Earlier this month, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez introduced legislation to legalize and regulate online skill games, including online poker. Menendezs bill, dubbed S 1597the Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement actsignal a new direction in the world of online casino gaming, in which high ranking U.S. government officials are beginning to open up to legislation regulating online gambling. This is a welcome change for online casinos and poker rooms, as well as for online gamblers, following the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.
Menendezs bill, as the name implies, applies to gambling games in which skill has a direct impact on the games outcome. Though the bill focuses primarily on online poker, other online casino games and skill games including bridge, backgammon, chess and mahjong are mentioned as well. Menendezs bill states that, while each of these games contains an element of chance, over any substantial interval, a players ultimate success is determined by that players relative level of skill.
Some supporters of the UIGEA oppose Menendezs bill, viewing it as unlocking the door to a re-legalization of online casino gaming as a whole in the United States. However, online gambling has continued to take place and online casinos have continued to operate despite the UIGEA legislation. Menendez, and other proponents of the legalization and regulation of online casino gambling, proposes to impose a 10% tax on player deposits as a means to use online skill game gambling to boost the economy. 10% of all player deposits will be shared between the Federal government and the State government of the state in which the depositing player resides. This is not only a means to appease online casino gamers, and particularly online poker players, but also a way to help relieve the economic crisis in the United States.
In addition to proposing a 10% tax on deposits, other provisions of the bill focus on regulation and customer protection. Menendez proposes creating a list of unlicensed online gambling operators in order to increase efforts against unlawful gambling. He also wants to implement technologies that will protect against underage gambling in online casinos as well as dedicate funding to prevent problem gambling and help those with gambling addictions. Menendez is using some of the same provisions as have been carried out in the UK, where online gambling is legalized and regulated.
Senator Menendezs bill does not apply to non-skill casino games such as casino roulette, blackjack, baccarat, craps or casino slot machines. However, it does apply to online poker, which is the largest sector of the United States online casino gambling industry. However, House Representative Barney Frank also recently introduced a bill calling for the regulation of all online casino gambling, including non-skill games. These bills are seen to bolster one another, and increasing support just may lead to the overturn of the UIGEA and a new chapter in U.S online gambling history.