Peter King

Peter King’s New Federal Internet Gambling Bill a PPA-Coordinated Hail Mary?

“Doomed.”

That was Thursday’s word of the day, as typed by FlushDraw’s own David “F-Train” Behr, who’s currently on assignment in South America.  Behr’s single-word commentary came in FlushDraw’s secret private-chat backchannel, where the poker-news topics of the day are often discussed, and referred to yesterday’s news that US Representative Peter King (R-NY) had introduced his Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013, another belated attempt to force through some sort of United States federal-level internet gambling regulation.

peter-kingThe bill, constructed with the close assistance of the Poker Players Alliance, is a decent enough show pony, but doesn’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell in a federal environment where the real short-term prospects for such action disintegrated with December’s collapse of Reid-Kyl negotiations.

Even as King dropped his measure (the text of which the PPA has published in its entirety), the American Gaming Association and the office of Senator Majority Leader engaged in another round of sniping over the Reid-Kyl bill’s demise, and that more accurately reflects the current state of US federal i-gambling legislation: That ball’s been tossed over to the states, where the real action on the topic is likely to occur for at least the next couple of years.

Still, the 134-page King bill contains all the trappings one might expect.  As of yesterday, it hadn’t yet been assigned a bill number, scheduled for committee hearings or even added to the official US Senate dockets, but the bill’s text is decent enough on first glance.  The PPA issued a press release congratulating King on submitting the bill, and quickly summarized the bill’s major points:

Among other things, the bill:

  • Requires states to be certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury to license potential operators. States may choose to participate in the national online gaming market without becoming a licensing agent, however;
  • Authorizes federal funding to address problem gambling addiction, similar to what is in place for all other types of addiction;
  • Gives states the freedom to opt-out of Internet gaming. Governors must notify the Department of Treasury that their state will opt-out within 120 days of passage of the bill, and opting out will NOT prohibit states from establishing their own intra-state online gaming regimes;
  • Ensures mandatory implementation of technologies to protect against underage gambling using the commercial and government databases used for online banking to verify age and identity;
  • Allows equal access to licenses for all providers, including Indian tribes and lotteries;
  • Preserves the traditional authority of regulators to determine the suitability of online operators when evaluating license applications; and
  • Contains high standards to thwart fraud, abuse and cheating to ensure fair games for customers.

FlushDraw plans a thorough reading of the bill, likely some time next week, to see if King’s measure contains any surprises.  The “equal access for all providers” provisions contained within represent, at last, an acquiescence to political reality, in that a bill such as this has a chance only if every possible pro-gambling faction in existence can be corralled into giving a bill like this its support.

The greater problem, however, is that it’s almost certainly too little, too late.  The structure of United States gambling laws dictates that these concerns are generally governed at the state level, not the federal one, with the US federal government moving in only when states don’t address certain situations, or when specific state statutes might be unconstitutional or otherwise impede upon existing federal laws.

Since several states have already moved forward with their own internet-gambling laws, that possible situation no longer exists: the legislative ship has sailed.

Still, it’s the old college try for the PPA, which remains a schizophrenic lobbying group, capable of solid work in gambling- and poker-related legal cases yet committed to spending its meager funds in quixotic and undermanned lobbying efforts at the federal level in Washington DC, where its lobbyists and offices are located.  That latter, ill-destined commitment represents more of the truth of the PPA as a revolving-door lobbying group than anything else.

In King’s bill, the PPA has also accessed one of its most available channels for introducing such legislation.  As several outlets reported yesterday, King’s son is a partner in the lobbying firm that PPA chairman and former NY GOP senator Alfonse D’Amato runs, meaning the apple didn’t fall too far from that particular tree.

Just don’t expect this one to even reach the floor of the House.  It’s “doomed” indeed.

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