The second hearing of the US House Committee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade was held last Friday, with the focus on how online poker should be legalized and regulated at the state and federal levels.

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The hearing was chaired by Mary Bono Mack, who opened the hearing with these remarks: “I am taking a very careful approach when it comes to this issue. When it comes to the debate over Internet gambling, is it time for Congress to let the genie out of the bottle? I want to make sure everyone is dealt a fair hand.”

Voicing his opinion that problem gambling is an important issue and that earmarking funds for problem gamblers is essential in the proposed regulations for online poker, G. K. Butterfield, the member of the subcommittee, said that a portion of the revenues must be earmarked to “reduce the social costs of problem gambling.”

Joe Barton, the Congressman who wrote the HR2366 bill to legalize US online poker state by state, pointed out that, although playing online poker is not illegal, the UIGEA makes it difficult for banks and financial institutions to process gambling-related funds, owing to which reforming the UIGEA is essential.

Arguing against online poker legalization, Congressman Frank Wolf said that legalizing online poker will speed up the spread of gambling at the cost of the “most vulnerable populations.”

Voicing his opinions, New Hampshire Lottery Commission Executive Director Charles McIntyre said that individual states should decide whether or not to legalize online poker.

Speaking on the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) take on the matter, AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf said: “We support Federal legislation that will allow states to license and regulate online poker, while also ensuring each state has the right to determine whether the activity is permissible for residents of that state. We should strengthen the Wire Act with confirming amendments to the UIGEA to outlaw illegal internet gambling.

Rachel Volberg, the senior researcher at Chicago University, felt that regulating online poker state-by-state would be a problem. Pointing out the inequality in political will in each state, Volberg said that state-by-state regulation will create variability with some states doing a great job and others doing a mediocre job of it.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said that Nevada is in support of a national model giving each state a regulatory framework. Since online poker is an activity that is found in all states, regulatory harmony is important, he added.

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