Menendez bill goes to the Senate

Senator Robert Menendez's attempt to legalise online poker in the United States (see previous InfoPowa reports) advanced to the Senate this week with the introduction of the New Jersey Democrat's bill S. 3616, the Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act.

The bill immediately attracted the support of the Poker Players Alliance as another attack on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, and is similar to legislation introduced in June 2007 in the House by Florida Democrat Representative Robert Wexler.

"This action by Senator Menendez is yet another example that prohibitions on Internet gambling, and specifically poker, will not work to protect consumers," former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, said in a statement. "The PPA has long advocated for thoughtful and effective licensing and regulation of online poker as a means to protect vulnerable communities, such as children and compulsive gamblers, and provide appropriate controls to thwart consumer fraud and abuse. Senator Menendez's legislation is the right vehicle to achieve those goals.

"On behalf of the members of the PPA and online poker players nation-wide, I would like to thank Senator Menendez on his leadership on this important issue. We look forward to working with him and his Senate colleagues to enact this sound public policy," said D'Amato.

S.3616 seeks to establish a licensing and regulatory framework for the United States to exercise appropriate control and oversight over Internet poker and other games of skill.

Key provisions of the bill include:

Thorough vetting of potential licensees through the mandatory implementation of technologies to protect against underage gambling and to monitor and detect potential problem gamblers; operator probity for operations in the United States would include history of compliance with the law in foreign jurisdictions.

High standards of monitoring to obviate fraud and the abuse of customers;

Tight regulation to prevent money laundering and

Arrangements to ensure that the taxman gets his cut.

The text of the proposed bill defines "Internet skill game" as "an Internet-based game that uses simulated cards, dice, or tiles in which success is predominantly determined by the skill of the players, including poker, bridge, and mahjong."

"This is really a bill that poker players could love. It's written to directly help the online poker playing community to establish licensed and regulated poker in the U.S.," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. "We believe that it is a great marker for the next Congress and the new administration."

If passed, the Secretary of the Treasury will be responsible to prescribe the licenses, all the safeguards, regulations, and testing mechanisms necessary for the government to begin licensing Internet "skill games" within 180 days of the approving vote.

The act also calls for the Secretary of the Treasury to constantly monitor the licensed sites to make sure that the games remain fair and the companies are following the rules of the licensing agreement, as defined by S. 3616. The proposed bill also gives states and Indian lands the rights to refuse to allow its residents to access the federally licensed sites.

Pappas's approval was not unexpected - the PPA has reportedly worked with Sen. Menendez's staff to help draft the proposal.

"One of the things that Sen. Menendez really gravitated to is the fact that, under the current environment, consumers aren't getting the protection that they deserve, and he wanted to introduce a bill that would provide a regulatory framework that protected U.S. consumers from fraud and abuse, and also to ensure that children don't get access to the websites and to protect problem gamblers, as well," Pappas said.

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