HR 6663 - Good for Online Poker?

August 6, 2008

HR 6663 – Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Clarification and Implementation Act of 2008

HR 6663 - Clarification and Enforcement ActLast week a bill was introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas that is intended to clarify the language contained in the original UIGEA bill. The bill, H.R. (House Resolution) 6663, aka “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Clarification and Implementation Act of 2008” seems to be a positive step for online poker players, or is it?

What is HR6663

The goal of HR6663 is to clearly define what is legal and illegal under the UIGEA. The bill sites some of the ambiguity of the UIGEA, specifically whether the UIGEA makes games like online poker or online blackjack illegal in the United States. HR6663 seeks to take aim at some of the sports betting outlets like Bodog and Bet On Sports which have both sports books and online poker. To date, only online sports book operators have come under pressure from the United States as the federal authorities have cited the 1961 Wire Act as legal grounds to convict these sports betting operators. The Wire Act states that sports betting cannot be done over a phone line.

Is HR6663 good for Poker?

Scanning the many Internet gambling forums from sports betting to casino action, to poker players, it’s clear that the reaction to this bill is a mixed bag. While clearly a shot at sports betting (with language that’s clearly targeting that segment of online gambling), the impact that it could have for online poker players is not clear at this time. Gauging the response from the large lobbying group, The PPA (Poker Players Alliance) would seem to indicate that the poker world is not quite embracing this bill. PPA head Alfonse D’Amato had this to say in a press release:

“Congressman Pete Sessions has been and continues to be a good friend to poker players who want the freedom to play America’s greatest card game. His dedication to the conservative principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility are unparalleled in the U.S. Congress.

“We are, however, puzzled by the introduction of H.R. 6663 and by the purpose of this legislation. While we agree with several findings in the bill that correctly identify the illegality of sports wagering, the PPA remains concerned with the implication H.R. 6663 asserts in that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has made Internet poker an unlawful activity that needs special protection from prosecution.”

In other words, since the PPA has taken the stance that Online Poker has been legal from day one, this bill casts an undesired shadow on the Online Poker playing community at large. With the House currently on break until September, the debate will continue amongst the gambling community. Is it good or bad for poker? For now, let the debate rage on. I hear Bodog is going to announce the over/under on this bill passing very soon.


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