Two Congressional hearings on the future of online poker in the US, which were held last week, were extremely promising. However, poker analysts are skeptical about the Congress ever coming to a consensus regarding online poker. Almost every hearing gives listeners the impression that the lawmakers are more concerned with figuring out the best ways to license and regulate the online poker gaming industry and not with attempting to find out if it should be regulated.

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The focus at the hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee was the demand of the tribes to be involved in all gambling bills and to be given equal opportunities as Nevada-based casinos to offer online poker services.

On Friday, the hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade had Barney Frank joining Frank Wolf and John Campbell on the panel. Frank Wolf, an anti-poker witness, stated that gambling is dangerous and addictive and that any attempt to legalize and regulate online poker will be extremely profitable to online gambling companies while wrecking American homes and taxpayers.

Neutralizing Wolf’s arguments for poker by simply pointing out he is co-sponsoring Wolf’s bill to launch programs to prevent, treat, and research problem gambling, Barney Frank said that regulating the online poker industry will help deal with problem gambling in a more effective manner than preventing people without gambling problems from playing poker online.

Frank said: “Enacting legislation to license, regulate, and tax online gambling as well as implement problem gambling programs, would bring this industry out of the shadows, benefit consumers, create American jobs, capture revenue and allow adults to enjoy freedom from unnecessary government interference.”

The second panel comprised Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association; Mark Lipparelli, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board; Charles McIntyre, the executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission; and Rachel Volberg, a researcher at the Chicago University who specializes in problem gambling—all supporting online poker.

Speaking for the cause of regulating the online poker industry, he said that, although the AGA had opposed legalizing online poker in the past, it now feels that technology can be utilized to protect US players. He said: “At the last hearing, you asked whether licensing and regulation of online poker is a safe bet. Our industry believes it is. The risky bet would be to leave unchanged current law that leaves consumers, minors and those with gambling problems vulnerable to unregulated offshore companies.”

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