The commercial gaming industry’s concerted effort to somehow force a federal nod to internet poker again got shunted to the back burner this week.

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The ploy was to try and include a discussion on regulating internet poker as part of the deal currently being hammered out to extend payroll tax cut and unemployment benefit. Such an inclusion would have paved the way for a comprehensive federal legislation on online poker. But apparently the bill under discussion – the payroll tax bill – was already too rife with issues to add yet another dimension that might warrant extensive discussion and negotiation.

But the failure to get tagged along with the payroll tax bill discussion, and ultimately in the bill, by itself still holds out a whiff of promise for the future. It indicates that online poker is very much on the agenda of some Congressmen, notably Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada). One of the elements that contributed to this current setback is the intense activity around the effort to speed up legislation on cyber security. In the vitiated atmosphere it might well be to the benefit of the proponents of a federal gaming law that this is not taken up for discussion or consideration by the concerned committee at the moment.

There has been quite a lot of attention focused on online poker after the April crackdown on several poker websites, the seizure of their assets and the indictment of various persons involved in these sites.

The issue was further stoked by a Department of Justice clarification on the interpretation of the archaic Wire Act which was widely interpreted as excluding online poker from the application of that law.

While some sections of the online gaming industry are pushing for a comprehensive federal law on online gaming which will lay down clear guidelines for regulating the business across states, there is also considerable concern from some states lotteries and the American Indian tribes. The latter would like to ensure that the eventual federal legislation does not erode their existing systems vis a vis the gambling industry as such. Any legislation that is passed would have to take into consideration these concerns too.

Whatever might be the final form and content of such legislation, it is certainly going to be a long road to achieving it. Proponents of such a law would now have to wait for another appropriate bill to try piggy backing again or they would have to try and push through a stand-alone bill at a later opportune moment.

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