system.

I returned to the United States to see that nothing had changed since I left two weeks prior; in fact, it had only gotten worse. My government was shut down because the elected members of Congress were unable to come to any agreement that would keep the government running. And on top of that, the deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling was looming, with inaction ready to affect the entire world economy if my country defaulted on its debts. Fun!

This week, that was all resolved in a last-minute law passed to raise that debt ceiling and restart the government. Even that left many members of Congress angry, some promising to fight the same fight when the new deadline of early 2014 comes around.

Meanwhile, this situation is indicative of the bitter divide in the U.S. government, not only between the Republicans and Democrats but amongst factions of each party. To say that the people’s representatives have reached a level of dysfunction is an understatement.

A recent report by the National Journal noted that in the first six months of the year, only 13 laws were passed. For example, the Freedom to Fish Act became law, as did a law “to specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.”

Naturally, Congress sees a plethora of bills and proposals, only a fraction of which are seriously considered and then become law. A government tracking website stated that there are 5,721 bills and resolutions currently before Congress, and only five percent of them will be successful.

What does this mean for the world of online poker? It’s difficult to say anything for certain, but I will venture to say that if the members of the U.S. Congress are as divided and unproductive as proven thus far, the chances of garnering a majority of supporters for the approval of online poker in America are slim. Slim to none.

Never mind that online poker or any type of Internet gambling could bring much-needed revenue to a country that is struggling to create jobs and find new revenue streams. No matter that individual states like Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware are enacting online poker and gambling laws on their own without any federal oversight or cohesion. These things matter little to a Congress consisting of many politicians with specific agendas and reelection on their minds.

It’s sad that my current view of my government is so negative, considering I’ve always tried to give the governmental process the benefit of the doubt. I’ve also been one of the few saying – for years – that the United States will pass an online poker legalization and regulation bill.

However, the downward spiral of my government’s productivity – and sanity, in many cases – has led me to believe that online poker is not even on the horizon. I have no inside knowledge, only an assumption based on the actions and inaction of the U.S. Congress.

My new prediction is that more states will enact laws to legalize and regulate the online gaming industry within their own borders. Further, some states will join together in compacts to work together for shared liquidity and larger profits. This will likely be the trend for years to come. The federal government, on the other hand, will probably not really look at the issue until the 2014 and 2016 elections have passed.

In my humble opinion, the only chance for a federal poker bill to pass will be as a quiet add-on to legislation that will pass both houses of Congress by a large margin. If a legislator can tack a poker bill on to a larger must-pass bill, much like the UIGEA was added to the Safe Port Act in 2006, it may be the only chance to push Internet gaming forward in America.

I do hope that I am mistaken. But I just watched a week of news reports about my dysfunctional government as they barely saved the world economy from collapse.

Now, pass that bottle of wine back over here. I’ll share it with any Americans who have been watching the news along with me.