It has been a long time in coming, but finally, finally, poker players have achieved a victory on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee met to markup Rep. Barney Frank’s (D – Mass.) H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act and then vote on whether or not to pass the revised bill. After the amendments were filed, the bill passed through committee by a wide margin, 41-22. There is still a long way to go before online poker is legalized and regulated in the United States, but this is a big step in a right direction.
Below are the amendments that were filed, along with who filed them:
Amendment #1 – Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Cal.) – One of the potentially big amendments, this one states that sites that intentionally violating internet gambling laws cannot receive a license to offer their services in the United States. This could possibly lock out the likes of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Cake Poker, Absolute Poker, and UB.com. A voice vote was taken and the amendment passed.
Amendment #2 – Rep. Peter King (R – N.Y.) – Prohibits online sports betting except for horse racing. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #3 – Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D – Ohio) – Secretary of the Treasury is empowered to prohibit unsolicited e-mails and advertisements to minors and problem gamblers. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #4 – Rep. Spencer Bachus (R – Ala.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – Minn.) – Forbids offshore sites who have illegally done business in the U.S., as well as their employees, from receiving a license. Chairman Barney Frank took umbrage with this, saying, “a janitor or a restaurant worker employed inside of a brick or mortar casino would not be held responsible for the mishandlings of upper management.” Rep. Bachus withdrew the amendment and resubmitted it later, changing the language to read that any employees who knew that the company engaged in illegal internet gambling would be barred from getting a license. A voice vote was not held. Instead, this amendment was voted on later by a roll call.
Amendment #5 – Rep. Joe Baca (D – Cal.) – Allows Indian tribes to run internet gambling businesses. Denied by Rep. Frank because it was not relevant to the subject at hand.
Amendment #6 – Rep. Joe Baca (D – Cal.) – States and tribes should be able to opt-in, rather than opt-out of internet gambling. Denied by voice vote and re-voted on later with a roll call.
Amendment #7 – Rep. John Campbell (R – Cal.) – A multi-part amendment stating a) all facilities of internet gaming firms must be located in the U.S., b) States and tribes must have parallel authority, c) Bettors must be at least 21-years old, d) Age and residence of customers must be verified, e) Game odds must be posted online, f) Both legal and illegal sites must be identified by the Treasury so that financial institutions can properly allow/block transactions, g) Owners must meet licensing requirements, h) Customers must be able to self-impose loss limits. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #8 – Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Cal.) – States given a full legislative session to opt-out, instead of the original 90-days. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #9 – Rep. John Campbell (R – Cal.) – Sites that target minors in their advertising will be stripped of their licenses. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #10 – Rep. Melissa Bean (D – Ill.) – Treasury must monitor gambling sites and impose fines and/or revoke licenses if minors are found to be gambling. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #11 – Manager’s Amendment – Credit cards may not be used to deposit funds. Debit cards or pre-paid cards only. Additionally, the House Financial Services Committee will have no jurisdiction on tribal rights. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #12 – Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – Minn.) – Sites who allow parents who are delinquent in their child support payments to play will have their licenses revoked. Passed by voice vote.
Amendment #13 – Rep. Gary Peters (D- Mich.) – State and tribal lotteries, which are already subject to state licensing, will be unaffected by the bill, as long as the lotteries are intrastate. Passed by voice vote.
As for the two amendments which were put to a roll call vote (a vote in which the individual votes by Congresspeople are actually recorded and counted), Baca’s opt-in amendment was defeated 37-22 and Bachus’ amendment to forbid former employees from getting licenses was also defeated by a vote of 43-22.
Finally, H.R. 2267 was put to a vote and passed, 41 Ayes to 22 Nays, with one “present” vote. The vote was slightly bipartisan, with 34 Democrats and 7 Republicans voting “Aye,” and 4 Democrats and 18 Republicans voting “Nay.” Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, was the lone “present” vote, which essentially means he abstained, although he has been a strong supporter of the right to play online poker.