Online Poker Community Rejoices; Barack Obama Wins US Presidency

Last night it was confirmed – Barack Obama has won the US Presidential election that will see him take office in January 2009. The majority of the online poker community is rejoicing over the outcome, though it is still unclear what his actions, if any, will be regarding the legalities of online poker in the United States.

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It is the responsibility of the House of Representatives and the Senate to introduce new bills and work diligently to push them through congress, but it will be President-elect Barack Obama who gets the final say. Last night’s election came out in the favor of online poker advocates in this regards as well.

Congressman Barney Frank, the leading proponent of legalizing, regulating and taxing the online gambling industry in the United States, won by a landslide with 68% of the vote versus his Republican opponent Earl Sholley, who received only 25%. Just before the end of the 2008 congressional Session, the second revision of Barney Frank‘s bill, HR 6870 – the Payment Systems Protection Act – finally made its way past the House Financial Services Committee. HR 6870 seeks to clarify the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 that was unscrupulously attached to an unrelated Port Security bill and dubiously passed in the wee hours of night by President Bush.

Congressman Robert Wexler, another avid sponsor of legalizing online poker in the US, also defeated his Republican opponent Edward Lynch by an overwhelming vote of 66% to 27%. Wexler introduced the Skill Game Protection Act, HR 2610, in an attempt to make skill games exempt from the current online gambling laws. According to HR 2610, skill games would include poker, chess, bridge and other online games wherein skill takes precedence over luck in determining the outcome of a match.

Other political victories for legal online poker advocates include Ron Paul, who helped co-author Frank’s original Payment Systems Protection Act (HR 5767); Pete Sessions, who introduced HR 6663 to clarify the UIGEA to focus on Internet sports betting; Representatives Shelley Berkley and Jon Porter of Nevada who strove to enact a study of online gambling; Congressman Jim McDermott who proposed two bills associated with the taxation of online gambling.

On the reverse side of the spectrum, Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Spencer Bachus will both be spending another two years in Washington. Goodlatte played a key role in executing the UIGEA in 2006, while Bachus has become infamous for telling of a fictitious study whose results claimed that 1/3 of all college students who gambled online committed suicide. The study, said to have taken place a Canada’s McGill University, never existed.

While the future is still speculative at best, the future of legal online poker in the United States is certainly brighter than it has been in the past two years.

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