A number of bills introduced last month would roll back the prohibition of online gambling in the U.S. and create a system to regulate and tax the industry.
If successfully enacted, one company estimates that the U.S. could generate up to $48 billion a year by taxing online operators.
Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington introduced legislation that would tax online casinos; Rep. Barney Frank introduced legislation that would repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
This is the second year that legislation was introduced to repeal the UIGEA. Lawmakers say the current system is faulty because it places undue burdens on the banking industry and it fails to protect consumers because it forces online operators “underground.”
There is debate about whether the change in administrations will have any impact on the success of the legislation this year.
Frank’s legislation would require companies to apply for a license before offering gaming services in the U.S. Companies would be held to the same standards as an individual seeking a gaming license in Nevada.
Operators would be required to establish controls to prevent underage gambling and to block access to residents in states with prohibitions on online gaming, as well as all the internal controls necessary to operate a land-based casino enterprise.
And, to appease sports leagues, the legislation allows for a prohibition on online sports betting. The National Football League in particular was instrumental in getting the UIGEA passed, and remains vocal in its opposition to any change in online gambling in the U.S.
Joining the NFL in its opposition to any change in the UIGEA is Focus on the Family, a “faith-based” organization led by James Dobson, a member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, a federal board that looked into gaming in the late 1990s.
Supporters praise Frank for his continued effort to open the U.S. to online gambling. Poker players, like those represented by the Poker Players Alliance, lauded the legislation.
“Online poker is a legal, thriving industry, and poker players deserve the consumer protections and the freedom to play that are provided for in this legislation,” said PPA Chairman and former Senator Al D’Amato. “We are grateful for Chairman Frank’s leadership and will be activating our grassroots army made up of over 1 million members to help him drive legislation.”
Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said he plans to push the legislation through his committee before the summer break in August.
Some supporters have suggested that online gambling might be a way to improve the country’s overall financial health.
“This is a thriving industry,” said Jan Jones, vice president of Harrah’s Entertainment. “They can put in a regulatory structure and they can tax it.”