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Last week, Rep. Pete King introduced a bill to regulate many (nearly all) forms of online gambling at the federal level.
While I think the bill is reasonable from a player point of view, the chances of it passing into law seem – to put it very mildly – remote.
Here are five of the simplest – but certainly not the only – reasons King’s attempt to make federal regulation of online gambling a reality in the U.S. is likely dead on arrival:
King’s bill permits just about everything but sports betting. And it basically opts all states into online gambling unless they take an active step to remove themselves from the scheme.
On paper, that’s a gambling expansion of staggering size, one which will motivate and coalesce every imaginable group that opposes gambling on a moral or social level.
By and large, these groups stayed on the sidelines (at least publicly) during Reid’s lame-duck poker push. King’s bill will receive a completely different treatment should it threaten to advance toward anything resembling a floor vote.
If you’re a state that opposes online gambling, this bill is basically anathema. If you’re a state considering limited forms of online gambling (I’m thinking specifically of the lottery here), you hate this bill for the potential unwanted competition it engenders. And if you’re a state considering a full embrace of online gambling, you’re can’t like the aspects of King’s bill that suggests you won’t have the ability to do so on your own terms unless you pass your regulations before the enactment of King’s bill.
There’s a bit of ambiguity on that last point, but the general gist remains: Most states have little incentive to support this bill.
John Mehaffey at LegalPokerSites did a great job of laying out the reasons why King’s bill is unlikely to generate support from tribal gambling stakeholders.
His article is worth a full read, but the short version is that tribes will likely object to what can be seen as a dilution of The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by King’s bill.
King’s bill is based on Rep. John Campbell’s 2011 effort, which died in committee back in 2011. There’s little to suggest the political climate has changed dramatically enough to clear a path through the House committee process for what amounts to the same bill.
And even if it did clear committee, it seems unimaginable that a GOP-led House would support such a substantial expansion of gambling.
Let’s imagine a world where problems one through four don’t exist, and where the House – against all odds – pushes this thing through. How will it do in the Senate?
Harry Reid and Jon Kyl – two senators with quite a bit of clout – were unable to marshal support during the 2012 lame duck for a bill that made only online poker legal while severely restricting the amount of other online gambling that could be regulated. And Reid recently had some less-than-kind words for King’s bill.
In the same interview, Reid said he saw little hope for a poker-only bill in the Senate.
Put it all together, and it seems hard to believe that King’s bill would be able to overcome the obstacles that have to date stalled the Senate Majority Leader.