Congress

Florida Man Crafts Homegrown Online Poker Bill

congressFlorida’s Martin Shapiro, a poker-playing attorney with experience in legislative matters, has taken a homegrown approach to online-poker legislation by crafting his own would-be measure for federal legislatures to consider.

Shapiro, a popular poster under his “PokerXanadu” handle on several poker forums and sub-forums dealing with poker legal and legislative matters, was inspired to craft his own version of a bill after seeing the numerous problems embedded in other pieces of poker-related legislation at the federal and state levels.

For Shapiro, who was at one time Florida’s state representative for the Poker Player’s Alliance before departing active work for that organization, the exercise seemed worthy and interesting, a shot at a bill with poker players’ interests in mind, mixed with a few raw realities that any bill of this nature would have to include in order to pass.

As Shapiro wrote in introducing his project, “Generally, I’m merging the provisions of the latest King and Barton bills, keeping it poker-only licensing, adding a smattering of Reid/Kyl, McDermott, etc., and throwing in everything including the kitchen sink in regards to what is good for poker players (imo) and what would potentially make it passable in today’s political climate (imo).”

Shapiro has since completed the majority of his would-be bill, The Internet Wagering Citizens Protection Act, which interested readers can download in PDF form by clicking the link below:

PDF version of mostly-complete bill

Shapiro, who has contributed to online-poker regulatory matters in other ways, such as proposing a set of online-poker guidelines to Delaware Lottery officials during that state’s open-comments period, has also produced a running series of Cliff’s Notes on his project as he seeks input from interested players.  Those notes themselves are still quite lengthy, so we’ll summarize some of the key points further, as Shapiro sees them:

  • Poker-only licensing;
  • Secretary of Commerce (and a to-be-created Office of Internet Wagering Oversight) and National Indian Gaming Commission responsible for oversight;
  • States and tribes can also be regulatory bodies;
  • Initial licensing application eligibility would include state- or tribal-licensed gambling facility with 500 or more licensed slot machines, licensed poker rooms with 75 or more tables, licensed slot-machine manufacturers, state lotteries, and licensed parimutuel outlets;
  • Bad actors (including felony conviction) to result in a five-year freezeout — which is probably a political necessity;
  • Age-21 minimum for players;
  • Geolocation tracking mandatory; safeguards against fraud, collusion, multi-accounting, theft and money laundering; 
  • International player pooling allowed under reciprocal agreement;
  • 5-year licenses;
  • Opt-outs for non-participating states and tribes (this will be mandatory in any federal bill), but with a default opt-in five months after bill’s passage;
  • Prohibitions include unlicensed sites, credit-card use for deposits, and internet cafes, “bots” by users;
  • Would call for penalties against unlicensed sites, but not against players who might use those sites.

Shapiro was working on certain tax provisions at last report, projecting participating states and tribes to assess a revenue tax rate of up to 12% of rake received.

Interesting exercise or not, the question is, in this era of pork-barrel and corporate-driven politics, what legislator would be interested in driving a truly player-oriented bill?  That’s one of the conundrums Shapiro willingly faces.

Still, Shapiro’s invested many hours into his would-be bill, and it’s a better and more logical online poker bill than most of what’s been proposed to date.  He deserves a good round of applause for making the effort.

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