Hope for US Online Poker as Rep. Barton Eyes Up Racing Integrity Bill

June 28th, 2018 | by Kaycee James

US online poker players have been given a beacon of hope courtesy of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Texas Republican Joe Barton.

Texas Republican Joe Barton is looking at ways to add federal poker legislation to a horse racing integrity bill. (Image: wxxv25.com/Alex Wong/Getty Images)

According a June 22 report by news website Roll Call, Texas GOP representative Barton is interested in attaching some form of poker legislation to a new horse racing bill. Commenting on the proposal put forward by fellow Republican Andy Barr (R-KY), Barton said that it could be a chance to bring federal oversight to online poker.

“I am looking at it, Barton said, referring to his efforts to find a vehicle like the Barr bill for his proposal,” reads the comment published on RollCall.com.

Integrity for One Could Shape Integrity for Another

Although Barr’s bill is focused on establishing a national authority for regulating drug use in horse racing, the sport’s links with gambling could open up a wider debate. For Barton, a long-time supporter of the poker industry, similar controls could be applied to the online poker industry.

At its core, the racing bill wants to ensure that racing events are free from cheating. This, in turn, would protect gamblers from being scammed as more states join New Jersey and follow the Supreme Court’s guidance that PASPA contravenes the constitutions Supremacy Clause.

While Barton has yet to outline what additions he would make, he is likely to argue that a national body could be used to stop cheating online. If any efforts were successful, they would address one of the main concerns that has seen critics scupper previous attempts to legalize online poker at a federal level.

Revamping the Internet of Poker Freedom Act

What we do know is that Barton has previously pushed his own piece of poker legislation. Dubbed the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R.2888), the bill sought to establish an Office of Internet Poker Oversight.

The agency would perform a similar function to the Gambling Commission (UKGC) in the UK and deal with regulating and licensing operators. In turn, only licensed poker sites would be able to legally offer online poker in the US.

“[H.R.2888] allows a licensee to accept an Internet poker bet or wager from U.S.-located individuals and offer related services so long as the license remains in good standing,” reads the 2015 bill.

H.R.2888 failed to gain any traction, but a reworked version could now find its way into the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act.

For many industry insiders, federal poker regulation is more likely to become law if it’s part of an omnibus bill. While that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a standalone bill making it through the political system, the safer bet seems to be as part of a larger document, something Barton is now working on.


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